All residents and visitors to the Harbour City should have the freedom to come and go where they please.
Unfortunately there are still accessibility barriers in Nanaimo – and in every community – but perhaps we can knock down some of those barriers locally. The federal government’s minister of state for social development, Candice Bergen, was in the city last week to invite small businesses to tap into an Enabling Accessibility Fund.
The City of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo Child Development Centre have benefitted from the fund in recent years, but this current call for proposals is targeted toward small businesses.
Applicants can come up with a plan to construct ramps, paved walkways, easy-access doorways, etc., and the feds will match funds on certain approved projects. Ultimately this program redirects taxpayer dollars toward business improvements, but perhaps in a more acceptable manner than other kinds of tax breaks for big business.
We hope Nanaimo commercial property owners will try to take advantage of this program. If they were already considering those sort of upgrades, great, if they weren’t, even better.
We know our city isn’t completely wheelchair-friendly. Ramps help, but they’re not the be-all and end-all to accessibility. If they lead to shops where the aisles are too narrow, it subjects certain customers to discomfort and maybe even a little disrespect. It isn’t just people who use wheelchairs, either – some people have hidden disabilities, and an aging population means that more and more customers will run into trouble handling heavy doors or too many stairs.
Nanaimo shouldn’t be off-limits to anyone. If there are areas that aren’t accessible, in this era, we should be asking why.