An advisory committee of Lake Country district council wants to raise awareness of access challenges facing local residents with physical disabilities.
The access and age-friendly committee recently conducted a series of site visits to better understand the concerns and issues brought to its attention by community members who have physical disabilities.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the time people don’t think about these things unless it impacts them directly or a family member or someone close to them,” said Marie Molloy, a member of the access and age-friendly committee.
“Then all of a sudden you become more aware of what the access limitations are. We want to encourage people to contact us about their issues and for our committee to give a voice to improving accessibility in our community.”
Molloy said compliance with B.C. Building Code regulations sometimes isn’t realistically adequate accessibility for those with physical challenges, in particular people in wheelchairs.
“So we are asking people to go above and beyond the building code to ensure accessibility is in place for everyone,” she said.
As the babyboomers enter their senior years, the demographics suggest it will continue to be an important client base for businesses.
So Molloy feels it only makes sense for the business community to design and create accessible environments for them.
She cites scenarios such as using lever handles rather than knobs for large, heavy doors; parents with youngsters in a stroller able to use ‘disability-wheelchair’ buttons to navigate around in and out of stores; wheelchair accessible washrooms in restaurants; and generally reaching out to accommodate tourists with mobility challenges.
“Let’s face it. In our community those are the people with money to spend,” she said.
Molloy speaks from personal experience as someone who sometimes grapples with opening doors as her hand strength is limited by severe arthritis.
“Any time that I have to grip something can be problematic for me,” she said.
But Molloy says she personally is fascinated by the diversity of humankind, how much people are able to achieve by overcoming physical limitations.
She said grading of environment accessibility increasingly falls under the “8 to 80” age range rule of thumb.
“Sometimes it is the environment that is more disabling than the disability. Ideally, we want everyone regardless of their limitations to enjoy a good quality of life and have a more level playing field when it comes to accessibility,” said Molloy.
Anyone wishing to contact the committee regarding their accessibility concerns in Lake Country can contact Marie Molloy at 250-766-1714 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.