Following the recent provincial election, a happy news story tells us that a paraplegic will be serving as speaker in the legislature for the first time.
Kevin Murphy, elected for the Liberals in the Halifax area, was injured at age 14 and now gets around in a wheelchair. His success illustrates, of course, how people can overcome such a challenge to pursue what they want.
But also following Murphy’s election, discussion arose about the accessibility in general within that venerable Halifax structure, the House of Assembly. Like many buildings, historic or otherwise, the prospect of people with disabilities numbering among the users didn’t enter the original design.
In fact, some have noted that in years past the idea likely wouldn’t have been entertained of someone in a wheelchair achieving such a position.
This certainly underlines how accessibility was once an afterthought and only recently are we trying to play catch-up. But the errors and omissions are by no means limited to historical buildings. Pictou’s Ralph Ferguson, of the Let Abilities Work Partnership Society, has pointed out in letters to the editor sadly lacking features in relatively modern buildings in the county supposedly there to serve the public.
No doubt we have many locations where some sort of a retrofit is overdue. Our local communities in recent years have been working to install ramps and elevators to make public halls accessible.
It’s not all that easy to build or otherwise develop with the future in mind, because we don’t always foresee needs down the road, or how changing attitudes might affect things.
But when it comes to improved accessibility – in both public places and private spaces – the considerations continue to add up. We want to eliminate barriers for those with disabilities, for starters. Also, keeping in mind the aging population, more thought put into design will keep people in their homes longer, and able to get out and about in their communities.