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A Pioneer Of Inclusion Gives Her Thoughts On Accessibility

The diagonal lines meant to make parking accessible are often ignored

By Jean Shepherd

BC Disability

Jean Shepherd is a retired teacher of hearing impaired students, and has multiple disabilities herself. Drawing upon her experiences, Jean gives her thoughts on accessibility in BC.

Physical Access: I use a power chair. Wheelchair access for buildings is generally good due to ramps and power door openings, although with COVID protocols being enforced access options have tended to become more limited.

Vehicle parking places are not generally respected. The places with the diagonal lines are to give people in wheelchairs room to exit their vehicle, but these often get ignored, and some reserved spots are only marked on the ground, meaning you won't know it's a reserved spot if it snows and gets covered.

Some washrooms are too crowded and do not have space to turn, and also elevators can be difficult. One gets the impression that sometimes people only consider if a wheelchair or scooter can fit if placed in the space, and not whether it also has the room to maneuver freely.

Some bathrooms still lack the space to turn

Vision: I have vision loss and am being treated against going blind in the eye which has vision. Some places have Braille marking on doors, but much work needs to happen when it comes to having Braille available; it should also be on all elevators, signs, menus, etc. Wherever there is writing people need to read, it should be there.

It helps when people use larger font sizes font sizes on the computer and in print. For me having at least 16 is nice.

Braille should be much more available than it currently is, and should be used for doors, signage, elevators, menus, and more.

Hearing: Closed captioning helps, but this is not always available or has to be paid extra for. My concern is for profoundly deaf people. Hard of hearing people can sometimes learn language using their residual hearing. Profoundly deaf people cannot learn language using their hearing. They require visual language interpretation such as American Sign Language (ASL).

Television is a medium which can accommodate sign language interpretation. Places where numbers are called for service must have a lighted number system; this happened in our new hospital after I made a request. Profound deafness is not easily understood, but these citizens must be given access as taxpayers in Canada. Not being able to hear anything means visual, lighted, and vibration support are needed.

I have a severe hearing loss bilaterally and am a child of a parent with profound deafness, and a mother of a child with bilateral severe deafness. When I was able to work I was a teacher of the deaf and hearing impaired in School Districts 71 (Comox Valley) and 72 (Campbell River). I was a pioneer of integration in British Columbia, having 8 children from 2 school districts all about the same age in a regular classroom.

All lessons were delivered in sign language by me and speech by the classroom teacher. All the children learned sign language, and eventually most of the children in the school and many of the staff learned sign language. The school was proud of this achievement!

Jean contacted Dr. Bonnie Henry about the need for sign language interpretation

To deliver news, especially public health news like for COVID, every television station must have sign language interpretation. Dr. Bonnie Henry agreed with me.

After I saw her first broadcast, I contacted her and the very next day she had Nigel Howard interpreting. Other provinces started to follow suit. The masking for COVID makes understanding difficult because lip-reading (speech-reading) is difficult.

Look at this reference from Stats Canada: 40 percent of adults 20-79 have hearing loss. These numbers show why access for deaf and hard-of-hearing people must be a priority!


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