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Getting around: council looks at accessibility in Lake Cowichan

Area youth told council of concerns about lack of accessibility in town and at the school
Oliver Blair Finlayson, an 11-year-old Grade 4 student at Lake Cowichan School, sits in his wheelchair in front of the playground equipment, which is not accessible to students with physical challenges. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Lake Cowichan’s Carmen Nickell appeared before town council’s committee of the whole on Feb. 14 to talk about accessibility around town.

“Personally, I have seen a lot of issues…with living with people who struggle with disabilities and accessibility around the town. I’ve seen them struggle to get up sidewalks or struggle to just like walk down a sidewalk because that’s hard for them, and if it’s not maintained properly they can’t,” Nickell explained.

“There’s also different accessibility into stores. Can someone get in that store if they can’t walk with their legs? If they’re in a wheelchair?”

Nickell mentioned many of the main street merchants have raised sidewalks and no ramps.

Lake Cowichan Mayor Tim McGonigle explained that he’d had a preliminary meeting with Nickell and had asked her to come before council with her concerns.

“During our discussion, [Nickell] mentioned that perhaps we could all take part in an accessibility assessment, whether it be in wheelchairs or a walker or with a cane, just to visualize throughout town, and maybe the deficiencies she has spoken of,” McGonigle said.

It’s not just in town though, noted the mayor.

“What she also mentioned was about some deficiencies within the school so perhaps we can work collaboratively with the school board on addressing some of those issues that she brought forward,” he said.

Accessibility at the school is not a new issue.

In October 2022, a Lake Cowichan mother made headlines after becoming increasingly frustrated while trying to get accessible playground equipment installed at Lake Cowichan School so her son, who uses a wheelchair, can play with his friends.

Amie Finlayson said at that time her efforts over the past year to have accessible playground equipment installed at Lake Cowichan School had not been successful.

Council agreed to look into exploring the topic further.

“That would be something for us to bring forward during budget,” McGonigle said, noting an accessibility tour would be a reasonable start.

“Then we could identify the areas that [Nickell] speaks of and move forward with the discussion from there.”

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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