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East Kootenay benefits from disability funding

MP David Wilks; Mayor Gerry Taft, District of Invermere; Minister Bergen; Mayor Wayne Stetski, City of Cranbrook; and Scott Sommerville, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Kimberley. - Trevor Crawley photo
MP David Wilks; Mayor Gerry Taft, District of Invermere; Minister Bergen; Mayor Wayne Stetski, City of Cranbrook; and Scott Sommerville, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Kimberley.
— image credit: Trevor Crawley photo

Trevor Crawley/Daily Townsman

Cranbrook and Kimberley, along with other communities in the region, were awarded $140,723 in funding for projects aimed at increasing accessibility for people with disabilities.

Announced by Candice Bergen, the Minister of State for Social Development, the funding will go to a pair of projects in Cranbrook and Kimberley that will make a few municipal facilities easer to access by wheelchair.

In Cranbrook, funding went to installing automatic doors at five locations that include the curling centre and Western Financial Place and an accessible washroom at city hall, while Kimberley built three accessible bridges over Mark Creek trail system.

"We're proud to be able to support these projects, to be able to partner together with this community with individuals and groups who are helping Canadians with disabilities access the things we take for granted," said Bergen.

In a speech in council chambers at Cranbrook city hall on Wednesday, Bergen punctuated her point with a personal anecdote.

"I have some very good friends who are in wheelchairs and have accessibility issues and sometimes we call a restaurant or call a community place and we ask 'Are you accessible?' and they say, 'Yes, we are,'" Bergen said. "And you get there and they're not accessible. The door's not wide enough, it's difficult to get up to the door, there might be just three or four steps, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you're in a wheelchair, that is a big deal."

In addition to Cranbrook and Kimberley, funding was also distributed to the District of Invermere and the Valley Community Resource Society, out of the federal government's Enabling Accessibility Fund.

Cranbrook mayor Wayne Stetski recounting a day of touring the community in a wheelchair shortly after he was elected with two local citizens who were concerned with accessibility.

"Until you've actually done that, spent a little time trying to make your way around, you really do not understand the challenges," Stetski said. "I got beaten up by doors trying to get into buildings. They set me up where you can get on one of our sidewalks in Cranbrook, you can wheel down to the end, but you can't get off.

"...We want a community that is as welcoming to all our people as possible, so over the last couple years, we've been on a bit of a journey to improve accessibility for people in Cranbrook."

In addition to community projects, Bergen also put out the call for small businesses to apply for funding that is available for improving accessibility at the workplace. Roughly $5 million in grants are available with a 50/50 cost sharing between the federal government and small business project proposals with a deadline of Oct. 1st, 2014. Applications and more information can be found at: www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/disability/eaf.

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