Park not accessible for wheelchair users
Dear Editor, I am writing to you regarding the new synthetic turf field at Westwood Jr. High School in Saint-Lazare. I have emailed the city twice in the fall with no response. Perhaps they didn’t respond because I live in Hudson but I believe the soccer fees I pay for my kids to play soccer with the Saint Lazare/Hudson Soccer Club help support the field.
The problem is that the new astroturf field is constructed so that all access to the field is through V-shaped, narrow gates. I assume this is to prevent people from bringing bicycles onto the track. Perhaps bikes would tear up the track and make it more expense to maintain? I’m not certain as the town has yet to respond to my email.
Although there are also full gates in two places at the field, these are kept padlocked to prevent unauthorized access. I was told that there is staff at the field during games and perhaps practices that have keys to unlock the gates should an emergency vehicle need access.
Even if this is true, what about when the field is not booked? If the average person uses the vacant field and requires an ambulance, help will be delayed as the gate lock will need to be cut. And what about an emergency evacuation? Injuries could occur if a throng of people try to leave at once and there are bottlenecks at the exits.
Most pressing though is the lack of access for people who use a wheelchair, who can only access the field during times when someone with a key is on duty to unlock the gate and let them in. So a person whose life already includes many accommodations, who has a daily struggle to maintain autonomy, who wants above all else to be seen in the same light as everyone else, will be dependent on staffing and assistance from a friend to get the gate unlocked.
What if a wheelchair bound person is alone and can’t send someone to go find the attendant with a key? Or when no attendant is present? The only way to find an attendant by climbing a set of stairs and going through the V-shaped gates to get onto the field. There are people with physical limitations who are able to drive themselves places and who can pivot into their chair. Such people might want to use the track for personal exercise. And although there is a handicapped stall in the bathroom at the park, I am not certain you can use the chalet at all if you are wheel chair dependent.
For some it may be counter-intuitive when planning a sporting venue, to consider the needs of people with physical limitations. However I think that in 2014 this lack of inclusion, sensitivity and foresight is unacceptable!