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LETTER: Accessibility mat issue is just the tip of the iceberg

Today, in North Bay and across the province, people with disabilities face barriers in most areas of life
USED 2019-08-29goodmorningnorthbaybct  5 Accessibility mat at the waterfront. Photo by Brenda Turl for BayToday.
Accessibility mat at the waterfront. Photo by Brenda Turl for BayToday.

Editor's note: Mr. Reyce writes in response to the BayToday story Better access to beach and water needed for disabled.


To the Editor:

Almost twenty years have passed since the government of Ontario unanimously passed The Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA).

It was created to help people with disabilities fully participate in society, bring them to the table in crafting regulations, and build mechanisms to enforce standards. Advocates and experts hailed the legislation as groundbreaking and progressive. The goal was to have Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Twenty years later, it is obvious the goals are not being met.

Today, in North Bay and across the province, people with disabilities face barriers in most areas of life. Here is a brief list of concerns from participants at the PADDLE (providing adults with developmental disabilities lifelong experiences) Program.

  • The accessibility mat at the beach is not accessible for wheelchair users to go swimming. There could be floatation chairs available at the beach as additional support to help make it more functional. And if changing rooms are not accessible, what are the options for changing in and out of swimming clothes?
  • Doorways to businesses and public spaces are not always accessible. Often the automatic door openers are either not working or have been turned off. Getting in and out of most businesses is the equivalent of wheelchair parkour.
  • There are no accessible change tables for people with disabilities to use washrooms in public or most businesses.
  • When doors to businesses do work, it is impossible in some cases for wheelchair users to pay for goods and services if the debit machines are locked to a counter where people cannot reach the machine. In these cases, wheelchair users have had to hire people to help pay for goods and services.
  • Bus stops on streets without sidewalks are extremely dangerous for people with mobility issues. Streets without sidewalks are dangerous for pedestrians, including seniors, children, and people with disabilities.
  • If one does not have the app on a phone, the Dynamic Dispatch bus system is a barrier for anyone wanting to use public transportation in the evening.
  • Parabus must be booked days in advance and does not run past 6 pm, making it difficult to enjoy spontaneous trips around the community.
  • There is a lack of housing availability and options for persons with disabilities.
  • Support workers who aid people with disabilities often do not make a living wage, leading to a lack of consistency and sometimes unreliable service delivery.

These are only a few observations and concerns from the participants and staff at PADDLE. The list could be longer. Indeed, the accessibility mat is the ‘Tip of the Iceberg’ of problems people with disabilities face daily.

On the bright side, PADDLE participants and staff believe problems present opportunities! We commend efforts being made to improve accessibility and believe many people are working hard to address the challenges and barriers being faced. To those people who see the value in people and this work, thank you for your dedication to creating a more inclusive North Bay and world. Following Universal Design principles is a starting point for any new builds (thinking about the new twin pad ‘community centre’.

With thoughtful evaluation and strategic action, we can make significant strides toward a city and province where everyone can participate and thrive. As we continue toward a more accessible North Bay, we can remain committed to continuous improvement. By fostering a collaborative and inclusive approach, we can ensure accessibility becomes a positive part of our city's identity.


Jeff Reyce

PADDLE (Providing Adults with Developmental Disabilities Lifelong Experiences) Health Group