Belleville City Hall. The Intelligencer.
BELLEVILLE – The city’s accessibility gaps were brought to the mayor’s attention during his speech to the Belleville and District Chamber of Commerce about the state of the city.
Barbara Schultz told the mayor she has concerns about the focus on accessibility and noted the barriers making it difficult for a person in a wheelchair or using a mobility device to run daily errands or enjoy an evening out with family here.
Mayor Taso Christopher said it’s a work in progress.
“We’re taking baby steps,” he said. “I know we can do a better job. I appreciate that challenge.”
Christopher said the city has led the way with transit, the design of sidewalks and making public buildings fully accessible, such as the main entrance of city hall during a recent remodelling of the foyer and customer service areas.
Schultz told The Intelligencer she’s a part of an aging population which aren’t disabled per se, but depend on accessibility to remain mobile.
She spoke of spouses caring for ailing relatives who need wheelchairs or mobility aids to get around town. “Seniors with walkers have problems moving up and down stairs,” Schultz said.
Then there are others like the visually impaired.
“There are issues with low sight,” she said. “We don’t colour mark our sidewalks, so they’re tripping hazards. It’s not just about a person in a wheelchair.”
She listened to the mayor talk about expanding the waterfront to boost tourism and said council shouldn’t ignore a segment of the population which is willing to spend but have special needs.
“It makes good sense from a return on investment issue, but it also makes good sense that we’re trying to market ourselves as an accessible tourist location,” she said.
Strides are being made to address palpable gaps, said Garnet Thompson, chairperson of the city’s accessible committee.
“We have some work to do, but we’ve come a long way,” he said. “We have a workshop in June and it will be focusing on what small business owners can do to make their businesses accessible.”