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Disabled Woman Can't Navigate Around Sidewalk Sandwich Boards

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the Times-Colonist, August 19, 2003. *Image: A photo of a sandwich board on the sidewalk.

For most of us, gaily painted signs are part of the urban landscape, one facet of a colourful campaign aimed at separating us from our money.

But for Diane Dobson and others like her, the sandwich-board signs that lurk on city streets are a major impediment, a dimly seen obstacle in a life that already has more than its share of impediments.

Dobson, who is legally blind and uses a wheelchair, said Monday she's had enough of wrestling with signs she says encroach on Esquimalt sidewalks.

"I have multiple disabilities and that can be a pain," she said. "Most of the time it's OK, but when you have people purposely setting up booby traps, that's another thing."

Sometimes signs are chained to poles or otherwise anchored, said Dobson.

"That makes them an immovable object, and a real problem to get around."

Frank Walker, who also uses a wheelchair, agrees the signs are a menace.

"They're quite dangerous when they're too far out in the sidewalk, a danger to people in wheelchairs," said Walker.

"I complained down at city hall, but they don't do anything about it."

Dobson said she, too, complained to the Township of Esquimalt about the signs and was told she should note any signs that cause her problems and report those to the bylaw enforcement people at the municipality.

But Dobson said it should be up to Esquimalt to police its own streets.

"It's hard enough to see where I'm going, never mind find out who put out the signs. What I want is the municipality to do that."

Under Esquimalt municipal bylaws, no one can put anything on municipal property--including sidewalks--without written permission from city hall.

Further, under the sign bylaw, no portable signs--including sandwich board signs--are permitted, even if they're on private property.

Mayor Darwin Robinson said it's a matter of enforcement.

"There's no municipality that enforces all of its bylaws all the time," Robinson said.

"When there's a complaint, we make sure that we address it and if there is a violation, then the sign will be removed or other action taken.

"In this case, we'll have the bylaw enforcement officer out there doing his thing."

Dobson said she often has acted as an advocate for the disabled. She said she and others have asked businesses to remove the signs but there has been little cooperation.