Dear Editor:

We are a class of 10 students in the College of the Rockies Health Care Assistant class of 2014, and were given an assignment on April 3rd to evaluate the wheelchair accessibility of downtown Invermere. We as caregivers wanted to experience what our future clients and patients may have to face in accessing amenities in our community that we as able bodied persons take for granted.

Our findings were as follows: we were very disappointed in the lack of proper functionality of our community, streets, businesses, sidewalks and crosswalks. We found a majority of the businesses were inaccessible due to the lack of functioning ramps and excessive amount of stairs.

The public washroom behind the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena says that it is wheelchair accessible, but we discovered that the doors were not automatic, are very heavy to pull open and gave no time to enter or exit, and that there was limited space in the wheelchair stall. There was also not enough space for a caregiver to assist the individual in the wheelchair, and limited access to the soap dispenser and paper towels.

The ramps were non-existent or difficult to maneuver. The maintenance of the sidewalks were in disrepair, and the crosswalks were uneven and not in conjunction with the sidewalk entries.

We also found the Post Office, B.C. Liquor Store, and financial institutions were excellent in their accessibility due to adequate ramps, automatic opening doors and ample room to move around with a wheelchair. We also discovered the people of Invermere were extremely helpful in assisting with going through doors and lifting the wheelchair to help us over curbs.

Invermere needs to address the accessibility throughout the downtown core. We feel this should be a priority in our community.

Future care providers of the Columbia Valley (Submitted by instructor Aline Sholinder)