The Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee wants to see trails that are safe and accessible to everyone who wants to use one, and they’re looking to the public to help make that happen.
“[The Essex Region Conservation Authority] does a great job of keeping their trails maintained,” Christine Easterbrook, chair of the committee told the 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 is launching an initiative called ‘We Check the Trails,” which will ask trail users to point out problematic areas along the Greenway trails via a website. The program will launch during National AccessAbility Week, which takes place from May 30 to June 5.
Through a link on the Essex County website, people can access a form where they can assess the accessibility features of the trail. A separate form will also allow people to submit pictures and descriptions of the issue that can be forwarded on to ERCA so they can fix the 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?” she said, adding that steep embankments and access to shaded areas and benches are also things to take into account.
Safe and enjoyable
Easterbrook said during COVID-19, mental and physical health is of the utmost importance for everyone including those with disabilities. She also said the pandemic is especially isolating for people with disabilities, which makes it difficult for them to get out.
“Not being able to see their friends, not being able to get out to their doctor’s appointments and the regular things that they do on a regular basis that make their lives what they are,” Easterbrook said. “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 very rare form of muscular dystrophy which affects all 650 of her skeletal muscles as well as her breathing, has felt the isolation during the pandemic because leaving the house during COVID-19 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 that ERCA has 80 kilometres of trails on the Greenway that should be barrier free so that anyone can access them.
“We want to make sure it’s safe and enjoyable for everyone, including people with disabilities,” Easterbrook said.
She said that eventually the program will expand to other trails in the county system.