Shovel your walks, people

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With the Paralympic Games’ opening ceremonies in PyeongChang, Korea slated for Friday (March 9), we’re sure Bow Valley athletes will bring home a selection of medals.

As we follow the exploits of our Paralympians over the next couple of weeks, though, it wouldn’t hurt Bow Valley residents to reflect on how an athlete’s valley life is affected by local accessibility issues – among many others.

For example, say sit-skier Chris Klebl managed to have his neck festooned with medals from the PyeongChang Games. Then, say, a downtown celebration was planned for our returning victorious Paralympians.

Cool, right? But, say Klebl couldn’t attend said event because, as a sit-skier paralyzed from the waist down, he couldn’t navigate unshovelled sidewalks en route to said celebration.

Embarrassing, right? But it could happen.

As anyone who wanders Canmore’s downtown core is aware, there are times when sidewalks, both residential and commercial, are nearly impassable for many. By ignoring bylaws related to snow clearing, residents and business owners alike create barriers for those with mobility issues.

And yet, what could be simpler than manning a shovel or, in the case of second homeowners or condo complexes, paying a local company to have sidewalks shovelled to let everyone get around.

On any given day in our communities, one can spot seniors, say, or maybe someone in a wheelchair, or with a cane, struggling to make their way on our streets.

Then there are those who, rather than shovel, simply pour salt/icemelt onto a sidewalk and walk away. Trouble is, the slushy, slippery mess created by pouring salt onto a heavily snowed walk results in conditions little better for mobility.

Yes, Banff and Canmore are winter towns, but both have bylaws in place regarding snow clearing, while both promote walking as a preferable way to get around. It is our responsibility as homeowners and businesses to create a public space that is available for all mobility levels to travel through and around. When we fail in this duty, we fail friends, family and neighbours who rely on us to be responsible stewards of this public space so they can take part in it.

When it comes to wheelchair access to buildings, there’s a wide range in the level of accessibility in both Banff and Canmore. While many user groups are unhappy with new plans for the Canmore Rec Centre, at least some level of accessibility has been addressed in the design for a location where those with mobility issues can still take in Eagles hockey games, speed skating or figure skating shows and competitions.

Many other businesses, of course, could do much, much more in making their location accessible and it starts at the design stage. There are plenty of inexpensive modifications to entrances for commercial properties that could be incorporated after the fact as well.

As with many topics of interest lately, the topic of mobility/accessibility has come up in respect to a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. Yes, there is much that might be accomplished in advance of welcoming the world again during an Olympic/Paralympic Games, but there is no reason much more can’t be done in the meantime.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook