Residents living with disabilities share accessibility concerns during Sask. Accessibility Challenge | globalnews.ca

Karthik Babumenan was born with diplegic cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscle control and coordination, mostly in the legs.

He uses a walker and a scooter to get around Saskatoon. In winter it becomes challenging.

“It was very difficult for me to get from point A to point B. Multiply it with a lot of snow,” he explained. “There have been instances where I got stuck in the snow and my friends had to come and help me.”

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Babumenan said the city’s snow-removal efforts are sufficient for most people, but there are additional hurdles to jump for those with mobility issues.

“I’ve had instances where I couldn’t get out of my apartment,” he said. “They didn’t clear the snow for almost four days. and so I couldn’t leave the apartment to do something like groceries, she added.

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A similar sentiment was expressed by Paul Gustafsson, who has been using a wheelchair for nearly 40 years due to a spinal cord injury from a vehicle collision.

“The biggest thing that comes to mind right now is the weather and snow removal. And making sure the snow is cleared and the travel routes are safe for people,” he told Global News.

“But for mobility issues, it becomes really challenging,” he said.

Delynne Bortis Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan Inc. works with. She has faith in Saskatoon to be more accessible, but said more needs to be done.

“Saskatoon is trying. I mean, they have different committees with the city and they’re trying. But yeah, we’ve got a long way to go,” she said.

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Bortis coordinated the ‘SCI Sask Accessibility Challenge’ on Saturday. It is an event to build awareness, understanding and education for people with disabilities to put themselves in their place.

Attendees were able to participate in activities and simulations that limited their abilities to perform tasks that Bortis said they may not have considered.

These activities included completing puzzles, painting, picking up objects, and crossing obstacles.

The participant tries to pick up a cup from a higher shelf using an ‘adaptive device’.

Kabi Mollidharan/Global News

The program also shared modifications to improve access for people with disabilities.

“We have some adapted tools that they can use that we have so we can show them the difference between making things easier and how people have come up with all these different adaptations to make their world easier,” Bortis said.

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They wanted the event to be fun and lighthearted, but Gustafsson is hoping people walk away with a message.

“I think it takes being aware and having a sense of understanding and maybe kindness and compassion for what it’s like to move around with a mobility loss. So everything from clearing snow to maybe holding a door open,” he explained.

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