BARRHEAD - The Barrhead Accessibility Coalition wants to make people more aware of the challenges those with physical disabilities face when navigating the community.
The Leader spoke to members of the coalition last week as a coalition a prelude to National AccessAbility Week (May 29 to June 4). As part of the week of awareness, Canadians are asked to wear red on Red Shirt Day.
This year the theme for National AccessAbility Week is, “Inclusive from the start”.
The Barrhead Accessibility Coalition is an organization of volunteers whose purpose is to work with the community to increase awareness and reduce barriers to accessibility.
Town of Barrhead councillor Dausen Kluin founded the organization about four years ago. He patterned it after a similar group in Westlock. It now has upwards of 20 members with about a dozen who attend regularly.
Kluin has cerebral palsy and is well-acquainted with the challenges of people with limited mobility experience trying to get around with the aid of a wheelchair, scooter or walker.
"We want to discuss solutions to make our community more accessible," Kluin said. "It benefits everyone."
Coalition member Scott Robins agreed, using the example of a business on Main Street.
"They can attract and serve more customers if there are no barriers," he said adding that by helping to reduce barriers to access, people are not only accommodating those currently with mobility and other physical disabilities, but also those in the future, and perhaps even themselves.
"More than 70 per cent of our Canadian population will have some form of disability, whether it is temporary, long-term or for the rest of their lives, that will limit their opportunities in this community," he said. "And if our communities are already inaccessible, that will create that many more problems."
Nancy Madsen noted many of the buildings and businesses in Barrhead are practically inaccessible to some.
"And if they can get into a business, there are still many challenges they have to overcome," she said, noting that stores are often "too crowded" or have aisles that are too narrow and limit the use of wheelchairs, walkers or in some cases even canes.
The coalition also plans to raise awareness about accessibility issues during Barrhead's June 18 Street Fair in a more tangible way.
Kluin said the coalition is in the process of designing several scenarios to help abled-people experience, at least to some extent, the challenges people with physical disabilities go through daily.
"They will be able to get into a wheelchair, get in a walker, don a pair of vision impeding glasses and perform some sort of task," he said.