01 Sep Taking Mobility for Granted
Recently I was given the opportunity to experience what it is like to navigate our city sidewalks in a wheelchair. The opportunity was given to me by Amy, a mother of a young child who uses a wheelchair.
Amy had called me to talk about the sidewalks on a downtown street that she would be using to drop her child off at school. The sidewalk is very sloped, uneven, has shrubs and branches overhanging and often has garbage all over it. The unfortunate reality is that city staff do their best to make spot repairs on large trip hazards and mark locations on sidewalks where repairs need to be made but to replace the entire sidewalk on a street requires council to dedicate the budget to replacement.
I met Amy at her home and we talked about para-transit, sidewalks, making businesses accessible and a whole lot of other things. She then allowed me to experience what she experiences every day as she takes her child to school, shops for groceries and goes about her daily life. The video is just a small sampling of what I experienced.
Here are just a few things I learned from our conversation and my experience navigating in a wheelchair:
- If you need Para-transit – you have to book a trip two weeks in advance and know when you need to be pick up.
- St. Catharines Para-transit does it’s best but isn’t really set up for parents to take their children with them.
- When a sidewalk slopes for a driveway, it can richot you into the street.
- You cannot avoid trees or shrubs that overhang a sidewalk – and they hurt when they hit you.
- When a wheelchair tire hits garbage – you will slide around.
In the city we have 574 kilometers of roads and 578 kilometres of sidewalks and pathways. As reported in the 2021 Asset Management Plan, the Transportation Data Confidence Assessment gave our roadways a B and our sidewalks a C. Road deterioration could result in closures and would result in traffic delays, while sidewalk failure would result in accessibility problems.
We cannot ignore the fact that our roadways and sidewalks are in need of replacement and repair. For those of us who take for granted our mobility, who can easily move out of the way of branches over hanging the sidewalk, can walk with ease over uneven and slopey sidewalks or who can hop in our cars or on transit to get to the grocery store – we need to push for our elected officials to say it is unacceptable that a person in a wheelchair or in need of mobility device feels unsafe taking their child to school or going about their daily life.