Stairs only: For those in wheelchairs or with mobility aids

Stairs only: For those in wheelchairs or with mobility aids

Access an issue at grandstand

Fairgrounds: Association will consider options to help disabled.

Bob Baker was looking forward to watching the chuck wagon races at the Salmon Arm Fair this year.

Bob and his spouse Shari showed up at the grandstand in plenty of time, but things did not work out as hoped.

Bob uses a walker, so climbing the stairs is impossible. He decided to try sitting on his walker near the stairs behind the fence, but that didn’t work either. Not only could he not see the racers properly from his vantage point, the sun was blazing down.

“What I was thinking is if they could put one of those open-sided tents across from the grandstands, where first aid is,” Bob suggested. “You could see everything from there, have a little sunshade, maybe have a chair…”

He said a couple of people had pushed wheelchairs to the area where he was, but they gave up as there was no place to sit and the sun was so hot.

“It sure would be nice if we could have just a little place,” he says.

Shari echoes her agreement.

“I think it would be a good idea if they could make a safe place for the disabled to watch the shows. Bob sat in the sun and he couldn’t even see who won.”

She says she and Bob love the fair.

“Bob used to be a hobby farmer, he used to show goats. He just loves to see the animals and of course we have to wander through and buy something. I was so excited the mini chuck wagon races were there.”

She suggests perhaps a small ramp and platform could be made.

“It doesn’t have to be extravagant,” she says, emphasizing  it’s a matter of treating people in a way that upholds their dignity.

Shari suggests some people with disabilities probably don’t even attempt coming to the grandstand shows.

“We can’t see it anyway, so why bother?” she surmises.

Star McGregor, fair committee chair, remembers the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association applied for a grant to address accessibility, but wasn’t successful.

“I know we did apply for a heritage grant and then didn’t get it – for just that thing, accessibility on the grounds, maybe 2012. I don’t think as a board, we’ve addressed that issue again,” she said, noting that improvements wouldn’t just be for the fair, but for other events as well.

She said the board is currently focusing on fixing up the concession inside the indoor arena.

“It certainly sounds like an area we’ve neglected. It looks like we should look at it again.”

Phil Wright, president of the association, said renovations were made to the announcer’s booth a couple of years ago when a local couple complained about difficulties watching the grandstand shows.

He said the change wasn’t completely successful, as it didn’t provide a high enough vantage point.

Wright said a ramp for the grandstand itself would have to be about 200 feet long, so “we’re casting about how to have a slightly raised platform to bring them in on – and that’s where we’re at.”

He said the association hopes to apply for infrastructure money through the Canada 150 funding, but that’s for the future and won’t help the current situation.

Wright said the board is always willing to listen and he is pleased the issue was brought to his attention.

“We’ll pursue it and see what kind of numbers we’re looking at.”