Council told town could improve on disability access front

Sonya Matthews makes numerous complaints to council on disability access across town

Lake Cowichan’s council has been told it could improve on the disability access front at various locations throughout town.

Sonya Matthews showed up at July’s Public Works Comittee meeting at the town hall to vent her frustrations to council.

“I have a few issues and I believe it was last year that I offered my mobility aid to every one of the council members and nobody took up that offer,” said Matthews at the meeting.

“The first thing is parking and it needs work. The first spot at the doctor’s office should be handicap parking instead of that being all the way down at the other end.

“The sidewalks are also uneven and they are not safe. There’s lots of tripping hazards. Most of them are not wide enough and my aid cannot walk with me. Also, the trees and shrubs are blocking the sidewalks,” she said.

Coun. Frank Hornbrook who chaired the meeting, sympathized and agreed with Matthews.

“The newer sidewalks are a different size and we will replace the old ones. Every year we try to do that and we hear you,” he said.

Matthews said that “seniors don’t feel safe walking in town and they should.”

“You will all thank me for bitching about this stuff as one day you’ll be in my shoes,” she said. “The bridge on South Shore Road also needs to be widened.”

Hornbrook thought that might fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“That could come under highways,” said Hornbrook. “I’m not sure what influence we would have or could have. We can forward your concern to highways.

“To get two walkers on there (the bridge) you have to have a pull-out somewhere for sure. We will raise it with highways.”

Matthews is also concerned about the accessibility of the bathrooms at Saywell Park.

“The bathroom doors at Saywell Park open out instead of in. That blocks the lane access. Where you hold events in town like at Saywell Park or around the lake, there is tripping hazards everywhere. That puts people with disabilities off coming to town. The wharf that you’ve just built at Saywell Park, well mobility aids can’t access it. We’d like to sit on that dock too.”

Mayor Ross Forrest also sympathized with Matthews.

“There was a discussion at public works recently about accessibility for the disabled,” said the mayor. “We know we are lacking in many areas. Ontario has much stricter rules. We are lacking big time on this front. Everything we do going forward, we want to make it accessible. However, we are limited as we only have so much money. If we are spending capital dollars, we want to make things accessible for everybody.”

Matthews suggested that professional consultation could be key for council in the future.

“I think your task would be to talk to professionals before you build something. I can’t access Tim Hortons either as I can’t get out.”

Coun. Bob Day also sees Matthews’ point.

“The sidewalks are hard for people with walkers,” he said. “The edges are very steep. All the baby boomers are older now and I worry that they could fall and twist their ankles. I’m also worried about people on scooters and the sidewalk behind the Seniors’ Centre I know is not senior-friendly. I’m not sure what the next step would be.”

Hornbrook ended with more sympathy and understanding.

“My wife has had two walkers and two scooters. I’ve been through a lot of this stuff,” he said.