Sidney working to become more accessible

This Saturday’s Access Awareness Day is about education for people with mobility issues.

The late Jeannette Hughes was a former town councillor and advocate for better mobility and access options in Sidney. The Town’s annual Access Awareness Day award is named in her memory.

Just how accessible is Sidney for people with mobility issues or disabilities of almost any kind?

That’s a question the organizers and participants of this Saturday’s Access Awareness Day hope to answer for people facing obstacles to being able to get around or feel safe in their community.

Anna Hudson of Beacon Community Services works at the SHOAL Centre in Sidney, the host of Access Awareness Day for the last three years. She’s helping organize the event and says it’s all about information and education.

“This event speaks to the overall effect of better access awareness in Sidney,” she said.

The local event has its roots with the Town of Sidney and the late Jeannette Hughes, a former municipal councillor. Hughes had mobility issues and used a motorized scooter. She was an advocate for making the community more accessible for people with physical disabilities. Under her watch, the Town formed an accessibility committee, which continues to this day. The municipality has even adopted policies that encourage new construction to take mobility issues into consideration.

“She was trying to make Sidney more inclusive,” said Hudson.

A little more than three years ago, Hughes died. In recognition of her dedication to the issue, the Town created the Jeannette Hughes  Award. It’s presented each year to a community champion of accessibility.

That award will be presented at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 4 at the SHOAL Centre on Resthaven Drive.

It’s the culmination of an entire event set up to offer people — either disabled or taking care of someone who is — information about what’s available in Sidney.

Hudson said the issue of accessibility has expanded over the years since Hughes began her work.

“It now includes people with eyesight loss, hearing loss and those with dementia,” she said.

Recently, Hudson said the local accessibility committee has been looking into a program to make Sidney friendly to people with dementia. The program was initiated by the B.C. Alzheimer’s Society and offers training. Hudson said committee members have gone through that training and can now work with local businesses and their employees to help them be able to recognize people with symptoms of dementia — and how to help them.

“It’s a recognition of this ongoing issue,” she said, “especially among our aging population.”

The keynote speaker during this weekend’s event will be Marjorie Moulton, founder of the We Rage We Weep Alzheimer Foundation. The organization combines art with services for Alzheimer patients and their caregivers.

Saturday’s event starts at 10 a.m. with a scooter rodeo at Sidney All Care on Mills Road. A parade of scooters will leave from there and move downtown Sidney, returning to the SHOAL Centre prior to the 11:30 a.m. open ceremonies.

During the day, Hudson added there will be a tribute to the late Helen Martin. Martin, she explained, was an advocate for people with low vision. She was a member of Sidney’s White Cane Club and she died in 2015.

There will be around 30 booths at the Centre, representing mobility, vision, hearing, mental health and more. Hudson said a passport will be offered as part of the program.

“The intent of the day is to try and reach not just older people, but all kinds of people with mobility issues.”

There’s a barbecue set for noon for $5 per person. Hudson added they have more than $1,000 in door prizes, donated by local businesses.