Mayoral Candidate Walks Into Accessibility Issue

September 29, 2010

Mayoral candidate Julie Hryniewicz says she wants to make sure Sault Ste. Marie’s waterfront boardwalk — and the rest of the city — is accessible.

She stumbled on what life can be like in a wheelchair or scooter during an afternoon walk along the boardwalk Monday.

“I’ve walked hundreds of times along the boardwalk and never noticed any barriers until Monday,” Hryniewicz said.

On two occasions, the group had to retrace their steps to avoid stairs that are not accessible for a scooter or wheelchair.

Hryniewicz’s group found itself stuck behind city hall on stairs going down to the waterfront and then again near the marina at the top of an exit ramp.

She wants to ensure ramps are put in the areas to provide residents with total access.

“It really opened my eyes to the issue and then I started hearing stories about other locations in the city that are not accessible either,” Hryniewicz

CAO Joe Fratesi said that parts of the area are not considered to be part of the waterfront boardwalk and not accessible.

“You can’t go right around city hall. It’s not part of the boardwalk per se,” he said. “There are interruptions in the boardwalk, that is true.”

Fratesi said that if the situation is a small oversight or not overly costly, the city will correct the problem.

All larger projects are referred to Sault Ste. Marie’s Accessibility Committee.

The committee develops a list of priorities, based on funding and budgetary situations on an annual basis.

“Anything new is built according l to new accessibility standards. The priorities in the community come from the accessibility community,” Fratesi said.

Mayoral candidate Debbie Amaroso said the committee is very active in the community and may have already identified the need for improvement in the area.

“If there are barriers that exist, they need to be eliminated,” she said.

Amaroso, who deals with accessibility issues with her career, said the community needs to start thinking differently in order to address accessibility issues.

“We need to think and ask the question ‘Is this senior friendly?’ and the answer will address most accessibility issues,” she said.

Stairs are not just an issue for scooters or wheelchairs. They’re also an issue for seniors who may use a walker, she said.

“The accessibility committee has funds to look at different areas and mitigate them,” she said.

James Caicco, a ward councillor who is also running in the mayoral race, said he too anticipates the accessibility committee will examine the issue.

“If there is a problem, it needs to be fixed. This city has set priorities for removing barriers on an ongoing basis and we certainly want the boardwalk
to be enjoyed by all residents and visitors,” he said.

Candidate Ron Schinners said he wants to see the city examine options that would improve user friendliness and accessibility issues, especially with the aging population.

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