#accessibility = strong communities

I had a total hip replacement (THR) 6 weeks ago (in fact this is my second operation on the same side). Yes, I am 20 or so years younger than the typical THR patient, and no, I didn’t hurt myself. I kinda wish I did, then I’d have a cool story to go with my new hip.

Me @ 2 weeks post op!

I was born with congenital hip dysplasia. Essentially a structural issue where my pelvis doesn’t connect properly with the top of my femur. This means the top of my leg bone can pop out of the joint causing pressure on the nerves and, eventually, osteoarthritis–all of which means even walking is hard and often unstable.

My first surgery was a reconstruction of my pelvis. The surgeon cut the bone and reshaped it to create a proper hip socket, using multiple screws to guide the regrowth of the bone. The recovery from this (over the winter) was long and arduous.

I was so excited when the sidewalks cleared downtown…all I wanted to do was go for a walk, maybe grab a coffee, most of all feel normal.

I chose the sidewalk along Victoria St as some of my favourite places to frequent are along that strip. It was a complete nightmare. The drain in the centre of the sidewalk creates a slope on both sides, creating an uneven surface across the whole sidewalk. I got about 20 feet before I was in agony and tears.

This experience may sound familiar to anyone with mobility challenges who has tried to walk downtown. Aside from the sidewalk itself, many of the doors to businesses remain closed unless a friendly stranger opens it for you. When you’re unstable and walking with a cane/crutches/a walker or even in a wheelchair, trying to fling open a door so you can dart in before it closes is risky. If the door smacks you before you get in (or out) you can fall over or cause additional injury.

There have been some improvements to walkability and accessibility around Kamloops over the last 15 years, but we can do better. Much better.

Retrofitting the doors of older buildings with access buttons so doors open automatically admittedly bears a small cost. What I don’t understand is why the doors to businesses located in some of the newest developments in town don’t have them. Even some of the newest city structures and accessible bathrooms don’t have them. This small little button might not seem like a big deal, but when it comes to being independent, self sufficient and safe, it makes the difference between a door being open and closed–literally and figuratively.

Kneeling transit buses on more routes (and more of these buses), curb ramps, sidewalks and entry points all facilitate accessibility. Being able to travel from Point A to Point B with relative ease removes barriers to employment, health care and recreation. Imagine being reliant on transit but are only able to take a certain bus, and that bus only runs on specific routes at certain times…you’d be hard-pressed to find and keep employment.

An accessible city is inclusive where doors open for everyone. Let’s talk about how we can work together to be friendly strangers to others, helping them open doors to independence and opportunity.

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