How one citizen is trying to advocate a change in accessibility?
Hi, well I'm that one citizen, when I first started to use a wheelchair, I really wished there was a group or a club where I could ask questions at, like where are the best wheeling areas? Or what wheelchair sport teams are around? Or where can I go hangout with people my own age. I’d think someone would of made up a group or a club like that.
So, that they could of shown a new comer the ropes of being in a wheelchair. But there wasn’t anything like that, I couldn’t find no one to mentor people who use wheels on how to get around safely, so I had to be a pioneer and discover that stuff myself. SO SAD, I never would want anyone else to have to go through what I had too. I ended up taking a school course called “Community Enrichment” here at Grant Mac. Ewen, in school I wasn’t getting the answers to my questions. People there would say my dreams were way too big, a teacher said “no one expects that much from you.”
So, just to prove them wrong… I took it upon myself to create a free service calledMightywheels.ca, Canada's first wheel accessibility team created to raise awareness of the problems that people who use wheels face every day. I'm very passionate about this, probably because I also use wheels and understand wheel problems. Sad to say, Edmonton is about 4 to 5 years behind in their accessibility upgrades according to a provincial planner (Robert) who moved here from New Zealand, that works on Universal Design as a side project. Here’s an example of what I mean... For an able-bodied person, the journey from my apartment to the closest grocery store is a short, 5-minute walk; they can make it even shorter by cutting through the parking lot of the neighboring plaza.
For a person who uses wheels, that same journey takes an easy 30 minutes. They are forced to wheel over, over size speed bumps, large cracks in the city sidewalks, numerous potholes and other horrific obstacles. I have fallen out of my chair from getting my wheels stuck in a crack of the city sidewalk resulting in numerous injuries, stitches and a dislocated shoulder.
Even the smallest crack in the pavement seems easily overcome but for most wheel users, it can be a giant problem. These problems do not only affect me, they also affect parents pushing baby strollers, people using walking aids or people using wheelchairs.
This is another reason I chose to start Mightywheels, here is one more: I read this… The inevitable is that we all will age, "Canada Health" says by the time a typical Canadian reaches 85 years old, 6 out of 10 of us will have mobility issues or have to use a wheelchair. I know that Edmonton’s City’s intersections, sidewalks, and sidewalk ramps are not in the best of conditions and I don’t think we want to be confined indoors. So let’s all think of every ones interests, and check out my blog for ideas to work with the inevitable.
Michelle set up a meeting for me in June at the Lois Hole Library in Callingwood. There, we talked about what is being done for the city’s infrastructure upgrades and accessibility for people who use wheels. One thing that was acknowledged was that there are engineering guidelines or standards of practice in the City that have been around since 1962. Why don’t we bring them up-to-date? We have to give engineers new tools and ideas and a new set of standards to work with. We need policy change within the city and an accessibility advisor on every project.
Other things I have started doing were various interviews, one being with Transitions, (a non-profit support agency)… I did a major presentation for them explaining about Mightywheels and what we’re trying to do. An interview with AMI-TV: at the Tea place about the accessibility of businesses and what they have done to improve it. I partnered up with Zachery Weeks for a Stop Gap video, describing wheel accessibility and how “Stop-Gap” is needed in Edmonton. I have also done 10 or so accessibility evaluations on video and then posted them onto my social media outlets. I’d really like you to view my projects on: Mightywheels.ca
Despite the many things I have accomplished so far, I’ve had many challenges and obstacles.
-being kicked out of businesses
-people not taking me seriously
-having to find transportation to do interviews
-being limited to assessing my area
Things I want to do in the future…
-working on my book
-assess other areas for accessibility
-work with the city as a accessibility advisor
-I want to ride the city’s ETS to all my evaluations/ videos recording all my journeys available to watch on my blog.
More who know me and what mightywheels.ca does, the more people we can help.