YARMOUTH - When podiatrist Michael Innis, owner of Happy Feet Orthotics on Main Street, learned that his request to Yarmouth town council for a handicapped parking spot in front of his business had been denied, he took action.
“I decided to show the mayor, the council and the town planner exactly how accessible the Town of Yarmouth is, because it is not,” he said.
Innis sent a letter to the town and published it on Facebook, inviting officials to take part in a wheelchair challenge on July 18 at 9 a.m.
Those who choose to participate will use wheelchairs borrowed from the Yarmouth Lions Club for the day. Fifty dollars will be donated to the organization in the name of each person.
Participants must check into businesses outlined on a map and can only use public transit and their own arms for eight hours.
“We’re going to send them to some places that are readily accessible and some that are not,” said Innis.
He says that some businesses in town are losing business because they’re not accessible.
“Not only that, those who do have a disability, should have access to everything. I’ve had a few patients say they feel like they’re being treated like second-class citizens,” he said.
A good portion of Innis’s patients are mobility challenged. He says Yarmouth has an aging population and accessibility is paramount.
Some of the provincial and federal buildings and properties in the region are not accessible, he added.
“The beach at Port Maitland used to be accessible ... now the ramp is six inches over top of the sand. It used to go right to the sand.”
“On one of the beaches in Antigonish they actually have beach chairs with wide tires. They provide them.”
So far, town councillors Sandy Dennis and Wade Cleveland have taken him up on his wheelchair challenge.
Innis will work with any councillor and their schedule to enable them to participate.
“When you stop to think about it, the Year of the Disabled was in the 80s. Why not start thinking about it now?” said Innis.
At Yarmouth Town Council’s July 12 meeting, a motion was approved to direct staff to develop the terms of reference for an Accessibility Committee. In a previous discussion about this committee one thing discussed around the council table at a recent committee of the whole meeting was identifying where handicapped parking spaces exist now to determine if they are in the most optimal locations.
Provincial Accessibility Act background
In April 2017, the Nova Scotia government set a goal to be accessible by 2030 under the Accessibility Act.
Nova Scotia is only the third province in Canada to pass accessibility legislation. The passage of Bill 59 began the process of removing barriers for persons with disabilities.