Princeton council members and businesspeople wheeled around downtown to see the obstacles people in wheelchairs can face daily.
They looked for steep ramps, stairs, heavy doors and non-accessible washrooms.
Ken Carlson, chairman of the Princeton Accessibility Committee, said travelling around town in a wheelchair helps people notice obstacles they wouldn’t otherwise.
“Making Princeton accessible isn’t a week-long job. It’s a slow process but we’re making a lot of progress,” said Carlson, who has multiple sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair for ten years.
The Rick Hansen Relay, which arrived in Princeton later that day, draws attention for accessibility for people in wheelchairs.
One of the biggest problems people in wheelchairs have is inadequate ramps onto sidewalks.
Carlson and others on the Accessibility Committee advocated for the new ramps in Princeton that were upgraded last year.
The volunteers found some ramps to be too steep to get up and heavy metal doors hard to open.
“You notice obstacles that you wouldn’t otherwise when in a wheelchair. You could think a building is accessible, but it might not actually be,” said Acting Mayor Jason Earle, who took part in the wheel-about.
Carlson remembers seeing Rick Hansen – who is in a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury -in Princeton 25 years ago on a field trip he brought his students to.
“He had a hard time getting onto the stage easily because the ramp was too steep. This is a man who did the Great Wall of China and the steep Princeton Mine Hill.”
Princeton has come a long way in terms of accessibility since then, he said.
Some businesses were impossible for the volunteers to enter because they only have stairs, and no ramp.
“People are very friendly in Princeton. They are always willing to help open doors or get things off the shelf,” Carlson said.
“But people in wheelchairs want to be independent. They want to be able to get into a store by themselves.”
The Rick Hansen Relay stopped in Princeton yesterday for an end-of-day celebration.