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Physically Disabled Residents Ask City and Businesses to Consider Mobility Needs

By Stephanie Dubois
Posted September 14, 2011

Traveling down a street in Leduc shouldn’t be hard for pedestrians but for those in a wheelchair, visiting stores on the main drag can prove to be difficult.

The lack of wheelchair ramps, few wheelchair door buttons and high steps into stores are some of the issues that prevent the physically disabled from entering the shops, leaving many residents frustrated and discouraged.

“There are shops on Main Street that are impossible to access because they have a step-up,” said Joanne Sinclair, a City of Leduc resident who has limited mobility because of her Multiple Sclerosis.

And Sinclair is not alone, with several other physically disabled people in the area complaining of the sidewalks and lack of wheelchair bathroom stalls as some of the other road bumps they encounter on a daily basis.

For Ontario resident Shawn McFadden, who was recently sent to the Leduc Community Hospital after breaking both of his heels, he was surprised with the large space between the sidewalk and the road when he first ventured out around the city.

“I have never been in a wheelchair before, so I tried to go out the other day but couldn’t because you can’t get off the sidewalks. The sidewalk lip is
so big that I am always worried about wiping out,” he said.

The wheelchair accessibility concerns are currently being looked at by the city in their Downtown Master Plan. The plan, which is supposed to be done over 25 years, concentrates on the creation of pedestrian-friendly areas in the downtown core, including pedestrian-designated walkways.

“The plan is to promote universal access in public sidewalks and to all persons with all abilities. There’s directives and policies in the downtown plan
that promote pedestrian activity, which isn’t just for people who can walk but is for everybody and anybody who is mobile,” said Cory Labrecque, long-range planner with the city.

But local residents said one of the main issues with some businesses is that some do not allow for people with mobility issues to enter through the store’s front entrance, and that something should be done to allow equal access for all.

“There are some stores where it is impossible for someone in a wheelchair to go inside,” said Helen Atkinson, a local resident, adding that when considering implementing a wheelchair ramp, store owners should make sure their front door can also be opened by all. “It’s important for the doors to open out so a wheelchair can go into a room, otherwise it becomes a box and allows for no possible turning.”

City officials said that although the downtown plan will happen over the next 25 years, they currently don’t force storeowners to have wheelchair access.

“The city is not in a position to dictate what businesses should do, but we certainly encourage it. As we work further in implementing plans, I’m sure that’s an issue that will be brought up to businesses,” said Labrecque.

Downtown revival projects are currently awaiting City of Leduc council’s next budget meeting and it will be left up to council to decide which downtown
projects will be approved.

Article ID# 3299130

Reproduced from http://www.leducrep.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3299130