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Accessibility consultant 'disappointed' Calgary lululemon store inaccessible despite Paralympic partnership

The front entrance to the lululemon store in Calgary's Mission neighbourhood is inaccessible for persons who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters says an accessibility consultant who calls it especially disappointing as the Vancouver-based retailer is an official partner with the Olympics and Paralympics.

"The fact this is a Paralympic sponsor has a different ring to it," said Darby Young, who uses a mobility scooter. "(There is) irony behind it and its disappointing,"

In a statement to CTV News sent Wednesday morning, lululemon officials said the company is committed to fostering inclusivity.

"At lululemon, we strive to promote accessibility and inclusivity in everything we do. We design our stores with an inclusive mindset, and we are committed to continuing to work with our 4th Street building partner and municipal contacts to determine how the store can be more accessible to everyone."

Young is the founder of Level Playing Field, a consultancy firm that helps clients address mobility and accessibility concerns. Two concrete steps at the front entrance of the store on Fourth Street near 23rd Avenue S.W. prevented her from entering the front door.

A former competitive alpine skier, Young wanted to buy apparel in support of Canada's Paralympic team, which its outfitted by lululemon for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

When she asked how she could get inside, staff and another customer placed wooden pallets over a step at the doorway in the back alley. There was also immovable trash bins blocking the ramp in the back.

"It's a huge barrier and it's not just a barrier for myself, it's a barrier for everyone because no matter the way you look at it, everyone is temporarily able-bodied," said Yong. "So whether you fall on the ski hill or whether it's age, sooner or later you are going to end up like myself."

The store is located in the Bannerman Block building which is owned and managed by Certus Developments Inc.

"Because of the age of the building and the heritage nature of the building it was simple not possible to put (a ramp) in part because the property sits right up to the city of Calgary sidewalk," said Jim Mitchell, principal with Certus Developments in an emailed statement to CTV News.

"Luckily in Calgary we are well-served as Lululemon has many other convenient options in the city that it is possible to access. We put considerable effort into retaining as much of the buildings character as we could which was a very important part of the community support that we received for the renovation, and it is why I think the community has responded so positively to both Barry’s and Lululemon here."

The City of Calgary says every building must comply with the National Building Code – Alberta edition, which sets safety requirements for the design and construction of new buildings, and for renovations for existing structures.

As part of the building permit application process, safety code officers review the barrier free design requirements of the National Building Code and ensure the building owner includes them, if required, in any changes being made.

As part of the Building Maintenance Bylaw, as of 2017, many buildings in Calgary are visually assessed for barriers and repaired every five years

"The bylaw applies to buildings that are five storeys or greater and over 10 years old and requires a visual assessment on exterior walls and roofs, allowing the City to focus on the highest risk issues on the highest risk buildings," read the statement.

This does not apply to the Bannerman Block building as it is under five storeys.

In terms of building accessibility requirements, the City of Calgary also abides by its corporate accessibility policy, "in order to enrich and enhance our society, and in order to promote an environment in which all persons can participate in and contribute to the cultural, social, economic and political life of Calgary."

Young says she hopes there will be two conversations about accessibility going forward — one for renovated heritage buildings within Calgary, and the other for brands that enter contracts with the Paralympics.

"When we design or renovate stores we forget about all the users and we don't come up with proper solutions to let everyone in," she said.

"It's a matter of having these conversations so that moving ahead with any of their sports contracts they understand the importance of all abilities." Top Stories

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