In 1998, when we discovered one of our twins was blind, it opened our eyes to a world we never knew much about – the world of those with different abilities and needs. As I watched both of our children learn to down hill ski, swim and wakeboard, I realized most limitations are created by our environment and teaching strategies, rather than the actual abilities of our daughter. Through first hand experience, I came to realize the importance of accommodating to make things accessible for every one. Since 2002, my volunteer work has focused on researching and advocating for accessible, inclusive education, for all children and building environments which are barrier free.
With a large portion of our population aging and new medical miracles allowing people to live through traumatic circumstances, there are large numbers, in our community, who are impacted by people with exceptional abilities and needs. If a member of your family travels using a walker or a wheelchair, staying in a home without a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and living area on the main level, may not be an option. There is a movement, in our country, called “Visitable Housing” which addresses this concern. Check out their website at http://visitablehousingcanada.com/
Our Region, in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) 2005 http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/05a11, have an accessibility advisory committee called Grand River Accessibility Advisory Committee (GRAAC). To find out more about GRAAC, please go to http://www.northdumfries.ca/en/GRAAC.asp. Cambridge is the only community, in Waterloo Region, which has it’s own accessibility advisory committee. To find out more about accessibility in Cambridge, please visit http://www.cambridge.ca/accessibility
There are many great things being done, in our region, to make our community more accessible. We are using more accessible pedestrian signals, to ensure those with visual and/or hearing challenges, can more safely cross the street. On new construction, the region is using tactile warning surface indicators (TWSI’s), where the sidewalk meets the curb, providing a tactile indicator that you are now entering the street.
One of our biggest challenges, however, is our ever increasing number of roundabouts. These roundabouts are designed to “improve road safety, manage increased traffic demand, and help improve air quality by eliminating unnecessary stops and idling”. Unfortunately, for the pedestrian, especially those with visual impairments, mobility challenges and children, roundabouts present a very real challenge, which has not been addressed and remedied, at this time. If you are moving to our community, this may be something you will want to consider, when choosing your neighbourhood. I recommend you learn what the region has to say, in this regard by going to http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/gettingAround/All-About-Roundabouts.asp