Assessing Oceanside accessibility

Qualicum Beach town councilers and Parksville mayor join Access Oceanside on a wheel-about town to look for areas to improve

Access Oceanside member Regan Myers

Access Oceanside member Regan Myers

Local mayors are aware of some of the difficulties people with mobility issues have getting around their communities, but Parksville’s Marc Lefebvre challenged Qualicum Beach council to experience it at the ground level.

“We’ve been doing this for several years in Parksville and this year the mayor of Parksville challenged Mayor Teunis Westbroek to do it here,” said Sandra Hobson, chair of Access Oceanside which works towards “inclusion for all to live, work and play in a barrier-free community.”

About 20 people, including three Qualicum Beach town council members, took part in the challenge in the rain on Friday, about half using wheelchairs or motorized scooters to navigate from town hall a couple blocks around Qualicum Foods and back to get a first-hand perspective.

Lefebvre had challenged his mayoral counterpart, but Westbroek walked with the group, quipping that delegating was one of his jobs as mayor and two other council members wheeled along, including Anne Skipsey and Neil Horner, council’s Access Oceanside liaison.

“Watch, that loose grate you just stepped on, that can be a real hazard,” said Access member Regan Myers who led the tour, pointing to the base of a tree growing in the middle of the sidewalk.

He pointed to sandwich boards, power poles, bushes and other obstacles along the narrow sidewalks and how dangerous things like car drivers not noticing them can be, all within the first 20 metres. And that doesn’t even include watching out for pedestrians, including families with little children and other people with their own mobility issues, he explained along the way.

He said that while cobble-style sidewalks can be done nicely, the sidewalks in Qualicum Beach are much too bumpy for his liking, pointing to several small speed-bump like areas that have been ground down to even them out some.

“The goal is to sensitize people to mobility issues,” Hobson explained at the start as she asked the group to pay particular attention not to fall off the curbs and to wait for pedestrians.

The group intends to follow up on specific issues found on the tour, as they have with Parksville city council in the past, to help improve the easy of mobility for everyone in the town, pointing out it is not just about wheelchairs, but everyone in the increasingly senior communities being able to get around as easily as possible.

Visit www.accessoceanside.com for more.