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Yellowknifers pitch better accessibility
Views offered on what to include in re-write of federal law

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

When traveling through a noisy airport, Bill Adkins says one of the best ways the government could help those who are hard of hearing like himself would be to mandate the buildings have a system that broadcasts important announcements to his hearing aid.

NNSL photo/graphic

Denise McKee, left, executive director of the NWT Disabilities Council, Deborah Tunis, a federal civil servant who facilitated the meeting, and Sue Cass held a consultation meeting Monday evening about increasing accessibility in Canada. - Shane Magee/NNSL photo

Called a loops system, he described it as essentially a wire that is run around the room that can transmit the broadcasts about things like flight departures in a way his hearing aid can pick up and he can hear clearly.

It's a somewhat simple solution to make the public space more accessible and cut down on the isolation that can be felt by people with disabilities, he said.

A similar system was installed in the Baker Centre at Avens through a grant of about $5,000, said Adkins, who is past president of the Yellowknife branch of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.

His comments came Monday during a meeting held to gather views on barriers to accessibility and how to re-imagine federal legislation on the issue.

About a dozen people turned out with suggestions ranging from improvements to airport ramps and increasing the size of plane aisles to improvements to more costly ideas such as increasing health funding to provinces and territories to pay for more services for people with disabilities.

Through the first half of the consultation, one theme that emerged was a fear of growing old and the ability to retire comfortably.

Emily Roback, a chiropractor who described herself as profoundly deaf, wondered where she could live without over-extending herself to maintain financial security.

"I feel that no matter how much education I have, that I am economically crippled," she said.

People pointed out that living with a disability often means costs above and beyond what others may face as well as more frequent medical appointments.

Jessie MacKenzie said there's a lack of specialized services for those with multiple mental and physical disabilities. While one health care facility may be able to deal with one problem, that person may need to be moved to another for treatment of other issues, meaning they move to a new medical team as well.

Charles Dent, chair of the NWT Human Rights Commission, said about half of the complaints the commission hears involve people with disabilities.

He suggested any changes should include a look at building construction standards.

Dent also said the government should look at how to have accessibility legislation enforced, suggesting regional disabilities organizations take on a role monitoring and reporting on compliance issues.

"Who better?" he said.

The meeting, held in the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre, drew almost as many attendees as staff running the event.

"You'll see tonight that we're trying to walk the talk," said Sue Cass, who was raising questions about issues the government hopes to get answered, said of the use of sign language and real-time transcription in both English and French.

The Yellowknife event was the third of 18 planned meetings or round-table events in cities across Canada with several including Carla Qualtrough, federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities.

The minister wasn't able to attend the meeting in Yellowknife due to a committee meeting. It's not clear when any legislation prompted by the public meetings may be introduced in Parliament.

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