By Tim Miller, The Intelligencer
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Tim Miller/The Intelligencer Local resident Bill Seeley sits in his electric scooter at the base of the stairs leading up to the second floor of the Stirling-Rawdon and District Recreation Centre. The upper floor, which is rented out for a variety of community activities, currently has no accessibility options for people with mobility issues.
STIRLING – There are 13 steps leading up to the second floor of the Stirling-Rawdon and District Recreation Centre.
At the top of those steps residents celebrate birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. They hold comedy shows, have live bands come in to play and vendors set up booths to sell arts and crafts.
For local Bill Seeley, it all might as well be happening on the moon.
Seeley was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis close to 30 years ago and has been wheelchair-bound for the last 25 of those.
Far from a homebody, Seeley is no stranger to other local residents as he makes his away around town on his electric scooter. Despite ongoing efforts across the province to increase accessibility there are still many places Seeley can’t go.
“Unfortunately with the antiquated older cities and the infrastructure of some things there’s not the accessibility into the local stores that there would be in newer areas being built up,” said Lin Clarke, the Stirling and District Lions Club accessibility and renovation chairwoman.
One of those places is the hall above the local arena.
“He’s unable to attend the dances or weddings or birthdays or anniversaries that we rent the hall out for,” said Clarke. “It just seemed like a slap in the face sort of thing for anybody that pays their taxes like the rest of us, yet don’t have the freedom to be able to move around the city or the town like they should be.”
Or, as Seeley himself puts it: “I feel left out in the cold.”
It’s not only the celebration of milestones in the lives of friends and family Seeley finds himself missing out on. As a hobby he makes leaves out of cement to be sold at craft vendor events.
“I can’t get up there to display them,” said Seeley from the seat of his electric scooter as he pointed up the flight of stairs.
Seeley isn’t the only one effected by the lack of accessibility, said Clarke. Last year the Lions Club had to cancel a regular Bingo night which had been running for two decades because many stopped coming out due to the accessibility barrier.
“We have members that haven’t been able to come to the Lions on a regular basis because of stairs,” said Clarke. “We’re an older generation, everybody knows that. We’re getting up there. Our 65 and older is outnumbering 14 year olds so we have to get this looked into.”
The municipality-owned arena did see some recent upgrades after being crowned Kraft Hockeyville in 2012. The municipality received $100,000 from Kraft Canada in arena upgrade money.
That money was used for a larger front entrance, handicap accessible washrooms, and separate boys and girls dressing rooms.
“Unfortunately when Stirling won the Hockeyville award and got money to do renovations… the plans that had an elevator on it were not taken into consideration,” said Clarke.
A lift for the building would cost $28,000 plus an additional $45,000 to install. Additional costs would include also include the installation of a universal accessible bathroom upstairs.
“They (Stirling council) have given us permission to raise the money and not offering any,” quipped Clarke.
“If you look up into the records of the Ontario Accessibility, it was at one time that the older buildings that are owned by the municipalities… had to be wheelchair accessible in 2015,” said Clarke. “Well they jacked that up to 2019 and now it’s been jacked up to 2025.
“It just seems to me that it’s a buck passing deal from the higher ups to not want to have to spend the money.”
Mayor Rodney Cooney could not be reached for comment.
In the meantime the Stirling Lions Club is continuing to raise money to install a lift in the arena and are hoping local residents will help them get there.
“I’m asking ‘Joe public’ to send a donation if they can, to the Stirling Lions,” said Clarke.