(Today’s Northumberland file photo)
By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Hopes were high when Cobourg installed an accessibility mat on the beach in 2016 but – as council heard at Monday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting – it has not lived up to expectations.
Disability advocates Carol Ann Bell-Smith and Rachel Currie cited the Ontario Human Rights Code statute that requires the same considerations for those with accessibility issues as for everyone else. And this code takes supremacy over other laws, they stressed – “over fire code, over any other law. This Human Rights Code is number one,” Bell-Smith said.
“We are asking for the same rights as folks in the town, folks who come to town, and even seagulls who can put their feet in the water.”
Their Reach the Beach campaign seeks to correct all the problems with the accessibility beach mat.
For one thing, it stops far short of reaching the water. Not only that, Bell-Smith said, but it was also an inexpensive AccessMat that is actually unsafe under certain circumstances (such as forming hillocks when the sand around it is churned).
And in spite of a promise made in 2016 that the mat would eventually reach the water, it was never added to.
The speakers urged the town to consider purchasing a MobiMat, the gold standard used around the world – even on beaches leading down to the ocean. The tough military-grade material is environmentally friendly, as it is made from recycled bottles. It has a contrasting-coloured line in the middle (both to create lanes and to serve as a guide for the visually challenged), and the tread means it never gets slippery. It can stay out year-round and doesn’t need to be taken in after beach season.
They presented a quote in US funds that works out to about $29,000 Canadian, including shipping. As for the old mat, they suggested moving it to the east side of the beach for shade, moving it to the west beach off the board walk or using it to create a T-junction branching off the new mat, like a side road off an arterial one.
Councillor Miriam Mutton objected that the dark colour would mean the mat is hotter – not much relief for the poor beach goer walking barefoot over the hot sand, she said.
The speakers urged that this not be a consideration. In fact, they related experiences of people using the mat for relief from the hot sand telling someone with accessibility issues to get out of the way, people parking their picnic coolers on the mat, people sending their children to play on the mat – obviously not understanding what the mat is for.
Council passed a motion to refer this request to the 2023 budget deliberations.