Park not ac­ces­sible for wheel­chair users

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS - Thank you, Ja­nice Bi­cher, Hud­son

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!

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