Jake Burgman in his power chair outside of The Pantry on 20 Avenue in Blairmore. Submitted photo.
Nicholas L. M. Allen
Oct 18, 2023
Increasing awareness of mobility issues and how they impact a person's ability to access shopping and amenities.
Wheelchair accessibility is an issue impacting the Crowsnest Pass according to a local mother.
Sue Burgman, the mother of nine-year-old Jake Burgman, is helping promote improved wheelchair accessibility in their community. Jake uses a power chair for mobility, and his mother is helping with efforts to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people with disabilities, especially during the upcoming winter months. As he grows, his need for accessible spaces becomes more evident.
“When there’s just a little step into a store or even up a couple of steps, I can go backwards and pull him up, but it doesn’t give him independence. When we’re out for a walk, he really does better when he’s independently moving in his power chair,” Burgman explained.
One of the key challenges is the absence of ramps or accessible entrances at many businesses. Permanent ramps are often the preferred solution, but they can be expensive and subject to regulatory requirements. Small businesses, in particular, may find it challenging to install permanent ramps due to space constraints.
“We’ve been starting to ask in the last couple of years, when it came to the forefront of our needs, to start asking some of the businesses that we like to visit, to see if they can make it accessible,” said Burgman.
Burgman shared her efforts to encourage local businesses to enhance accessibility. She emphasized the need for incentives and support from the municipality, saying, “It would be nice if there was some sort of incentive from the municipality, some sort of financial assistance or leniency to make it easier on business owners to encourage accessibility.”
Local businesses, such as The Kind Rat and The Pantry, have already taken proactive steps to provide accessible entrances. Tanya Kindrat, the owner of The Kind Rat, ordered a portable ramp after four days of being made aware of the need for one. The Pantry ensured an accessible entrance was in place before opening, making it easier for wheelchair users to access their building. A number of other stores also have options for accessibility posted on their doors.
“The dream is one day he can access every store,” said Burgman.
Main Street in Blairmore is a regular route for the Burgmans and Sue noted that the area is generally accessible during most seasons, but winter poses unique challenges. Snow removal may be delayed, and some businesses do not promptly clear their sidewalks. These issues can make simple activities like going for a walk quite challenging for the family.
The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass’s Operational Services Department is responsible for maintaining 29 kilometres of walkways and trails for snow removal and the Municipalities traffic bylaw requires residents to remove snow and ice from sidewalks adjoining their property within 48 hours of deposit.
The Accessible Canada Act, federal legislation with the goal of achieving a barrier-free Canada by 2040, plays a role in advancing accessibility rights. The act is rooted in the principle of “Nothing Without Us,” emphasizing the importance of consulting people with disabilities in policy and law development.
To learn more about the Accessible Canada Act, visit accessible.canada.ca.