Think of some of the grand feats of architecture in the world. Many will be fronted by a grand stone stairway leading up to the halls within.
As we’re finding out more and more now, lofty and awe-inspiring as that might have appeared, it wasn’t a great practical idea, particularly for some members of the population. Towns and cities everywhere are finding the need to retrofit public buildings to make them more accessible.
Officials from Pictou County’s municipalities engaged in an exercise this week to see how the routes people regularly manoeuvre stack up – and where, perhaps, they fall down in areas. It was a good initiative, getting together with members of the Pictou County Aging Well Together coalition to help identify possible barriers or hazards where seniors walk on a daily basis, as well as how accessible various services are.
It’s an issue we’re hearing about more in recent years, given the growing number of seniors in the population, and will surely represent a continuing challenge in any urban area.
In addition to identifying shortcomings in places such as municipal buildings, the tour was to bring awareness to the issue. It’s easy for anyone able-bodied to overlook barriers – the same as it was for those designers of classic buildings over the decades. People need to understand that what might be, for many, a simple step or narrow passage is insurmountable for others.
Accessibility was a challenge always with us in theory – it just wasn’t recognized as much before. Good to pay due attention now as towns – a hot topic in the Maritimes, but relevant everywhere – try to make streets and venues more friendly to seniors and others with ambulatory challenges.
Another aspect was to identify and eliminate potential hazards that could cause a fall. Included in an article in The News about this walk were statistics about falls involving seniors and the considerable associated health costs.
To make the exercise with Pictou County Aging Well Together more of a learning experience, municipal officials participating were using such assistive devices as a cane, a walker or a wheelchair.
Brenda MacKinnon, Community Links regional co-ordinator, said the event was particularly timely considering the passage of Bill 59, which intends to establish collaboration with people with disabilities to make for a more accessible Nova Scotia.
We’ve seen some progress in these areas before, but there’s considerably more work in the path before us. This includes things that need to be done in the interests of people of all abilities and backgrounds.
We need cities and towns that are family friendly, youth friendly and senior friendly. When it comes to ways for communities to be inviting to both residents and visitors, it’s good to remember welcoming gestures, the obvious, stated ones, as well as those built into the surroundings.