Opinion

The Free Press Editorial

I received a very thought provoking letter from Grace Brulotte this week.

When I imagine what it must be like to try to get around Fernie in a wheelchair, I think it must be frustrating. I think how annoying it must be to try to get up on the curbs, or get into buildings that don’t have wheelchair access. I think it would be exhausting and time consuming. What I hadn’t considered was how that would make me feel about myself. Grace made me realise that being unable to get around like the rest of us actually makes her feel ostracised and embarrassed. She absolutely should not have to feel this way. Grace is a very smart, capable young adult, who has written for The Free Press in the past. She enjoys all the same kinds of activities as most teenagers, hanging out with friends, earning money in a part time job, going shopping. And there is no reason why she shouldn’t be able to do all these things as easily as her friends do, other than that we are making it so hard for her. Why should she have to struggle to get to City Hall and need to ask people for help, when the rest of us don’t?

Think about walking through town. Are there always sidewalks to walk on, or do we have sometimes walk in the road and jump up on the grass, out of the way when a car is coming? Imagine doing that in a wheelchair. The roads that don’t have sidewalks are dangerous for all of us, but especially for wheelchair users.

Think about crossing the highway. We step over the curb, then over the grassy, gravelly, uneven bit to reach out to hit the button. How is this done in a wheelchair?

I understand that maybe it is hard to justify the expense of putting in ramps and elevators in buildings, shops and businesses, when there are so few people in the valley who need to use them. However, this is an example of when it isn’t about money, it’s about giving people the chance to feel like they are part of society, and the community. Surely this is a basic human right in a civilised country?

 

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