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County Continues to Upgrade its Facilities

By Daniel R. Pearce, Simcoe Reformer
Sunday, June 24, 2012 6:08:54 EDT PM

Hannah Lawrance, activities assistant at Norview Lodge nursing home, shows the current lift used to get people with mobility problems in and out of the pool at the Simcoe Recreation Centre. The lift is being replaced with an upgraded model.

SIMCOE – Norfolk County will become a tiny bit more accessible following the announcement Saturday that Simcoe’s indoor pool will get a new lift to help the disabled get in and out of the water.

It will replace the five-year-old device that has made the pool usable for people with mobility problems but has also broke down from time to time, including once when a man was already in the water and officials worried how they would get him out.

The new device will cost about $7,000, about $5,000 of which will come from federal funding. Unlike the current one, it is portable and could be moved to the Delhi outdoor pool if needed.

But it is merely one of many upgrades the county government will have to do in the coming years to make its facilities accessible.

Mayor Dennis Travale, who was on hand Saturday at the Simcoe Recreation Centre for the lift announcement, said town hall will follow the law and continue to make changes.

“We are making progress. We want to be inclusive. We’ll get there,” he said during a media conference.

The new lift “may not seem like a lot of money but it is important,” he said.

Officials from Norview Lodge, the municipality’s nursing home, praised the addition of the new lift. The ability to use the pool has given its residents something they can enjoy and added to the quality of their lives, they said.

Local MP and minister for human resources and skills development Diane Finley, who was there to make the funding announcement, said she has first-hand experience facing challenges in getting around following her successful battle with Graves Disease a few years ago.

It left her with limited vision. Properly marked cuts in the curb and markings on stairs in public buildings suddenly meant the difference between being able to move around on her own, Finley said.

“It’s the little things that can make a big difference so long as people can think to do them,” she said.

Waterford resident Sue Small, who has multiple sclerosis and gets around on a scooter, said the community still has a long way to go to be fully accessible for people like herself.

Small said she can park her vehicle in specially designated parking spots but then has trouble getting up to and down from the sidewalk. Many stores, she added, remain inaccessible.

With the closing of two gas bars in Simcoe recently that offered fill-up service, the disabled, Small noted, now have nowhere to get their vehicle filled.

“The biggest thing now is gas. I depend on my husband to make sure my tank is full,” she said.

Norfolk County is working on upgrading its website so people with vision and hearing problems can make use of it, Travale said. It will also have to make sure all its buildings are wheelchair accessible in the future.

This summer council will “review” all the county’s buildings to see which ones will be kept and “renovated” or disposed of in a cost-saving measure, Travale noted. The cost of upgrading to new accessibility standards, he said, “is part of” the decision-making criteria.

Daniel R. Pearce

519-426-3528 ext. 132

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