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Airdrie resident advocates for accessibility change

Her disability had a huge impact on her daily life and what her mobility may look like long term is still unclear.
Lori DuMont was diagnosed with an illness that restricts her ability to move around freely and she advocates accessibility legislation.

Before Lori DuMont was diagnosed with an illness that would restrict her ability to move around freely, she was not aware of just how inaccessible many public buildings are.

It wasn’t until she went to her family doctor and a local clinic meant to help her in her medical journey, that she grew frustrated with the lack of accessibility.

Currently, she needs someone to come along to every medical visit, just to hold heavy doors and pull her over doorsteps.

"The only time it's nice when people open doors for you is when it's metaphorical,” DuMont said, sitting on her living room couch in Airdrie. “When someone opens the door because it's inaccessible because you have mobility issues, it's not good.”

Just over a year ago, DuMont was training for her first Olympic-length triathlon. The swimmer, runner, and bicyclist, fell ill with a disease that quickly restricted her ability to move around.

Her disability had a huge impact on her daily life and what her mobility may look like long term is still unclear.

She can no longer work. And while she can slowly get around her house with a cane, she uses a wheelchair in public. 

“My diagnosis prevents me from doing a lot of recreational things,” she explained. “When I leave my house I'm pretty much going to medical appointments.”

The buildings where her doctor’s office and the Chronic Pain Clinic rent space don’t have push button access doors.

DuMont complained, and was later told the decision not to install automatic doors or buttons was that of the building manager and board.

Building codes changed in 2019 for new or renovated physician offices, increasing the width for entrance doors, equipping entrance doors with a power door operator, creating wider waiting areas, and adding assistive listening devices for people with auditory impairments.

But this code is not retroactive to existing physician offices.

After speaking to an Airdrie city councillor about this, DuMont realized the City can’t do much because the buildings are "up to code."

She questioned why a building with multiple medical tenants wouldn't create more handicapped parking stalls, considering they likely have a larger demographic of people with disabilities.

"I tend to believe the best in people and I thought if people knew this was an issue surely they would act on it, they wouldn't just continue putting these barriers in place and allow them to be there; especially in a facility that's supposed to help the people with their medical issues,” DuMont said

For privacy reasons she was not provided with the building manager’s contact information and feels that is a barrier keeping her from telling her story, or filing a complaint. She said she was also denied permission to speak at the board meeting.

"I have to believe that if someone heard the issue from someone that it's affecting, and they knew the level it was affecting me, and making it difficult to get the medical care I need, that they wouldn’t purposefully do nothing,” DuMont said.


Taking action

DuMont said there are two issues; one being transparency and a lack of communication from the building owner or manager; and two being that Alberta needs accessibility legislation.

DuMont reached out to MLA Angela Pitt and MLA Peter Guthrie to advocate for change.

Pitt told Airdrie City View in an email that Jason Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services of Alberta, hosted roundtables last fall across Alberta where he met with disability stakeholders and discussed accessibility.

"Additionally, the Advocate for Persons with Disabilities has been researching what accessibility legislation could look like in Alberta, including what other federal and provincial jurisdictions have done to address accessibility," Pitt wrote. "He has also engaged with persons with disabilities, disability groups, and the general public to hear their views on the state of accessibility in the province."

Pitt assured that Alberta’s government is committed to working with the disability community to ensure they are providing appropriate supports to help Albertans with disabilities live healthy, successful lives.

Alberta and Prince Edward Island (PEI) are the last Canadian provinces to not have regulations around accessibility, according to Barrier Free Alberta.

Quebec became the first province to enact accessibility legislation in 1978, with the most recent province, Saskatchewan, enacting its own legislation in December 2023.

“Every building should be accessible, but as a first step I want the buildings that I go to to take care of my medical needs, I want to be able to enter them… without being pulled and jostled over the lip of the door and having the door slammed against me,” DuMont said.

“I'm not asking for special treatment, I just want to enter the building,” she added.

In 2022 Statistics Canada found that about eight million Canadians, or 27 per cent of the population 15 or older, have reported having at least one disability – twice the percentage reported 10 years earlier. In 2022, the province said the percentage in Alberta was more than 21 per cent.

On the bright side, DuMont noted two positive experiences in terms of accessibility at the Airdrie Public Library and Shoppers Drug Mart.

She said the doors at both places open automatically with no doorstep to lift her wheelchair over. The library will also pull all her books for her so someone can easily pick them up while Shoppers delivers her medication orders.

Through the Accessible Canada Act of 2019, the federal government is pushing for a barrier-free Canada by 2040. 

The law currently only covers the federal government’s own services, such as federal buildings, banking, air travel, and television, radio and telecommunications. 

The province of Alberta would have to implement their own regulations to make provincial and municipal services more accessible.

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