Earlier this month, the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson visited Terrace to discuss the development of accessibility legislation for the province.
Approximately 20 residents from the region came to the Terrace Sportsplex on Nov. 9 to share their thoughts and experiences on how to shape the accessibility legislation for B.C. that will oversee new laws, standards and policies to better serve people with disabilities.
“It’s been a great discussion here because you hear from people, about the uniqueness of their community, the demographics and the region,” says Simpson. “We’re been hearing about the challenges for communities like Terrace, and what it means in terms of services and resources.”
Split into three round tables at the consultation session, residents discussed and brainstormed ideas that would help create a more accessible city for them. At the event attended Caleb Brousseau with his wife Andrea Brousseau, both of who have to make daily arrangements to get around Terrace with their disabilities.
“I feel like Terrace, with as far as we are, is a little behind time compared to a bigger population,” says Caleb. “The further away you are, the harder it is for everyone to understand what is necessary for you to be able to get into places.”
As an example, Caleb notes that signage is a big issue for people with disabilities in Terrace as there often is no proper directions on how to alternatively navigate a place with stairs if using a wheelchair or other forms of mobility support.
“If you were to be in most cities, on the front of the building they’ll tell you how the access works… like if the building has stairs in the front they’ll have a full map on how to get to the proper accessible location,” he says. “Terrace doesn’t have that at all.”
He adds that if supportive machinery like lifts or elevators break down in the city then it can take a while for that to get repaired because there are no specialists in the area to fix it immediately, which then bars accessibility into that building or area.
For many people with disabilities, Andrea says it’s as simple as having all the right equipment working and openly available to be able to lead a fulfilling life.
“If you can get into the place that you work and you have a washroom accessible to you there, then all of a sudden instead of just being reliant on government support you are supporting yourself as an individual because these additional barriers have been removed, which is just a positive for everybody,” explains Andrea. “That also leads to a less sedentary lifestyle, which is a challenge for all of us I think, and that will save costs in the long run for the healthcare system.”
Simpson says British Columbia is the largest province in Canada without some form of legislation to help identify, remove and prevent barriers experienced by people with disabilities, so the ministry held ten consultation sessions as part of their community engagement program to hear directly from residents in different areas. The ministry reports 24.7 per cent (926,100) of British Columbians have reported a disability, and the statistic is expected to increase as the population ages.
So far, four provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia) and the Government of Canada have established accessibility legislation.
The minister says the tour was an informative and productive part of their engagement program, and looks forward to reviewing important issues mentioned by B.C. residents.
“It’s been a good conversation and I think you’ll always find some people who will tell you the things that we need to do better as a government and things even local government can do to improve lives.”