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Bradford accessibility champions target local 'vessels for change'

The BWG Accessibility Advisory Committee hands out free children's books at Outdoor Movie Nights to build awareness and acceptance of diversity
Leisle McDill, Committee Co-ordinator for BWG, handed out free children's books that promote inclusion at the recent Outdoor Movie Night. Miriam King/Bradford Today

“You’re Felicia McCan, not Felicia McCan’t!”

That’s a telling line from the children’s book, Felicia McCan, by Carolyn MacDiarmid and James Tuer, published by The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work, in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial.

The book is all about diversity, inclusion and acceptance and tells the tale of Felicia McCan, whose vision loss, use of a magnifier, and unique style don’t prevent her from making new friends at her new school.

The story teaches children “to celebrate differences rather than focussing negatively on them,” MacDiarmid has written.

Felicia McCan was just one of three children’s books being handed out free-of-charge at Bradford’s Outdoor Movie Night last week by members of the BWG Accessibility Advisory Committee. The others were Benjamin-Bob Can Do the Job, and I’m Smart in My Own Way, which also challenge stereotypes and promote inclusion.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of (the books),” said committee co-ordinator Leisl McDill, who attended the event with committee member Tracey MacFarlane.

“They’re awesome” and a great way to make kids aware of accessibility and disability issues, McDill said. “Young children can be such an incredible vessel for change and we wanted to take advantage of their audience.”

McDill learned of the books while at an Ontario Network of Accessibility Professionals (ONAP) meeting last spring, from Alfred Spence of the provincial Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

The BWG committee ordered about 600 books in all and will be back at the Outdoor Movie Night on Aug. 22 to hand out more free books.

It’s all part of the mandate of the committee. Not only is it engaged in identifying barriers to participation and inclusion in town, and reviewing building and development plans to ensure that they address issues of accessibility, the committee aims to raise awareness of the issues surrounding accessibility, and promote acceptance in the community.

With input from the committee, the Town of BWG passed a new Accessible Parking bylaw, to ensure that all new developments meet the provincial requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and that existing properties bring their parking up to standard, if and when they file for a new site plan.

The Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) wasn’t only targeting kids with the free books on Outdoor Movie Night – they were also reaching out to parents.

The AAC has adopted the #RespectTheSpace campaign launched by the Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee.

The campaign targets illegal parking in handicapped spaces and includes a series of posters reminding able-bodied motorists that they can’t park on the striped access aisle beside handicapped parking spaces – an area designed to be used by a wheelchair or scooter – or in an accessible parking space without a permit.

One poster, with the image of a police officer writing a ticket for a vehicle illegally parked, notes: “Park in an accessible spot with no permit? Fine.”  

BWG AAC members are also issuing an invitation to residents. The committee will be holding its annual public consultation meeting on Sept. 12, looking for input on accessible public transportation, trails, playgrounds, sidewalks, etc., and encouraging local employers to look beyond disability to offer more employment opportunities.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Engineering Boardroom, 305 Barrie St. in Bradford.    

Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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