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Supporting healthier communities

Two members of PEACH work at a computer

The PEACH unit works with community and government partners to advance their work for health and accessibility. 

At Dalhousie’s School of Planning, researchers of the Planning for Equity, Accessibility, and Community Health Research Unit (PEACH) team up with community members, disability advocacy organizations, and local governments to envision healthier and more accessible cities and towns in which to live, learn, work, and play. 

PEACH began its research in 2018, propelled by the enactment of Nova Scotia’s first Accessibility Act in 2017. This provincial legislation recognized the inequitable access that people living with disabilities experience in daily life, including barriers to accessing health services, recreation, social spaces, employment, and other factors that significantly impact health and well-being. Dr. Mikiko Terashima, lead researcher at PEACH, founded the research unit with the support of like-minded School of Planning graduates with the idea that planning and urban design can do more to support the creation of barrier-free communities. 

PEACH researchers went door-to-door to promote the initiative and gather feedback from ramp recipients. This project heard back from over 160 rural community members and business owners impacted by the ramps and heard that the project both improved access for individuals and grew community awareness for accessibility overall. 

Focus group sessions held this past year asked residents of Halifax and towns like Bridgewater, NS, how to improve their communities in more ways. Answers include redesigning pedestrian walkways and active transportation routes, improving public transit connectivity and experience, and providing more essential amenities in public space like washrooms, accessible parking, seating, and lighting at night.

National planning conference

In 2023, the team has also brought their research directly to planning professionals when attending a national conference of the Canadian Institute of Planners held in Halifax in June. There, students and researchers engaged professional planners from across the country about Canada’s national model standards for accessible design.

PEACH is continuing its community-focused research with the help of local and national partners, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, CNIB Foundation, reachAbility Association, Walk n’ Roll Halifax, and Independent Living Nova Scotia, while working to share expert knowledge heard from their 2023 projects.

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