Breaking Down Barriers of Attitude - Mere Accessibility is Not Enough

From the Record:DSC_7445.JPG

It's easy to see the "one-step" into stores and restaurants that stop wheelchairs, walkers and strollers alike in their tracks.

But as Canada's population ages and Ontario approaches the first significant deadline outlined by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, universal accessibility is becoming a standard of planning and design. Yet there's still much work to be done.

Speakers at a forum Saturday in Kitchener to mark the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities said the biggest barriers are often the hardest to see.

"It's (about) how simple improvements can make life better for everyone," said Gavin Grimson, who has progressive multiple sclerosis but has also working community health planning for decades. He is the former executive director of the Waterloo Region District Health Council.

He spoke during the forum, titled "Aging with and into Disability: Leading the Way to Inclusive Community Planning and Development." It highlighted that more accessible design helps everyone from the young mother pushing a stroller to the grandmother with a walker.

Grimson said the dropped curbs and ground-level doors in Belmont Village and Kitchener's renovated King Street East are examples of how planning has turned into good practice.

"There's progress everywhere you go," he said. "But there's still so much progress that needs to be made."

"How can you be part of the community if the community doesn't plan for you?"

And attitudinal barriers can be even harder to spot than a door frame that's just too narrow for a bulky electric wheelchair.

"The biggest one (barrier) I think is attitude," said Brad Ullner, a member of the Social Planning Council Kitchener-Waterloo that organized Saturday's forum and luncheon.

He said legislation like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is helpful, but it doesn't necessarily address attitudinal barriers.

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