New Westminster is making accessibility accessible

The topic of accessibility extends beyond just those with impairments and disabilities. From coworkers and classmates to home caregivers to infrastructure development, accessibility impacts nearly every aspect of people’s everyday lives

B.C.’s provincial government is working on new accessibility legislation but it can’t construct the framework alone. New Westminster & District Labour Force invited residents of the city to participate in a public forum to contribute ideas and suggestions into the legislation’s development.

After the Accessible Canada Act was passed on a federal level, B.C. residents can expect to see accessible accessibility as commonplace. In the community forum’s final Report Back, the attendees proposed many changes; inclusion of persons with disabilities in the planning and development of accessibility programs and alternate definitions.

Part of the legislation’s aims is to remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. However, this touches more than just persons with disabilities

Donna Jay had no choice but to become a family caregiver for her husband following his sudden impairment. “It was a crushing amount of barriers,” she says about her caregiver role. She recalls that the physical aspects, which included getting him in and out of the car and to the hospital, as extremely difficult.

General Vice President of CUPE BC, Sheryl Burns, who led the forum and is also hard of hearing, took note of the group discussions. “One of the things that I found really interesting at our table was when I asked the question, ‘who would give the workshop around people with disabilities’ and no one thought of people with disabilities,” she says.

As someone who has grown up with an impairment, Burns has felt the lack of accessibility from a young age. She says the biggest change she hopes to see is a shift in attitude. “I think if we have [a] cultural shift, then the rest will naturally follow.”