Gurneet Grewal speaks to Abbotsford council Monday, with assistance from Arlene Schouten. Grewal was joined by Linda Loewen and Shuan Baumann. The three are members of the MSA Society’s Self-Advocates Group.

Abbotsford’s buses & sidewalks pose difficulties for those in wheelchairs, council told

Self-advocates urge council to improve city facilities for those who use wheelchairs

The City of Abbotsford’s buses, bathrooms, sidewalks and recreation facilities are often hard to use for people with disabilities, council heard Monday.

Gurneet Grewal, Linda Loewen and Shawn Baumann urged the city to ensure that people like them – with disabilities – can use city buses and public buildings.

The trio, who are members of the MSA Society for Community Living’s Self-Advocates Group, appeared as a delegation to council Monday to mark the International Day of the Disabled.

Grewal told council that his day program uses city buses, but that the scarcity of wheelchair spaces means some are left behind. He also said bus drivers need to be kinder to those with disabilities.

Some sidewalk entrances to roads can also cause wheelchairs to tip, Grewal said. He added that Mill Lake Park’s washrooms “should be more accessible for larger wheelchairs.”

Loewen and Baumann shared similar concerns.

Baumann urged the city to increase the availability of HandyDart service to allow users to attend evening activities.

Loewen said more should be done to make sure the doors to public buildings and small businesses are easier to open. Some aisles in stores are too narrow for people in wheelchairs.

Loewen also said affordable housing is a concern for her and her peers, as is the need for jobs.

“People with disabilities are reliable workers. We don’t complain much, we rarely call in sick, we are on time and work hard,” Loewen said. “We deserve ‘equal pay for equal work.’ I think the City should encourage more businesses to hire people with disabilities.”

Mayor Henry Braun thanked Grewal, Loewen and Baumann and said their comments provide important insight into what needs to be done for people with disabilities.

“I’m sure our staff have taken note of some of the comments that you have made and the things that maybe we haven’t thought of as much as we ought to,” he said.

Mike Kelly, the city’s senior transportation manager, later told council that staff are working on a plan to improve service for people in wheelchairs and with disabilities.

“We have already worked with BC Transit and are working on solutions for exactly what that delegation was [bringing] up,” he said.

While staff work on those plans, Kelly said the city and BC Transit would use the feedback to see what can be done in the interim to make Abbotsford’s buses more accessible.

“We are trying to provide service for everyone, so if we’re falling short, if there’s something we can do, we want to explore that,” Kelly said.

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