Accessibility Awareness Day in Brighton

Americas, October 5 2011

BRIGHTON: Brighton municipal employees and councillors got a chance to walk and wheel in the shoes of others Sept. 30 by taking part in Accessibility Awareness Day.

Mayor Mark Walas was joined by fellow councillors Mary Tadman and John Martinello as well as municipal employees, CAO Gayle Frost and Public Works and Development Manager Andrew Drzewiecki to experience what it is like for people with physical challenges to get around the town.

“It was a real eye opening experience. You go through the doors with the red button and you think it solves everybody’s problem until you are actually sitting in a wheelchair and realize it’s much more complicated,” Mayor Walas said.

Coun. Martinello echoed the mayor’s statements and went on to add in his experience of operating an electric scooter, people were very helpful, but it still was a challenge.

Judy Murtha and Community Care partnered with the Accessibility Awareness Committee and CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) to facilitate the exercise. She said the participants were outfitted to simulate a number of disabilities that included blindness, partial stroke paralysis, mobility restricting arthritis and respiratory issues that required the use of an electric scooter. It is just a simulation and is in no way like having the real disabilities, she said, but it does give them an idea of what having mobility issues is like.

“It will heighten their awareness that there are issues out there that need to be addressed,” she said.

Coun. Tadman from the Accessibility Awareness Committee said it was a valuable exercise and very helpful in ongoing efforts to make Brighton more accessible.

“We want to make the municipality as barrier free as we can,” she said, adding things we take for granted can be a real challenge for others.

Following the exercise, participants were debriefed and it was agreed by all although Brighton is accessible on many levels, there is room for a lot of improvement.

Mayor Walas said what should have been a 10-minute journey actually took him the better part of 40 minutes in the wheelchair. Following today there will be continued dialogue between council and Community Care, he said, to see what areas have been identified as problems and address them.

“There will definitely be a collaborative effort between us to resolve these issues,” he said.

“I would like to commend Community Care for inviting members of council to take part in this exercise. It has been really beneficial for us to see the challenges that are still here in the community.”



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