Greenway trail users invited to weigh in on problematic areas for people with disabilities
Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee launching feedback program for National AccessAbility Week
The Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee is looking for public feedback to ensure trails are safe and accessible for everyone.
"[The Essex Region Conservation Authority] does a great job of keeping their trails maintained," committee chair Christine Easterbrook told CBC.
"However, when you look through the lens of disability, often things can be caught that might not have been by whoever was maintaining the trails."
The committee's We Check the Trails program — which launches during National AccessAbility Week from May 30 to June 5 — asks users to point out, via the Essex County website, any problematic areas along the Greenway.
Through a link on website, a form allows web users to assess the accessibility features of the trail. A separate form will also allow people to submit pictures and descriptions of any issues, which can be forwarded to ERCA so it can fix any problematic areas.
"They need to look for things like how wide is the trail — is it wide enough for people who use mobility devices? What is the ground cover like? Are there potholes that someone could get stuck in?" said Easterbrook, adding that steep embankments and access to shaded areas and benches can also be considered.
Safe and enjoyable
Easterbrook said that during the pandemic, mental and physical health is especially important, including for people with disabilities, who may feel isolated if it's difficult for them to get out.
"Not being able to see their friends, not being able to get out to their doctors' appointments and the regular things that they do on a regular basis that make their lives what they are. Being able to get outside and enjoy themselves on these trails is a great thing."
We want to make sure it's safe and enjoyable for everyone, including people with disabilities.- Christine Easterbrook
Easterbrook, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy that affects her entire skeletal system as well as her breathing, has felt isolated during the COVID-19 situation because leaving the house is especially dangerous for her.
"Coming out onto a trail, where I don't have to be among crowds of people, I've got the fresh air and it's safe for my mental health," she said.
Easterbrook said ERCA has 80 kilometres of trails on the Greenway that should be barrier free so anyone can access them. The trails include the Chrysler Canada Greenway, the Cypher Systems Group Greenway and the Rotary 1918 Centennial Hub.
"We want to make sure it's safe and enjoyable for everyone, including people with disabilities."
She said that eventually, the We Check the Trails program will expand to other trails in the county's system.