New Accessibility Committee Member Has Definite Ideas

Posted By CECILIA NASMITH Northumberland Today.com
July 9, 2010

TED AMSDEN Northumberland Today.comPoorly structured curb cuts are one concern Marty Cunningham, the newest member of CobourgÕs accessibility advisory committee.

COBOURG – The newest member of Cobourg’s accessibility advisory committee, 24-year-old Marty Cunningham, already has a couple of ideas about changes that might be needed on the accessibility front.

For him, a number-one concern is curb cuts that are not really structured to maintain the structural integrity of his motorized wheelchair.

One place on Ewing Street near the mall broke his foot plate. Cunningham was subsequently told to approach this curb cut slowly and bear to the left but
sometimes, even if he slows down to a crawl, it still catches. Anyone approaching it with any speed who is not previously aware of this might run into
problems.

Another place, a crosswalk near Notre Dame Elementary School, is where he broke his foot plate the second time.

“It was raining, and I was trying to get across the road quickly, because people fly through that intersection,” he recalled. Since then, Cunningham has
taken that curb as slowly as he can.

The first incident of damage was processed through ODSP (the Ontario Disability Support Program), he said in a recent interview. The second break was more serious and, because it occurred so soon after the first, may not be covered.

Subsequent bumps and problems have dislocated his footrests so they don’t line up properly. He said with a grin that he might wait a little longer to have
that repaired.

Unfortunately, that grin did not last long. On his way home from this interview, he broke his foot plate a third time on King Street.

The son of Dave and Rhonda Cunningham, he has had cerebral palsy since childhood.

He was originally urged to apply to the committee by his Grade 8 teacher at Terry Fox Public School Adrianna Hayden, who came into his place of work one day. At the time, he got a letter telling him there were no vacancies. Then, not long afterward when one occurred, he was contacted by Councillor Bill
MacDonald.

In spite of his experiences, Cunningham considers this a good community for accessibility, even better than some of the bigger centres like Belleville and Toronto.

“Northumberland Mall is laid out perfectly, whereas Quinte Mall’s crosswalks are not even parallel to where the sidewalk is — you have to go out on to
the road, and it’s dangerous,” he pointed out.

“For accessibility, this town is quite ahead of some places I have been.”

With some time at Loyalist College under his belt, Cunningham is considering a career in sports journalism.

That’s not surprising, given his love for the sledge hockey he played so avidly while he was growing up. He has just rediscovered the sport this past season and plans to stay involved.

In college and in sports, he has made friends with people who have a variety of disabilities, from the deaf-mute friend who has to write down his order
when he’s at a restaurant to the blind sledge-hockey teammate who relied on radio transmissions from his father for such input as where the puck was (and who was one of the team’s most outstanding players).

Cunningham says there may be a disconnect between himself and the other accessibility- advisory committee members in that he is not absolutely wheelchair-bound and is a little more adaptable (he does not rely on push-button door openers, for instance).

His aim is maximum independence, and he realizes he may not need the same helps getting there as some others. But he does have a word of advice: be visible.

“They need to get out there and show the community they want to be active. The more people in wheelchairs are out there, the more they will grab the attention of the people who have the power to make the decisions.

“Otherwise, they won’t see the need,” he said.

cnasmith@northumberlandtoday.com

Article ID# 2661259

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