City crit­i­cized on ac­ces­si­bil­ity is­sues

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - NEWS - JA­SON MILLER

The city’s ac­ces­si­bil­ity gaps were brought to the mayor’s at­ten­tion dur­ing his speech to the Belleville and Dis­trict Cham­ber of Com­merce about the state of the city.

Bar­bara Schultz told the mayor she has con­cerns about the fo­cus on ac­ces­si­bil­ity and noted the bar­ri­ers mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for a per­son in a wheel­chair or us­ing a mo­bil­ity de­vice to run daily er­rands or en­joy an even­ing out with fam­ily here.

Mayor Taso Christo­pher said it’s a work in progress.

“We’re tak­ing baby steps,” he said. “I know we can do a bet­ter job. I ap­pre­ci­ate that chal­lenge.”

Christo­pher said the city has led the way with transit, the de­sign of side­walks and mak­ing pub­lic build­ings fully ac­ces­si­ble, such as the main en­trance of city hall dur­ing a re­cent re­mod­elling of the foyer and cus­tomer ser­vice ar­eas.

Schultz told The Intelligencer she’s a part of an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion which aren’t dis­abled per se, but de­pend on ac­ces­si­bil­ity to re­main mo­bile.

She spoke of spouses car­ing for ail­ing rel­a­tives who need wheel­chairs or mo­bil­ity aids to get around town.

“Se­niors with walk­ers have prob­lems mov­ing up and down stairs,” Schultz said.

Then there are oth­ers like the vis­ually im­paired.

“There are is­sues with low sight,” she said. “We don’t colour mark our side­walks, so they’re trip­ping haz­ards. It’s not just about a per­son in a wheel­chair.”

She lis­tened to the mayor talk about ex­pand­ing the waterfront to boost tourism and said coun­cil shouldn’t ig­nore a seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion which is will­ing to spend but has spe­cial needs.

“It makes good sense from a re­turn on in­vest­ment is­sue, but it also makes good sense that we’re try­ing to mar­ket our­selves as an ac­ces­si­ble tourist lo­ca­tion,” said Schultz.

Strides are be­ing made to ad­dress pal­pa­ble gaps, said Gar­net Thomp­son, chair­per­son of the city’s ac­ces­si­ble com­mit­tee.

“We have some work to do, but we’ve come a long way,” he said. “We have a work­shop in June and it will be fo­cus­ing on what small busi­ness own­ers can do to make their busi­nesses ac­ces­si­ble.”

INTELLIGENCER FILE PHOTO

Coun. Gar­net Thomp­son, pho­tographed at coun­cil’s re­cent bud­get talks, says the city has come a long way in ad­dress­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity is­sues. Dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s state of the city ad­dress by Mayor Taso Christo­pher the city was crit­i­cized by a cit­i­zen for not do­ing enough to ad­dress ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

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