Campbellford’s Downtown Can Be Tough Going for Disabled

Jun 14, 2011 – 04:30 AM

CAMPBELLFORD – Downtown Campbellford appears easy enough to navigate but when you’re disabled and use a wheelchair or scooter, it’s one obstacle after another.

A dozen people learned just how difficult it can be when they took part in Access Awareness Day June 8, organized by the More Abled than Disabled club led by physiotherapist Doreen Sharpe.

Ms. Sharpe warned participants what to expect before the volunteers headed out in teams to visit five locations each pair was assigned. Their stops included restaurants, stores and banks.

Ms. Sharpe said the condition of the sidewalks had been raised with the municipality which has a list of things in need of repair.

“We’re going to say we’re a priority,” she said. “Access is a right.”

But it’s a right too often denied throughout the downtown, participants discovered.

Krista Skutovich, a health promoter with the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge Health Unit, found it “extremely difficult” getting around in a wheelchair.
She was accompanied by Stephanie Bolton, regional service coordinator with the Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario, based in Peterborough. Ms. Bolton documented the many problem areas they encountered, several of which were echoed by the other participants in the wrap-up that followed.

The sidewalks are uneven, cracked and covered with gravel in spots that make it hard to move forward, and the ramps at curbs are steep in places, they said. Also, the traffic lights changed before they were able to complete crossing the street.

“To get in and out of the doors was probably the biggest challenge,” Ms. Skutovich said.

Staff were friendly and wanting to be helpful, Ms. Bolton said, but “it would be difficult on a daily basis to face some of these obstacles and to do things

“There is still a lot of room for improvements,” Ms. Skutovich said.

As co-chairwoman of the Age Well Network in Trent Hills, she found it instructive to familiarize herself with some of the challenges residents with disabilities face. “We’re always looking for things we can do to … make this a great place for people to be able to successfully age and stay in their own community,” she said.

“If this event can help prioritize some of those issues and places that need to be addressed first, then great, it was a successful day to get that message

Other issues raised during the wrap-up were stores without ramps or having counters that were too high, and parking lots where motorists failed to see a
person in a scooter or wheelchair. “It’s very dangerous with the cars moving around,” said Dawn Hammond, administrative assistant with the Trent Hills
and District Chamber of Commerce, which is fully accessible.

There is funding available at the local level through the Community Improvement Plan to help deal with some accessibility issues at storefronts, the group heard from one participant who visited the municipal office building.

“We’ll see changes from this, I promise,” said Ms. Sharpe, who plans to send all the businesses visited a checklist of obstacles that were encountered.

She said she would like to get the BIA involved in the next event, which might be held in the winter.

Reproduced from