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Barriers Will Face Us All as We Get Older

October 13, 2009

Congratulations must go out to members of the Kawartha Lakes Accessibility Advisory
Committee for a special event presented two weekends ago.

The Accessibility Aware Fair in Lindsay on Oct. 3 was a spirited attempt to draw attention to disability issues and barriers faced by many people in our community on a daily basis.

The City of Kawartha Lakes has dedicated significant resources and efforts towards making this municipality barrier free. As KLAAC states, barrier free means “that we all successfully prevent and remove obstacles that inhibit any of our citizens from fully participating in the opportunities enjoyed” in this municipality.

Such barriers may include physical ones such as stairs or high curbs, they may be in the form of small print and hard-to-find information, in new technology that is challenging for some, or it could be found in attitude of local residents, businesses or groups who make assumptions about the disabled and display
such ways of thinking in their practices and presentations.

Unfortunately, there is another barrier that groups such as KLAAC struggle with: apathy. This challenge was addressed throughout the day at the Aware Fair, especially during opening ceremonies and remarks of officials. At that time, it was pointed out that too often when accessibility advocates speak out about the challenges faced by those with mental or physical disabilities, the attitude from people on the receiving end is either “It’s not my problem,” or “I’m glad it’s someone else’s problem.” Sad but true. Society as a whole needs to get to the point where everyone thinks, “That’s OUR problem.” That’s when
tangible change will take place, and hopefully when events such as the Aware Fair attract greater numbers from the general public.

There’s nothing like a looming deadline to produce results, and this province has put such a limit into place, in the form of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act of 2005. Enacted because people with disabilities should have the same kind of opportunities as anyone else, the Act’s purpose is to have a completely accessible province by the year 2025.

That may seem as though it’s so far into the future that no one needs to give the matter much thought at the present time. Yet, once the goals of the Act are examined, it’s easy to see that there is so much work to be done, the 16 years are going to fly by.

Thus, by 2025 (preferably before), businesses and organizations providing goods and services to people in Ontario will have to meet accessibility standards in five important areas of our lives: customer service, transportation, information and communications, built environment and employment.

The City of Kawartha Lakes is doing as much as any municipality in the province to promote accessibility awareness and to help this community move towards compatibility with the Act. The city’s accessibility coordinator, Barbara Condie, has shown an enthusiastic willingness to work with any and all local organizations as we collectively address the challenges of making the community accessible for everyone.

Community Care Health and Support Services is also firmly committed to providing barrier-free service. As our society’s aging population begins to accelerate (the first baby boomers are approaching retirement age), services provided by the agency will be in more demand than ever.

Population projections show that the proportion of seniors in Canada will double in the next 25 years. As we age, we will all likely face some barriers. Making Ontario accessible will benefit all of us.

Mike Puffer is marketing and development director for Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes mpuffer@community-

Article ID# 2113625

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