COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Don Butler, from left, Walter Gibbons and Theresa Machibroda are looking for changes to make the Corral Centre more accessible to people with disabilities.
A group of local residents are hoping curb cuts at the Corral Centre will improve accessibility for those with physical disabilities.
From left: Don Butler, Walter Gibbons and Theresa Machibroda are near one of the curbs they want to see cut at the Corral Centre to
make the shopping centre more accessible to the disabled. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Theresa Machibroda, who has been in a motorized wheelchair for nearly 10 years, said curb upgrades throughout the busy shopping centre can’t come soon enough.
"Accessibility is important for everybody whether it be a child with a disability or a mother with a stroller," Machibroda said. "There’s accessibility issues all over the city, but we’re focusing on the Corral Centre."
Machibroda and 15 others are part of an Advisory Committee for Accessibility that advocates for better awareness and accessibility in the Wheat City.
The Corral Centre, specifically near Walmart, has been their main area
of concern for the past couple of years. The committee is hoping Shindico, the Corral Centre’s developer, will step in and install curb cuts to the sidewalk adjacent to Walmart’s garden centre to allow for more ramp access to the road.
Since there is only ramp access at Walmart’s entrance, those with wheelchairs, carts or strollers heading to Michaels, Winners, Future Shop or Home Depot are forced to get off the sidewalk there and risk facing heavy traffic in the parking lot.
"It’s very much a drivers mall," said Walter Gibbons, another member of the advisory committee. "The whole thing is poorly designed."
Gibbons was born blind and has mobility issues ever since he broke his ankle a few years ago.
He believes the city’s overall attitude towards accessibility needs to change.
"The attitude in general for accessibility in this town stinks. It’s terrible," Gibbons said.
The committee sent letters to Walmart in 2008 addressing its concerns and received verbal confirmation from the store manager at the time that curb cuts would be added upon completion of the building’s grocery addition.
"When promises are made I expect them to be carried through," Machibroda said. "To me my word means a lot and I expect that of other people."
After Walmart was upgraded to a Walmart Supercentre in January, with no curb cuts in sight, the committee took its concerns to Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine), who admits the area isn’t accessibility friendly.
"Realistically we went through the whole place and it’s tough to walk around in there, let alone in a wheelchair," said Fawcett, referring to a walk through he did with Corral Centre management two years ago. "Right now the curb cut is not at Walmart so you have to take your wheelchair out on to the road."
Although he was unable to give a timeline for the project, he could confirm that Shindico will be adding curb cuts in the future.
"It’s not an issue, they’re going to get it done," he said. "In their big world, we probably just needed to be squeakier."
Along with reaching out to a city councillor, the committee also contacted Shindico directly but was also unsuccessful in getting a timeline.
John Pearson, a Shindico representative, could not confirm whether accessibility improvements will be made, but did say these requests are "still under consideration."
"It was built meeting all of the building code requirements with regard to accessibility ... so we’re fully compliant with all of the requirements as per the planning department and as per the code requirements."
Gibbons said he often finds himself relying on accesstogether.org, a website that creates an accessibility data-set for different cities to improve access and ensure everyone can get around safely in their community.
"A person can go on there and look at the business they’re going to and find out how accessible it is," he said.
Upon entering "Brandon Manitoba" into the search bar, 12 local businesses pop up alongside their accessibility details. Some of the details include whether they have an accessible building entrance, accessible washrooms, elevators and door openers. But even if the website says the business is equipped with all of these things and more, it doesn’t always mean they’re working.
"There’s no warning, sometimes not all of the doors work and some of the shops don’t have accessible push button doors and then how do you get in?" Machibroda said.
She added that vying for changes when it comes to accessibility is her way of maintaining her independence.
"I’m not just doing it for me, I’m doing it for those who follow me and for the next generation," she said. "I just want to help others become independent and remain independent."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 20, 2013