Anyone who relies on a wheelchair, mobility scooter or walker to get around knows that the world is not a fully accessible place. Travelling anywhere and finding suitable places to eat, drink and be entertained can be a challenge for people with mobility issues.
The simplest obstacles, like a set of steps, are all it takes to prevent someone in a wheelchair from accessing a coffee shop, store or other location. If you’re one of the growing number of older Canadians who experience mobility issues, what help is there to make life easier for you?
National Access Awareness Week aims to bring down barriers
National Access Awareness Week highlights the need for accessibility throughout Canada, in communities and the workplace. As well as hosting accessibility awareness activities, the week will also see recognition for those Canadians who are helping to remove accessibility barriers.
Accessibility awareness activities are planned across the country, as well as forums to help create disability action plans. To mark National Access Awareness Week, we take a look at a problem that is affecting increasing numbers of Canadian retirees and explore how to overcome mobility issues.
Mobility is a growing concern for Canadians
Recent research revealed that almost 50% of Canadian adults currently have, or have had, a permanent or temporary physical disability or live with someone who has. It is expected that the number of Canadians living with a disability will rise to one in five by 2036.
Along with a disability comes the issue of wheelchair accessibility. When a wheelchair becomes essential in order to get around, a world that is not wheelchair accessible suddenly becomes a harder place to navigate.
For retired Canadians, having limited mobility can lead to them becoming lonely and isolated. This in turn can bring with it serious health issues. Retirees who suffer from loneliness have a much higher risk of dementia and depression, as well as a decline in their physical health. Accessibility is a crucial weapon in the fight against isolation and, thankfully, Canadian communities are developing ways to make wheelchair accessibility more common.
Governments taking the lead towards accessibility
The federal government and some provincial governments are trying to make Canada more accessible through legislation.
On a federal level, the government has introduced Bill C-81 – the Accessible Canada Act. If it becomes law, this will force all federal government offices and all organizations under its jurisdiction (such as banks, shipping companies, airports, and radio and TV broadcasters), to make public spaces, workplaces and services accessible to everyone.
Some provinces have gone much further with Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia introducing legislation to improve accessibility in all public spaces for persons with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act became a law in 2005, with a target of making Ontario accessible for everyone by 2025.
The Accessibility for Manitobans Act aims to reduce accessibility barriers, including those that can prevent disabled people from finding work. The Nova Scotia Accessibility Act aims to make the province fully accessible by 2030.
While these all represent steps in the right direction, in the meantime, Canada is far from being a fully wheelchair accessible place. So, what can you do to ensure that you or your loved ones can get around as much as you need to?
Getting from A to B with mobility issues
For disabled people in Canada’s larger communities, getting around in a wheelchair or scooter has become considerably easier. Many Canadian transit systems have introduced considerable changes to make their buses and trains wheelchair accessible.
Vancouver is working towards 100% accessibility for people with a disability on its transit system. Its conventional buses, shuttles, SkyTrain and SeaBus options are all wheelchair accessible, while 80% of transit stops now offer full accessibility for people with disabilities. Montreal has 14 metro stations that are wheelchair accessible by elevator and employs STM companions to help disabled passengers complete their journey.
Toronto’s TTC has made changes to make its transit more wheelchair accessible and offers Travel Training to help people with mobility issues to learn how to navigate the city’s transit system.
If using transit is simply too difficult for you, many municipalities offer wheelchair accessible means of transport such as an accessible bus, minivan or sedan taxi.
Access-A-Bus in Halifax, DATS in Edmonton, Paratransit in Montreal and Wheel-Trans in Toronto are all examples of low-cost, door-to-door, wheelchair accessible transit services. You do normally have to register for the services and book them in advance, but they can really help in getting you out and about. If you are registered in your home town, you can often use the specialized transit services in other cities without registering.
An Internet search of “accessible transit options + your town” will bring up details of mobility transit options for your area.
Getting access to fun
Being able to get from A to B is certainly becoming easier for people with mobility issues. But what if B’s entrance has steps or doesn’t have a wheelchair accessible washroom?
While many large sports and entertainment venues now have fully wheelchair accessible seats, the same cannot be said of smaller venues, restaurants and coffee shops.
In bigger cities, becoming more accessible is such an issue that a lot of information is available on wheelchair accessible locations. Accessto.ca, for example, has a map showing all the restaurants, bars, cafes, theatres, music venues, attractions and art venues that are wheelchair accessible in Toronto. Wheelchairtraveling.com has accessibility guides for several Canadian cities (as well as many international ones) with details on disabled access to buildings for restaurants, hotels and also taxis.
The Internet is really helpful when it comes to wheelchair accessible locations in other cities. By searching “restaurants with access for people with disabilities + your location” you can often find really helpful guides, like these for Winnipeg, Halifax, Calgary and Hamilton.
The finances behind reduced mobility – how can you afford it?
For many retirees, mobility and accessibility are all about maintaining independence and freedom. However, being fully mobile and independent can be costly.
Good quality, durable electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters can cost anywhere between $1,400 and $4,000. And if you prefer to have your own mode of transport, it can be a lot more expensive. Used wheelchair accessible minivans can cost tens of thousands of dollars, while new converted minivans start at over $50,000.
If this is the level of independence and freedom that you yearn for, but you don’t have the money to pay for it, a reverse mortgage could be the answer. It allows you to cash in some of the equity in your home without having to make any regular mortgage payments. You only pay what you owe when you decide to sell, so you can use a reverse mortgage to finance your mobility needs without it affecting your retirement income.
Call us at 1-866-522-2447 to find out how you can start your journey to mobility independence.