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Disabled Osoyoos man disappointed changes haven’t been made at town marina to make facility fully accessible
A couple months ago I was identified in this paper as a disabled advocate.
This was the first time that I was given that label. In the past I have only considered myself someone with a disability who wants the opportunity to participate in and enjoy all aspects of the community.
Perhaps I got this label because I was hired along with the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C .to do an accessibility audit for the town last October and helped promote Access Awareness day in June.
It was during this audit that I had the first look at the brand new Osoyoos Marina and was shocked to find how very little consideration there had been to wheelchair accessibility.
Now please excuse my frustration, but it has been over 25 years since Rick Hansen wheeled around the world trying to raise awareness regarding accessibility and still today it’s a problem.
I am one of the founding members of the Disabled Sailing Association of B.C. which formed in 1989 and I am still a member of that board.
I am also part of a recently formed Spinal Cord Injury B.C. pier group in the Okanagan Valley, where already 10 of the organizations piers have power boats.
As I look at the sign above the gates to the new boat slips at the back of the lagoon saying “Canada’s Warmest Welcome”, I always then look at the five stairs to the gate and think to myself, “Yes maybe, but not if you’re in a wheelchair”.
Since the problem of the marina’s accessibility was identified, I have been talking to Mayor Stu Wells and a couple other council members.
I was contacted by the town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and set up an on-site meeting.
It was stated that he was starting the budgeting process for next year and he wanted to get my ideas on how to make the marina more accessible and cost them for consideration.
During the first 10 minutes of this meeting, I found myself in disagreement with CAO about how accessible the marina was.
My point being that there is no access at all to the 32 slips at the back of the lagoon; no wheelchair parking at the marina; no accessible pathway leading to the benches and picnic tables because they were surfaced in what looks to me like landscape rock and impossible to wheel on and a potential hazard for someone unstable on their feet.
There may be some valid reasons why these choices were made.
However, if the town wants to achieve the goal of having an accessible marina, these are not the right choices.
In fact could result in liability issues for the town if someone was injured.
Currently there are 410 SPARC parking permits issued for people with disabilities in the Osoyoos area, 392 personal, 16 temporary and two organizational.
I believe this shows a great deal of people have accessibility concerns as well.
As the population ages and as the town continues to grow, I believe that accessibility should continue to be a focus for the town and that accessibility matters to a lot of people who live here.
The mayor has stated he and the current council are committed to trying to make Osoyoos “one of the most accessible small towns in the country” and I applaud this commitment.
I have written this letter not only as a disabled person or a taxpayer, but also someone who cares and sees that the town should have a first class marina that is fully accessible.
I hope the town will fix and learn from the mistakes made during this project and all levels of government and businesses will also see the need and importance of fully addressing the accessibility issue.