Northumberland News – The Independent

By John Campbell:

CAMPBELLFORD – Access Awareness Day, which opened the eyes of elected officials and business owners to obstacles encountered daily by disabled people, is making a return.

Doreen Sharpe, who oversaw the annual event until it came to an end several years ago, is once again behind the initiative to have able-bodied people experience what it’s like to move around in a wheelchair or with a wheeled walker.

People who took part in previous Access Awareness Days “had no idea that a little bump on the curb or a crack in the sidewalk would make it so difficult for somebody in a wheelchair,” Ms. Sharpe said.

“It made them willing to make changes.”

But the sidewalk improvements Trent Hills undertook to remove those obstacles have begun to show their age, Ms. Sharpe said, and moving about downtown has once again become problematic in some areas.

“They almost all need to be addressed again,” she said.

They might be items on the municipality’s to-do list but it’s time “to make them more of a priority.”

Director of transportation Richard Bolduc met with members of More Abled Than Disabled and suggested the club map out where repairs are in order.

“It was not that he was ignoring it but there are lots of other things to grab his attention,” Ms. Sharpe said. “Whenever we’ve gone to the Town and pointed out things … most of the changes have happened. And they wouldn’t happen unless you did things like Access Awareness Day.”

Merchants “have a harder time” making the required changes because of the expense involved but there is now funding available to assist then with capital costs, Ms. Sharpe said.

So far three people have volunteered to take part in Access Awareness Day June 8. Ms. Sharpe is looking for three more people, with representation from the BIA, to sign up. Each participant will visit five stores in either a wheelchair or with a wheeled walker, accompanied by someone who will document the obstacles that were encountered. Afterward they will return to the starting point, the Campbellford Community Resource Centre, to discuss what they found.

Anyone who wishes to take part or help out is invited to call Ms. Sharpe at 705-778-5427.