Saturday, December 18, 2010

Accessibility and the need for improvement

When it comes to living with any type of disability there is no doubt that accessibility within our own communities is very important. Unfortunately where I live many of us living with physical disabilities are still facing major obstacles related to inaccessibility. In a day and time when building codes require all new building to be made fully accessible I am surprised that this is still an issue. Honestly I believe that I face issues with inaccessibility more often then I should have to. Many of you might be surprised by the large number of local businesses that are not set up to meet the needs of those of us with disabilities. Surprisingly even many of the newer buildings in my area are not set up to properly to deal with the unique issues some of us might face. That is why I believe that there is a major need for improvement in my community when it comes to accessibility.   

Currently at this stage of my life and living with Becker's Muscular Dystrophy I do not require the use of a wheel chair or mobility scooter, but I still face major obstacles when it comes to a lack of accessibility. Now sure some time's the issues I face are pretty small and others are easily resolved, but from time to time I do face issues with inaccessibility that I simply shouldn't have to. Here in my own community I face many challenges and some just surprise me. Recently a local shopping centre turned two large sized accessible parking spaces into four much smaller one's, resulting in them becoming the size of regular parking spots. I am sure you will agree that it makes no sense at all to reduce the size of accessible parking spaces. What they have actually done is created four parking spaces that many of us with disabilities can't use. What about those of us who need the extra space so that we can open our doors all the way providing us the room we need to exit our vehicles. Even worse what about those who drive specially equipped vans with lifts or ramps? How are they supposed to exit their vehicles in a wheelchair if there is no room for them to put their ramp or lifts down? I'm pretty sure when they did this it was just the result of someone not thinking.
Inaccessible entrance at Coke-a-Cola store in Niagara Falls, Ontario
You see part of the problem is that some time's accessibility seems to be an after thought. I've even found accessible parking spots in my community where the curb cut is directly in front of the vehicle, making it next to impossible for anyone to use. Ask anyone with mobility issues and they will tell you that these curb cuts are very important and go along way in helping them make it through the day. Sadly when it comes to these curb cuts I find that at some plazas they are non-existent or simply placed in area’s that cause people to have to go out of their way to use them. Another issue some of us face is having to deal with parking lots or shopping plaza's where the curb height is just too high, making it impossible for many of us to even consider using. I am sure you know that this list could go on and on, the only thing I can say now is we need to do a better job educating people on the subject of accessibility. The time has come for architects and building owners to be more focused on making the communities we live in more accessible for everyone affected by a wide range of disabilities. Here in the province of Ontario, Canada our local and provincial governments are working on plans to make all of our communities fully accessible by 2025. I truly hope it doesn’t take that long.

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