City is Not Accessible to Everyone

Updated Dec 2, 2011

Since 1992, the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities is held on Dec. 3. It aims to increase the understanding of the issues around disabilities and bring attention to the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

It also aims to increase the awareness of the gains for everybody if disabled persons are integrated into all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life and raising money for resources for persons with disabilities.

To give you a little background, the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons was held from 1983 to 1992 to enable governments and organizations to celebrate and bring about awareness to improve the lives of persons with a disability all over the world.

As the decade closed, the UN General Assembly proclaimed Dec. 3 as International Day of Disabled Persons.

On Dec. 18, 2007, the assembly changed the name to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This was done to bring the person before the disability. The new name was first used in 2008.

I am chair of Barrie’s accessibility advisory committee and am very pleased of the advancements the city and our committee has made in making Barrie an inclusive community for all. Mayor Jeff Lehman, council and all the city departments involved take seriously the committee’s suggestions and expertise in the future planning of our great city.

I have been involved in many seminars and educational conferences that bring together accessibility advisory committees from all over Ontario and in attending these events I am happy to report that Barrie is one of the most proactive cities in the advancement of accessibility and needs of persons with disabilities.

No, it’s not perfect, as this takes time and money. We have a long way to go, but looking back in a very short space of time we have come a long way.

The other day I was thinking and something struck me with awe. I was paralyzed in 1997; I learned that before I went anywhere, I had to phone first to make sure the building was accessible. The thing that amazed me is that I haven’t called ahead to many outings; I just assumed that I could get in. I know one of these days I will get caught, but isn’t wonderful that I can make that assumption!

I was just at a presentation last week put on by the transit department. I am thrilled to say that all but one of the city buses are accessible, and that is only used if the others break down. They are implementing onboard audio and visual announcements of stops. This is a great advancement that I don’t think many cities can boast.

Disabilities come in all different forms. We must be aware that all disabilities are not visible. It’s easy to spot the disability when the person is in a wheelchair or walking with a white cane. But what about the person with a hearing impairment or the learning challenged?

What do you see? With a little kindness and patience, making everyone feel at ease will make not just Barrie a better place but maybe the world.

Persons with disabilities make up an estimated 15% of the world’s population. About 1.85 million people in Ontario have disabilities; that’s 15.5% of Ontario’s population. The number of seniors aged 65 and over is projected to more than double from 1.7 million in 2008 to 4.1 million by 2036.

By 2017, for the first time, seniors will account for a larger share of the population than children aged 0-14. Boomers represent 40% of the income share in Ontario.

According to the Royal Bank of Canada, people with disabilities have an estimated spending power of about $25 billion each year in Canada. This is an untapped market in today’s economic situation and should not be ignored.

We as a society must be aware that persons with disabilities are persons first.

We are still a contributing part of the community. We have jobs, volunteer, go to school, travel and enjoy theatres, music and sports which we want to not just watch but also participate.

Some are homeowners, yes we pay taxes too. We are wives and husbands, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters and all we want is to experience life just like everyone else.

By making Barrie an accessible city not just in the public sector but also in the private sector, this will allow persons with a disability to fulfil our lives and enrich our community.

So please take the time in your busy days to be aware of your surroundings and think about us, 15% of the community.

Kim Demberline Barrie

Reproduced from http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3390869