The City of Kamloops is at the halfway mark of its 2013 Many in Motion campaign — and it’s nearing the halfway mark of the campaign’s goal.
Kamloops residents have logged about 7,000 kilometres of walking, swimming, skating, running or biking since the exercise campaign began last month, with the goal of reaching a collective 18,000 kms by the end of March.
“That’s representative, approximately, of the number of people living with some form of disability in the Thompson-Nicola regional district,” said the City’s community development co-ordinator, Ben Chobater.
Chobater is pleased with the campaign’s progress. This is only the second year of Many in Motion (a campaign prompted by Rick Hansen’s 2012 anniversary tour of his Man in Motion trek).
The campaign is dual purposed, said Chobater. It’s designed to get residents off the couch and moving, whether that’s indoors at a facility like the Tournament Capital Centre or outdoors on a walking path like the Rivers Trail. They can post their distances at www.facebook.com/ManyInMotion2013 or on a board at the TCC.
Tracking the kilometres is a means to the end, but it’s also a way for the City to draw attention to accessibility issues — and the strides made in Kamloops.
“We have all these fantastic agencies in Kamloops that work with the whole spectrum of disabilities,” said Chobater.
“We have this entire small army of non-profit organizations and volunteers. These are things to be proud of. As a society, we’ve come a long ways.”
It was a different picture 25 years ago.
Back then — which really wasn’t all that long ago — there was little awareness or understanding of people with disabilities. There were no audible crosswalk signals to guide sight-impaired pedestrians across a busy intersection, few wheelchair curbs on sidewalks. Most City parks had inaccessible public bathrooms.
There wasn’t even a bylaw preventing cafes and stores from blocking sidewalks with “sandwich” ad boards. If a blind person ventured downtown, there was a good chance he would walk into one or more of these obstacles.
And never mind talk of an annual disability film festival, such as Picture This, which celebrated its third installment last August.
“There have been a lot of improvements in 25 years,” said Chobater.
Many of these can be credited to the City’s mayor's advisory committee for persons with disabilities. Its influence continues to prompt improvements and new programs.
Last September, the City quietly launched a new accessibility program aimed at boosting participation in its Activity Guide recreation programs.
It was launched without fanfare, said Chobater, because much of the new program simply formalizes measures the City began years ago.
Still, Chobater said the program is worth promoting.
“We’re going to develop some programs specifically for people with special needs,” he said. “Those will be developing over time, and those are really positive.”
In the meantime, people with disabilities can access one-on-one support as well as funding to participate in regular recreation programming.
Participants choose their course, meet with City staff to identify any measures that would help them participate, and access financial help.
“We remove any barriers that might stop them from participating in the activity,” said Chobater.
Sometimes, all that’s needed is a pre-course meeting with the instructor. In some cases, a care aide is required — a service that’s provided free.
“The whole point is to have a discussion so that when they come to the class for the first time, the instructor is ready for them and no one’s caught off guard by not being fully prepared,” said Chobater.
“The participant shows up feeling comfortable that everything will be in place for them in order to fully participate.”