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EDITORIAL: Charlottetown failing those with disabilities

Creating a barrier-free environment
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"Accessibility in Canada is about creating communities, workplaces and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers." That's the first paragraph one finds when searching the Accessible Canada Act on the federal government's website.

Progressive as those words may appear, none of those things seemed to occur for P.E.I. resident Paul Cudmore when his accessible van recently broke down in Charlottetown.

In Cudmore's case, he was protected by the friends who came to his aid, not the legislation that was supposed to support him. 

That is not acceptable. 

More than six million Canadians over the age of 15 identify as having a disability. That's about 22 percent of the population. 

Cudmore's plight may be in the limelight today, but there is little chance he is alone.

Late one evening in January, after playing cards with friends at the Charlottetown legion, Cudmore left the legion building only to find the side door of his wheelchair-accessible van was jammed. 

Without access to that door, the retired director of Spinal Cord Injury P.E.I., whose neck was broken in a hockey accident nearly 40 years ago, was left out in the cold, at least he would have been if not for his Tuesday night card-playing companions.

The issue is this: nowhere in P.E.I.'s capital city can someone using a wheelchair find transportation after Pat and the Elephant, the organization that provides rides to people with disabilities, stops service for the day at 10:30 p.m. 

To its credit, Pat and the Elephant operates 365 days a year, providing a valuable, much-needed service in the process. Despite the group's best efforts, however, there are still 8.5 hours a day when those with disabilities are left woefully abandoned when it comes to finding transportation. It's a dilemma not shared by their able-bodied neighbours.

This is not an obstacle shared in many large Canadian municipalities. It's not an issue just 45 minutes away, in P.E.I.'s other city, Summerside, where at least three accessible taxis operate 24-hours a day.

Action is long overdue. It's time that officials in Charlottetown begin to work together to help solve this problem. Whether it be by taxi or a service like Pat and the Elephant, solutions exist, those with the power to make things happen just have to want to make them happen. 

As Cudmore says, this isn't just about him. There are likely many others in the province's largest city who would like to be able to be away from their homes without the fear of being stranded after 10:30 p.m. Even Cinderella had a later curfew.

Until this situation is rectified, people with disabilities in Charlottetown are not, as the Government of Canada website suggests, participating "fully in society without barriers."

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