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Concerned About Councillor’s Response to Accessibility Issues

June 30, 2014
Cambridge Times

Last week, I presented at city council as a delegate on an issue involving the need for sidewalks to be included as a part of a reconstruction plan for an area of Hespeler.

I was very excited to be a part of this process and, as the chair of the Accessibility Advisory Committee for the city as well as a person who lives with a disability, I was happy to hear that most members of council were supportive of this cause.

Sidewalks are an integral part of our community and allow people of all abilities to safely traverse our neighbourhoods.

Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, municipalities are required to improve accessibility in both new and existing areas.

Moreover, the AODA is the first piece of legislation to require both public and private organizations to comply with a set of standards that literally and figuratively opens doors for people who are disabled.

It allows all people, regardless of physical ability, the chance to access goods and services, employment, information and communication, transportation and public spaces in an accessible and whenever possible, integrated way.

I was, however, very alarmed when I heard the remarks of Coun. Rick Cowsill of Ward 2 as he addressed this issue by implying that it is because of legislation like the AODA that they have to make changes like these.

He said their hands are tied and that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, that they are being forced to make changes that many of us are unhappy about … that things are fine just the way they are.

This is a very unfortunate mindset for any public representative to have.

These types of changes should be embraced, not done only because legislation is forcing them. They should be done because it is the right thing to do.

Having the viewpoint that a piece of progressive legislation that improves the lives of citizens in our city is an inconvenience, is outrageous, and not what I want for anyone who is representing me.
I hope for the sake of residents of the city that Mr. Cowsill’s opinion on this issue is an isolated one. I also encourage Mr. Cowsill to spend one day using a wheelchair, walker or scooter to navigate through the city and then let me know if he still thinks the AODA is an inconvenience.

Put him in a wheelchair at the edge of a road with no curb depression and he will truly know what being stuck between a rock and a hard place feels like.

Sheri Roberts

Disability Awareness and Advocacy Training

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