James Ludvigson is happy he won’t have to take matters into his own hands to make picnic tables in Penticton city parks wheelchair accessible.
In June, Ludvigson — himself confined to a wheelchair — told the Western News that if the city didn’t move forward on making the park tables more accessible, he intended to take the chance of being arrested by modifying some tables himself.
“They had actually done some of this stuff over the winter and into March but they failed to promote it or tell anyone,” said Ludvigson, who reports that since he raised the issue in public, tables in Lakawana and Skaha Parks have been made wheelchair friendly.
“I am happy that residents of Penticton will be able to enjoy the summer with their families,” said Ludvigson, who attributes the lack of publicity to internal changes at the city and staff shifting positions. “Just miscommunications, no fault of anyone, but promotion was not high on the agenda.”
Ludvigson has also met with parks supervisor Jeff Lynka to discuss ongoing accessibility improvements that could be made.
“We met at Marina Way Park and talked about table placement, what sizes and shapes of tables,” said Ludvigson, who also suggested Lynka and other city planners should draw upon the knowledge and experience of people with all varieties of special needs.
“Use us as resources, because we are just going to make you look good,” he said. “I’ve been down to Lakawana Park and took a look at the tables that are there. I’ve made some suggestions and I believe he is going to follow up on those suggestions.”
Four of the square picnic tables in Skaha Lake Park have also been modified by simply removing the seat on one side, making it easy for disabled persons to join their families, Ludvigson said, including one with a cribbage board built into the centre. Bench-style picnic tables could be as easily modified, he said, by simply substituting longer boards for the table surface.
But Ludvigson said the city also needs to let people know what they are doing to improve accessibility, especially in light of the facilities built into the new community pool, which includes making four specialized wheelchairs available for use and three ramped entry points allowing access to the pool and hot tub areas.
“It’s not perfect yet, but the bottom line is you’ve got to be proud of what you’re achieving,” he said. “Come on, celebrate these things and let people know.”
Besides improving quality of life for Pentictonites with disabilities, Ludvigson said that making some noise about accessibility could benefit the tourism sector, as families with disabled members become aware of the facilities.
“It would certainly put Penticton on their radar of things to think about for next year if they were made aware that these things are available and there is a welcoming attitude in Penticton. People would say let’s go there,” he said. A good attitude is nothing new for Penticton, rather it is a hallmark of the community according to Ludvigson.
“Right from the time that I moved here, I’ve found a welcoming attitude, a receptive attitude. They were willing to listen, and within their means they were willing to adapt. That’s where it all starts, attitude,” he said. “I think we are fortunate. There are other communities that don’t have that, don’t have that open-minded receptiveness.”