May 30 to June 5 marks National AccessAbility Week, which acknowledges and celebrates contributions made by Canadians with disabilities, the removal of barriers to accessibly and inclusion, and the work to oppose discrimination against those with a disability.
Diane Kotkas, director of DaCapo Disability Services with Lethbridge Family Services, said it’s important to see people for who they are and what abilities they have, and not just for their disability.
“Every one of us has challenges in some form or another,” she said.
“Individuals with disabilities are members of our community and should be treated with the same rights and opportunities as any other citizen.”
Kotkas added it’s important to acknowledge the barriers some face, and the ease at which many people are able to navigate the community.
“As ambulatory individuals, we more often than not take accessibility for granted,” she said. “But for many folks with a disability, accessibility is a daily challenge.”
According to Chris Witkowski, the parks planning manager with the City of Lethbridge, there have been recent improvements in the mobility accessibility around the city.
“(The) last couple years we’ve really put a high-priority on making the city more accessible,” Witkowski said. “Probably the biggest accomplishment was completing our mobility accessibility master plan, which was completed in summer of 2020.”
Also a member of the Mobility Accessibility working group, Witkowski said the city is always welcoming input from residents and organizations about what improvements can be made.
“I know facilities is always making improvements to the public buildings,” he said. “If you’re walking on intersections, you’ll see new sidewalk ramps, trying to improve accessibility for wheelchair use, strollers, walkers, those with visual impairments.
“For playgrounds, we’ve started to add some playground surfacing, some hard-rubber surfacing to increase wheelchair access in there. Putting a lot more inclusive play pieces into our playgrounds.”
Canada’s Week of AccessAbility
For Bill Brown, who is blind and runs the Lethbridge Association for the Blind, many additions to the city have been positive.
“City’s done a lot of work in putting ramps at all the corners, and that’s very beneficial to people in wheelchairs, but it certainly helps people who are visually impaired as well.”
However, he does believe some improvements could be made within the city’s transit operations, and hopes the general public is able to become more educated on disabilities.
“It’s amazing how people have difficulty in dealing with someone with a disability, and I think that’s not only blindness but practically every disability,” he admitted.
“People sometimes, when they meet someone who’s blind, they think they have to talk loud, because they’re thinking of deafness.”
According to Witkowski, the recently-approved Capitol Improvement Program includes funding for improvements to accessibility at city facilities and funding for a benchmark study.
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