City increases wheelchair access on Quilchena
How high can you jump in a wheelchair?
People in wheelchairs have mulled the question over ever since two handicapped parking stalls were put in the middle of the block on Quilchena Avenue a few years back.
The problem was that there were no declines, called letdowns, in the sidewalk, merging onto the road allowing people to safely access the sidewalk.
The city installed the two needed letdowns last week.
Mike Touchie has been a paraplegic for 32 years.
He has advocated on behalf of people with disabilities, mothers with strollers and senior citizens for a more accessible town since he moved to Merritt in 1989.
He was involved with the Access Awareness Committee for 16 years.
Touchie was relieved to hear letdowns were created.
“I am in a wheelchair so it directly affects me,” he said.
The stalls posed safety hazards for those getting in and out of their vehicles.
They had to travel to the end of the block just to get onto the sidewalk.
“We had no access,” Touchie explained.“I push, in traffic, to the end of the block.”
Sometimes he avoided traveling to the end of the block by hopping up onto the curb with his wheelchair, but it takes a lot of strength to hop the weight of a person in a wheelchair six inches above the road onto the curb.
With the letdowns in place, people can safely enter the sidewalk from beside their parking stall.
“It’s wonderful, I’m thrilled,” said Touchie.
Darrell Finnigan, superintendent of public works in Merritt, said the maintenance was done for safety purposes.
“Quilchena is so congested,” Finnigan said.
He explained there have been no accidents, but the measure was preventative.
“We are pre-planning,” he said.
Touchie said the improvements are a step forward and that there have been major improvements in accessibility since he moved to Merritt, but there are still improvements that need to be made.
Buildings without automatic doors pose accessibility issues when the door is heavy.
“In my 50s, I’m starting to have problems with arthritis,” said Touchie. “The doors are heavy.”
Cyclists on sidewalks, people spitting on the ground and leaving their pet’s feces on the ground are issues that Touchie said need to be enforced.
He said his hands are his feet and when he wheels through something on the ground, it ends up on his hands.
He hopes Merritt citizens will voice their concerns to the city in hopes that a greater number of complaints will have a greater impact.
“I’m not scared to say ‘well this needs to be done’,” Touchie said.
“But one voice is just one voice.”