Ralph and Marina Connors are happy to hear four new handicap parking spaces are being proposed for Williams Lake’s downtown core.
Ralph has been confined to a motorized wheelchair since a logging accident in 1998.
When Marina parks their van, she needs an eight-foot clearance to be able to help Ralph get in and out.
Having more options for parking will make things easier.
The new handicap parking spaces are slated for outside the Bean Counter and Library on Third Avenue North, across the street from Caribou Ski on First Avenue North, outside Kornac and Hamm’s Pharmacy on Yorston Street and outside Grill Marx (formerly Karen’s Place) on Second Avenue North.
“In two weeks time if this all goes through the line painters will be able to fix those spots,” manager of active living Deb Radolla told council at its regular meeting June 10.
The accessibility committee conducted a walkabout of the downtown last July to map the parking, then met and consulted downtown businesses and organizations.
After that the city’s bylaw officer Grant Martin went around as well.
“These additional spaces will make our downtown core more accessible to everybody,” Radolla said.
For people with disabilities who require a designated parking space there are not many alternatives when they arrive at a parking lot and find the designated spaces full, said School District 27’s teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing, Barb Doedel, who is also a member of the accessibility committee.
“They can wait or they can go home,” Doedel said. “These are not real choices so it’s important for people in the community to work together to ensure that accessible parking is available for those who need it.”
Recommendations of the Social Planning Council and Research Council of B.C. suggest a community’s parking spaces should be 10 per cent accessible.
“I think we should be reaching toward the 10 per cent for sure,” accessibility committee member George Atamanenko said, adding presently Williams Lake is sitting at five per cent.
The Connors, however, said they have stayed in Williams Lake because it is accessible and affordable.
“We have no difficulties here, especially compared to some of the other places we have to go for appointments for Ralph.”
Ralph does struggle to communicate. He tried using an iPad to assist his speech when others are unable to understand his voice, but found the iPad screen was difficult to control.
Sometimes he uses a LightWriter as backup for his speech.
During an interview at the Connors’ home, Ralph struggled for about 10 minutes to type out a sentence on the LightWriter, and had some with help from Marina.
When she pushed the button, the voice box said, “I Ralph Connors.”
“I don’t like typing,” Ralph said. His voice slow, but coherent, and requiring the listener’s skills to adjust.
As a large smile spread across his face he said: “I am lucky to be alive because I want to be.”