By Erin Knutson
Special to The Pioneer
The dissolution of the non-profit organization A.C.E (Accessibility in the Community for Everyone) has been announced in recent weeks and its conclusion marks the end of an exceptional decade in accessibility awareness, as well as some remarkable closing initiatives.
The mission statement of A.C.E has been championing the steps taken by the local community in negotiating a great human rights movement: the accommodation, awareness, and education of disabled individuals in the community as well as facilitating their independence. Effectively establishing the needs of an increasing aging population is also cited in the non-profits 2014 Accessibility Ambassador Project.
Its going to take a village, said Wendy Rockafellow, former A.C.E ambassador.
The ambitious Accessibility Ambassador Project is currently receiving partial funding from the Columbia Basin Trusts Community Initiatives and Affected Areas, along with financial support from the Village of Canal Flats, the Regional District of East Kootenay, Areas F and G, the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the District of Invermere.
From the top down, accessibility involves the United Nations (Canada was among the first signatories for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and the federal government as well as municipalities, corporations and citizens.
Its about giving the disabled populace a voice according to Ms. Rockafellow. Its a collaborative effort that is far too big an issue for one sector to tackle on its own, she said.
It has to be in everyones mind accessibility, living in a welcoming inclusive community, where everyone is welcome and has the right to participation, including equal participation and equal opportunity.
According to Ms. Rockafellow, some communities are making accessibility a part of their economic development plan as being accessible, senior-friendly and adaptive is good for the economy.
It can attract people to a community and to settle here.
The discontinuation of A.C.E will put these important initiatives into the hands of everyone in the valley this is the message that Ms. Rockafellow and past A.C.E president and Invermere councillor Spring Hawes have been recently advocating to valley council members. The courageous non-profit of ten years will be handing its reigns over to the valley community as part of its dissolution strategy, and its existing funds will be donated to the Panorama Adaptive Snow Sports Association.
Making sure that the language around accessibility is included in Imagine Invermeres OCP will open the door for partnerships with the municipal governments, is also part of the plan according to Ms. Rockafellow.
A.C.E will also be channelling remaining funds into paying for tools to make accessibility user-friendly, such as an app to indicate accessible areas within parks and trails and enhancing the Chambers website for local businesses.
When people join the Chamber of Commerce and list their business, there will be an option on the menu to advertise that theyre an accessible business. she said.
After successfully completing a circuit of the Regional District of East Kootenay, Invermere and Canal Flats councils with a presentation on the upcoming closure, its clear the dedicated advocates have a mission.
It is our hope that government and business continue to press for inclusion, diversity and accessibility in our Columbia Valley communities, said Ms. Rockafellow.
Bringing the Columbia Valley community up to speed and encouraging the healthy manifestation of A.C.E. policies toward the development of building a safe, accessible and disabled-friendly community should be top priorities moving forward, she said.
Its not good to do it halfway its patchwork, its not contiguous and its problematic in that people with disabilities are looking for independence they want to be able to do it themselves without help.