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Accessibility info goes digital

Richmond becomes first city to embrace ratings tool

Information on how accessible some public buildings and businesses are just got much easier to find.

On Wednesday morning, Richmond became the first municipality in the country to adopt, a digital media tool that catalogs and rates the level of access of buildings and open spaces.

The tool, developed through the Richmond-based Rick Hansen Foundation, provides data on sites compiled from the experience of every day users who upload their reviews on accessibility, and those businesses that have been professionally or self-reviewed.

Planat uses a five-star rating system to judge the level of accessibility.

To date, more than 17,000 venues in 20 countries have been reviewed and added to the database, which can be accessed by computer and mobile app.

Like every innovation of the Foundation, planar was born from a community need, and became a reality through collaborative partnerships, said Rick Hansen who is well known for his global Man in Motion World Tour that took him through 34 countries, raising awareness about the potential of people with disabilities.

The Rick Hansen Foundation, City of Richmond and Richmond Centre for Disability began discussing development of the planat system in 2010.

Beta testing was done in 2012, as 29 city-owned sites were rated on planat.

Our ultimate goal is to ensure people can live physically active, barrier-free lives in Richmond, said Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

And with the roll out this week, the system is expected to be a boost in a number of areas within the city.

Tracy Lakeman, CEO of Tourism Richmond said planat will provide reliable and detailed information that will enable visitors to come to an informed decision about the suitability of facilities within our destination.

Craig Jones, executive director of the Richmnd Chamber of Commerce, encouraged chamber members to take part in planat and have their businesses rated and added to the database.

Its not a matter of rating the top score, Jones said, its making sure you are on the map, giving informative information, and giving people an opportunity to make empowered decisions based on their ability.