Robert’s column

Robert Barron Column: Duncan takes on disability issues

Robert’s column

I’m glad to hear that the City of Duncan is taking a look at measures to increase the safety and comfort of those with limited mobility and other disabilities.

The city’s advisory committee on disability issues has been busy in recent months identifying areas in Duncan where work can be done to make the lives of the city’s disabled people, and those that visit, easier.

City council has recently directed staff to review the safety of the walkway across Canada Avenue at the intersection of Station Street and consider the installation of flashing crosswalk lights there.

The committee has determined that, with the crosswalk so close to buildings, it can be difficult for pedestrians and motorists so see each other, so flashing lights would make everyone more aware.

The city is also considering upgrading its small Station Street Park to make it more friendly for those with mobility issues and are looking at paving its walkways to make it easier for wheelchairs, as well as other improvements.

Like most cities, Duncan’s original planners many years ago probably didn’t give much thought to how people in wheelchairs, and those with vision and other issues, manoeuvered around the city’s streets and sidewalks.

I recall back in 2016, shortly after I first began work at the Citizen, I met Brian Gage, a Duncan man who went blind in the 1980s after a shooting accident.

I asked if he thought Duncan was adequately accessible for people with disabilities and he said he would like to see the whole city torn down and rebuilt again, this time with the blind and handicapped in mind.

But, at the time, he did acknowledge the cut curbs in the downtown core for those in wheelchairs and scooters, and the audible crosswalk signals on many intersections for people who are visually impaired, were great ideas.

But Gage did say so much more could be done.

He complained about dangerous intersections, including the one at Canada Avenue and Station Street, that need flashing and audible signals, and even said there were too many sandwich boards on the sidewalks.

I also personally discovered some of the issues facing disabled people in the city when I joined Gage, others with mobility and visual impairments, and members of the business community and the advisory committee on disability issues on a “Disability Wheel-About” around the downtown core.

As part of the event, I joined the tour driving an electric scooter, and my journey through the city was an eye-opening and sometimes frightening experience.

The first thing I noticed was the limited amount of time you have to cross intersections.

Pedestrian traffic signals are not much of a challenge for most able-bodied people, but they certainly can be for those in wheelchairs and on scooters.

As I crossed many of the intersections, I was disconcerted to find the flashing stop signal indicating that time was running out to cross come on when I was less that halfway.

Not wanting to be still in one of the intersections when the light for the vehicles turned green, I panicked and crashed into the back of the woman in front of me who was also on a scooter and part of the tour.

Fortunately, other than the fact that I knocked off my front headlight and carrying basket in the incident, no one was hurt, other than my bruised ego.

By the end of the tour, I was humbled by how hard it is for many people in the community to do what the rest of us just take for granted.

I’m happy that the city has decided to take such a proactive attitude to this issue.

I’ll bet many people in the city appreciate it.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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