June 25 Letters to the Editor

Dear Casey,
I just wanted to let you know how very well received your (wheelchair accessibility) article was, by your readers and by many merchants. I know it can be a gamble when dealing with businesses and I admit it was not always comfortable for me, but it truly has turned out to be such a worthwhile project.  Scott and I have had so many calls, beautiful letters, and well wishing comments that we were overwhelmed; I have never known such heartfelt concern and support. As we discussed, there have been some incredible hurts and frustrations with people who could not handle the changes in our life. Well, this has done so much to restore my faith in human kindness. Some of the businesses immediately made changes as a result of your article and became very proactive in their attitude.
You are a very kind and generous man yourself and this series of articles demonstrates your commitment to bettering life for all citizens. I hope you feel proud and not too humble that you won’t print this. To all the people who approached Scott and me, wrote and sent cards, I thank you so much as it is just this sort of thing that empowers us to advocate for better services for all persons requiring chronic or long term care. We have a long way to go in getting drug coverage, but the financial services firm of Campbell and Lehman have been very kindly working on a trust fund for myself and others in my position to help with costs until one of either the Ontario Ministry of Health or Hoffman-LaRoche steps up to the plate and does the right thing. It is not my wish to be in the public eye for the reasons that I have been, but if this is what it takes to make improvements for myself and others, then so be it. Thanks again.
Sincerely,
Denise Halpenny
Exeter

To the Editor:
I appreciate your recent efforts to grade accessibility in the area. I have arthritis in both knees and use a cane constantly. Entry to buildings, washroom facilities etc. are things I struggle with on a daily basis.
I was surprised to read that Gar’s (Bar) in Exeter got an average rating. I guess it was fair by your scoring system. However, what distressed me was your mention of the cleaning equipment in the handicap washroom. This is because I was at that facility this past February for lunch and when I went to use the handicap washroom there was a bucket and mops and no room for me. I had to use the regular washroom and – because the toilet was abnormally low – I had to grasp under the door to pull myself up; otherwise, I would still be there. Thank goodness the door held and I was again upright.
I asked to speak to the manager who was “not in today.” So I spoke to the person at hand and asked her to accompany me to the handicap washroom to show her why I was upset. She then explained that the equipment was in there because if she stored it downstairs, she would have to carry it up to clean. Because I didn’t agree this was a good reason to block handicap usage, I then demanded some compensation for my troubles. Am I wrong in assuming there is a law about having a handicap washroom available in public areas?
My compensation ended up being a free lunch. But as my friend expressed to the woman why I was so upset, she responded, “She’s not handicapped!!” I guess more education is needed here. You don’t have to be in a wheelchair to be handicapped! So I was happy to see you mention that in your recent editorial. Thank you for doing this.
There are other problems that people are often not aware of. The number of marked parking spaces is never enough and when I mention this at the municipality I am told the code requires one space for every thirty regular spaces. Is there a law that says you can’t include more than the building code stipulates? Duh! I would think the number of handicapped persons is only going to increase this decade.
Another seldom-confronted situation is the installation of handrails on stairs. Some are on the left and some are on the right. Some people have trouble going up, I have trouble going down and need a rail in my left hand. Why not have rails on both sides?
As Lisa Grady mentioned in her article, people want to do it themselves and maintain their dignity and independence. So let’s help them do that!
Thanks for listening Casey. You are doing a good thing. My next topic will probably be the development of a scent-free environment. Do I have any support on that issue?
Wilma Harris
Port Franks

From the editor: Wilma, thanks for your observations. It must be frustrating when a business has the infrastructure in place, but does not make it available to the customers for which it is designed. Our standard required that someone using a wheelchair can get in the door from the street and get around. If a person could use the washroom, reach the counters and sit at a table, those counted, too. I called Gar’s, and the owner is on vacation, but I was told the cleaning equipment still restricts use of the washroom. It’s a shame because this is a simple change (like other changes that could be made there and elsewhere) that could have helped it earn a higher rating. I was told Gar would likely reflect on this upon his return. Ultimately, business owners need to make accessibility a priority because, as you suggest, more people require such services each year.
Regarding the legal question, I do not believe restaurant washrooms are covered under the law yet, so if you would like to complain, your best avenue would be the Ontario Human Rights Commission. They, however, recommend you address your concerns with the business first.
And regarding the scent-free environment question, that’s certainly a good fight to wage.

I was pleased to see your newspaper in my mailbox; very interesting. I live in Parkhill and do a lot of my shopping in Grand Bend and area. I am very disappointed in the law enforcement that they don’t take care of the ongoing problem with wheelchair parking spaces. I find myself being mad most every time I have to park my truck when I see countless people (parking in these spaces) with no problem walking to the store. You people should be glad you can walk; STOP parking in the wheelchair space. I would stand out in the rain all day just to give out tickets to people who take the wheelchair parking spaces.
For the businesses that make excuses about why they don’t have wheelchair spaces or ramps, you should be ashamed of yourselves. It seems to me that everything has to be about the money. Why does it seem that bad things have to happen to someone before they make changes in their life? We want to make changes in our community but we only want to go halfway. The people in wheelchairs have a right to shop anywhere they want, so why are they being left out?
Patti Wilton
Parkhill

How pleasant a surprise it was to see how well Grace Hodgins was doing after her surgery on Friday, June 13. Grace had to get a pacemaker and I was so worried for her, but like the trouper she is, she rallied once again and is expected to be home shortly. Lots of love and encouragement in your quest for better health. Love and good luck. You go girl!
Joan McCullough
Shipka