Experience in wheelchair opens eyes to access concerns

Patrick Ryley points out deficiencies at public facilities, stirs debate on pride crosswalk

Five months in a wheelchair gave Patrick Ryley some insight as to how Salmon Arm might improve access at its public facilities.

That insight brought Ryley to Monday’s city council meeting.

“I was in a wheel chair, I was in leg casts, the entire duration was about five months,” commented the Salmon Arm radio DJ during his presentation to council. “That didn’t stop me from travelling around Salmon Arm.”

“First off I’ll start off with a challenge to council, and that’s from some of our seniors, requesting that any of you spend a day in a wheelchair or a day in a scooter, motoring around Salmon Arm because it will enlighten you in every way.”

Ryley then provided recommendations revolving around deficiencies he encountered at the city’s recreation centre and arena.

At Shaw Centre, Ryley noted how there are handicap doors on the south end, while on the north end, near Hucul Pond, there’s a ramp but no handicap doors. Furthermore, he said the existing handicap doors are not always open when the arena or Hucul Pond are in use.

It’s a similar situation at the recreation centre, where he said there’s a handicap door at the pool entry but not by the gym, and events in the gym often extend beyond pool hours.

“Considering the age demo(graphic) that we do host in Salmon Arm, certainly it’s a retirement community… I just feel that anywhere we can cut a curb or put in a handicap door, it’s just responsible management of those venues.”

Ryley also voiced his opinion on the city’s proposed pride rainbow-painted crosswalk, to be situated at the 5th Street SW and 5th Avenue SW intersection, between the skate park and the former Roots & Blues office that now serves as a community church.

RELATED: Salmon Arm council approves rainbow crosswalk

“Although I personally have no issue with religion and have come full circle on my own path, it is certainly a trigger for many,” said Ryley, suggesting, instead, that the crosswalk be placed along 5th Avenue SW, between the north and south fairgrounds gates.

He stressed a crosswalk is needed there regardless.

“Even when there’s not big festivals… there is often just staff going back and forth across with tractors and cultural stuff, often when they’re doing equine things you’ve got all kinds of people coming in, actually staying on the grounds or both sides of the grounds,” said Ryley.

Coun. Kevin Flynn was open to moving the crosswalk, but argued it might serve the public better if placed where it would see year-round use, such as between the Blackburn Park playground and the city’s unofficial dog park.

“I respect your opinion,” replied Ryley, “I wouldn’t want to see a pride sidewalk to the dog park, personally.”

Asked for his thoughts on the pride sidewalk as a way of extending an olive branch, Ryley explained how for some in the LGBTQ community, the church remains a symbolic trigger.

“You must go back to the fact that the pride sidewalk did come from an organization and in that organization, a group of people, there are triggers, although it might not mean anything to you, to someone else, the symbol of the church means, that’s what got me kicked out of my house, that’s what raped me for 10 years, that’s what caused a lot of dilemma in my life,” said Ryley. “That’s what ostracized me from my small town, that’s what made… me leave my small town.”

Council thanked Ryley for his input, and agreed to refer suggestions regarding the pride crosswalk to the city’s traffic and safety committee.

After the meeting, on his Facebook page, Ryley posted, “I must admit the most beautiful part about living in Salmon Arm is that we are debating where the pride sidewalk should go, and not bickering about why as some other communities in British Columbia have done. Our small city is world class, and it’s refreshing to see the current council appreciates that.”


@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

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