Brandon needs to improve accessibility, visually impaired man says
Gary Peasgood says more intersections needs to be equipped with audible tones
Gary Peasgood knows the streets of Brandon quite well. Whether out for an appointment, to run errands or just because, he can navigate the city's sidewalks and bus system well enough to get from one end of the city to the other in no time.
He's also legally blind.
Peasgood, 48, has been dealing with worsening eyesight due to diabetes complications since 1991. Today, all he can see is high-contrast shades out of one eye.
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He has a guide dog now, but until December 2015, he used a cane to get around. He says the city has done a pretty good job at making the city accessible, but quickly adds that they still have work to do.
"There is definitely some obstacles," he said. "They made 10th Street look good for people that can see."
"They made 10th Street look good for people that can see."- Gary Peasgood
But for him, the streetscaping presents a challenge.
"On 10th Street they have the bike stands and the planters and stuff," Peasgood added. "That stuff you have to avoid."
"I didn't realize they changed 9th Street... the way you cross the street... the dog took me to a snowbank and the bus driver had to tell me how to get back to where I needed to," he said.
He said city bus drivers have been helpful in making sure he gets across the street safely, even going as far as getting out of their buses and making sure he gets safely across. But when there is no helpful bus driver or Good Samaritan, it can be dangerous.
"You get to a light and It may be green... but you have no idea," Peasgood said. "You have to wait for a light to go though. You don't want to be in the middle of the road when the light changes."
Niki Harper is with CNIB and works with people like Peasgood. She said other clients in the Wheat City have said they would also like to see more intersections equipped with audible tones and tactile markings to indicate where the sidewalk ends and the street begins.
No one from the city was available to respond to CBC's request Friday for information about what measures are in place to ensure accessibility for all residents.
Harper said CNIB has more than 300 clients in Brandon and more than 1,100 across all of Westman.
Few visually impaired people employed in Brandon
And navigating the streets isn't the only barrier some of her clients have.
"We have a very poor statistic for working age," she said. "I believe it's 65 per cent of our clients are unemployed."
Peasgood took business administration courses though Assiniboine Community College while coping with vision loss and had a job, but he isn't working right now.
Harper said she believes the biggest barrier keeping visually impaired people from working is perception.
"Visually impaired people aren't always totally blind," she said. "They have some usable sight."
She said CNIB will come in and do a workplace assessment to determine how workstations can be outfitted for the visually impaired.
Harper said something as simple as keeping main areas and hallways clear and obstacle-free can go a long way towards helping a visually impaired employee -- or customer -- adjust to the workplace.
Peasgood said he's hoping to one day get back to work with the advancements in technology.