Spark B.C. hosted a poster contest among students with special needs recently to celebrate Access Awareness Day which is the first Saturday in June.
The poster contest winners were announced Monday at Lake City Secondary Williams Lake Campus. Winners were presented with cash awards and all of the poster creators were presented with keychain flashlights, and information tags with the Spark B.C. logo for their bags.
Anna Mitchell, a home-schooled student won $50 for her beautifully illustrated poster depicting a crying child in a wheelchair unable to enter a building that has stairs.
In the age 13 to 18 category Bailey Le Goffic won the first place prize of $50, Dominic Pacaud won the second prize of $25 and Josie Sill won the third prize of $15.
Kevin Zrinski won third place for his poster in the age 19 and over category.
The entire LCSS Grade 7 to 12 life-skills class was also recognized for their efforts in creating access awareness posters.
Community Living representative Brenda Gordon, Spark B.C. board member Irene Willsie, who are both members of the city’s access awareness committee were there to present the awards.
Willsie says Spark B.C. was founded 18 years ago to raise awareness about the need for public access in both public and private areas of communities.
She says the Cariboo Memorial Complex is a good example of where steps have been taken to improve access for people with disabilities the with the inclusion of push button doors, wide doors, an elevator, a lift at the pool, wide showers and accessible washrooms.
She says the city has also done a good job of making bus stops accessible; providing wheelchair accessible buses and installing voice activated signals at crosswalks downtown, and providing accessible bus stops and buses with wheelchair lifts.
“People also need to take care that wheelchair accessible spaces are not blocked,” Willsie says.
She says things like putting a large garbage can near a wheelchair accessible door can make that door inaccessible for someone with a disability.
People should also respect designated disabled parking spaces and not use them if they don’t have the proper authorization card in their vehicle.
She notes society needs to consider all of the disabilities that limit access for people, vision, hearing, and a wide variety of physical disabilities.
Some of the disabilities are obvious if people are in wheelchairs but others may not be so obvious.
She says there are more and more people today using assistive devices because the population is aging and because people with disabilities are no longer hidden away at home as they have been in the past.
“All people regardless of disability have the right to fully participate in the entire community,” Willsie says.
Gordon says the access awareness committee has been working with private contractors to encourage them to build more homes that are wheelchair accessible with easy access, wide doors and hallways and accessible bathrooms.
Spark B.C. promotes people planning positive change.
Access Awareness Day is ultimately about more than just one day a year. It is a call to respond creatively and purposefully to build a society where barriers to inclusion are removed, and to ensure the independence, self-esteem, dignity and security of all citizens.