Terrace Standard Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Yvonne Nielsen wants Terrace to become proactive in improving life for those in need FOR people with disabilities, including seniors, arthritis sufferers, those with heart problems, breathing problems, lung problems, and so on, undertaking activities healthy people take for granted can be very difficult. In some cases impossible. To be truly inclusive, all parts of a community must be accessible—not only the physical layout but also the services. A building may have good access, but if there is no accessible service, there is no real inclusion. Likewise, if disabilityfriendly service is available but the building in which it is provided isn’t accessible, once again there is no real inclusion. To be accessible means also providing adequate communication, recreational facilities, transportation, and air quality for people with breathing and lung problems. It means accessible parking, sidewalks that are unobstructed, camp grounds, housing, schools, colleges, playgrounds, election voting stations/poles, and so on. Understanding the nature of disability is very important. Essentially, it is an impairment of a person’s physical and/or cognitive functions. Someone can be identifiably disabled, however they may be good at keeping it hidden. Some disabilities can’t be seen from the outside. This definition can include damage from strokes, spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, vision and hearing impairment, mobility impairment, arthritis, learning impairment. The list goes on. The needs of a person with a disability may be “different” from that of someone who is unhindered by such an encumbrance and the services and access to buildings will be different for each individual person with a disability depending on the severity. A person with a disability has the right to equal respect and dignity that should be shared by all people in an equal society. What people don’t realize is that having a disability doesn’t mean a person lacks other abilities. They have plenty, and these will contribute to the quality of life for all. Due to Terrace’s aging population, more and more people will have some sort
Josh massey PHOTO
terrace’s arena has accessibility features like this ramp. Yvonne is advocating for accessibility to extend to services as well, and wants society to have the needs of the disabled in mind. of disability. Unfortunately, as it now stands there are barriers that will continue to prevent people from accessing the right services. The barriers range from lack of proper walkways to narrowminded attitudes. One way to remove the barriers would be to change and/or enforce municipality by-laws. Once word gets out that the community is accessible and offers services for people with disabilities and seniors this will attract people to move here for work, school, recreation and retirement. This should make sense to any city councillor or engaged citizen. Many businesses here are unaware of the challenges facing the disabled. Many haven’t done enough to remove access barriers. Hopefully more and more businesses will change their attitude towards people with disabilities and seniors to remove these barriers. It is important that people with disabilities break the silence and let management know. Tell them that making their business accessible to people with disabilities is sound economic practice. Not only will it make your business safer and easier to navigate for staff and customers, but removing barri-
ers to access can result in an increase in customers. People with disabilities are often accompanied by friends and family when they shop, travel and eat out. Likewise, it reflects poorly on a business when it has a reputation for being barrier-ridden. Below are some suggestions about how to forge a barrier-free community:
EXTERIOR •Accessible and seniors parking spaces are designated and enforced. •Parking lot and sidewalks are promptly cleared of snow and ice, wet leaves, puddles and other hazards. •Pavement is smooth, without cracks, dips, bumps, pot holes. •Entrances kept clear of obstructions. •Entrance doors easy to open, automatic, or have access button that provide more accessibility. •Doors wide enough for wheelchairs. •Wheelchair access routes are well marked.
INTERIOR •Stairways have sturdy handrails on both sides. •Stair edges are clearly marked.
•Flooring is non-slid and non-shiny tripping hazards or shiny surfaces could lead to falls. •Necessary mats are securely fastened. •Wider aisles and uncluttered aisles to better accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. •Location of elevators and accessible washrooms are clearly posted. •Seating areas exist to sit while waiting. •Chairs that are sturdy and stable, with arms for people who need to push themselves up, and the chairs are not too low or too soft. Chairs should be a full back, not with a hole in the back. •A restaurant has tables that are located away from chilly vents. •An easily accessible customer washroom. •At least one service or checkout counter is accessible for customers in wheelchairs. •Service counters have a place on which to hook a cane so it doesn’t fall. •Customers are offered assistance when taking items to their cars. •Lighting is adequate and glare-free. •No in-store music which is distracting and uncomfortable.
TRANSPORT •Terrace has accessible transit buses with wheelchair ramps and a handyDART bus. And yes, Terrace does have a wheelchair Taxi. •Bus stops and bus shelters need to be kept clear of snow and ice especially the ones in downtown, the hospital, the college, etc. •Abiding by the no parking limits painted at bus stops is crucial for people with disabilities. •No smoking laws at bus stops must be enforced. •VIA Rail trains should be accessible at every stop. A movable lift/movable ramp is essential, and must be available for those who need it. •In terms of the Terrace Airport, Air Canada Jazz has a movable ramp for those who need it to board and to get off the plane. If you need the ramp, when you check in let them know well ahead of time. At the same time, let them know that when you arrive at the Vancouver Airport you need a ramp. If you have a disability and you need assistance for whatever reason, when you check in at the airport let them know so that you have a pleasant flight.
GUIDE For those with a physical disability, don’t let it prevent you from travelling by air! A guide was released December 2012 by Spinal Cord Injury BC (formally called BC Paraplegic Association). It provides an aid for wheelchair users or those with other physical or mobility impairments who may not be familiar with how to access flight services. The guide also offers suggestions on trip planning, flight booking, checkin, security, gate logistics, boarding, in flight mobility, and deplaning procedures. These tips are good for any airport. Several travel tutorial videos go along with the guide. Both the videos and the guide can be found on the Spinal Cord Injury BC Website: www.sci-bc.ca/travel For further info on agefriendly business assessment search “creating an agefriendly business in B.C.” Also check “Access Guide Canada Business Toolkit.”
Yvonne Nielsen has been an advocate for access and support for brain injury sufferers since she suffered her own injury several decades ago.
Published on Apr 10, 2013