Vernon-based Okanagan Accessibility Group advocating for those with mobility challenges

Not so accessible

For most people, visiting a government office is an easy thing to do.

But, for Vernon residents with mobility issues, it can be a challenge.

Members of the Okanagan Accessibility Group used MP Mel Arnold's office in the Railway Plaza as a prime example of the everyday challenges they face.

The parking lot is quite narrow at the 29th Street office in downtown Vernon. The handicapped spot is at the far end of the lot next to a set of large, blue garbage bins. If the handicapped van is parked too close to the bins, those with walkers and wheelchairs have a hard time accessing the ramp that leads to the MP's office.

If they park too far away from the bins, they have to utilize the adjacent parking stall to lower the wheelchair ramp, which cannot be done of there is a vehicle parked in it.

A typical side-load wheelchair ramp needs several feet to extend to the ground and more room is needed for the wheelchair operator to exit the bottom of the ramp.

Katie Moore, with OAG and an outspoken advocate for accessibility, said the challenges like the one at the MP's office are common at many locations around town.

“Some of the offices are very challenging to get in and out of because if you are using a walker or a stroller or a wheelchair it is difficult to get around,” said Moore who uses an electric wheelchair.

One of the roles of the Okanagan Accessibility Group is to highlight the challenges people with mobility issues face on a daily basis.

“We go around and thank places that have good accessibility make recommendations to places that do not have good accessibility,” she said, adding the access centre on 30th Street is also difficult.

Since the bike path was put in, parking in from the downtown centre has been lost, meaning those with physical challenges have to park around the block and navigate the sidewalk to the government agency.

Over the past couple of years, Moore said there have been improvements at some places, while others remain difficult to get in to.

Since the city removed parking in front of the BC Access Centre on 30th Street, it has been more difficult to access they facility. The nearest handicap spot is around the corner, forcing those with mobility issues to navigate the sidewalk to get to the government office.

The OAG was founded in 2016 and places with good accessibility are given a window sticker by the group. Suggestions on how to improve access are made to places that still remain difficult to access.

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