Annual accessibility workshop aims to create a more accessible community

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

“I started by skiing in the trees, I started sailing (by) falling out the boat. Now I have a bronze at a Canadian competition. Instead of Paralympic trials, which I got to do, I sail in world cup regattas against able-bodied predominantly men.”

Tracy Schmitt, known as Unstoppable Tracy, shared her story with those in attendance at this year’s accessibility workshop. She explained how everyone has barriers and obstacles, and we may not succeed at first, but through trying and being persistent we will succeed. Tracy was born a four-way amputee.

“We didn’t know how I was going to ski. We just put men’s ski boots backwards on my thighs, and it put me in a duck squat position. Who would have guessed?” explained Tracy. “We wouldn’t have thought of that on a couch. We had to get out there on that hill and be looking around and just do it. We didn’t know how I would ski but we knew I would. It’s the same in business, it’s the same in having a conversation with your teenager, and it’s the same in opening doors and opening minds for accessibility. You don’t know how, but do it anyway and you can do it. What’s your excuse?”

Tracy Schmitt, known as Unstoppable Tracy, speaks as a keynote speaker at this year’s annual Accessibility Workshop.

Renée Trombley, manager of corporate communications and accessibility for the County of Essex said she works with the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee each year, whose focus is to create awareness and share information around accessibility. The idea is just to start a conversation in the community.

“For me it’s really about starting those engaging conversations about how can we be a more accessible society and how can we remove barriers whether they are physical or attitudinal, to help make sure that we are very inclusive,” said Trombley. “Perhaps in sharing some of this information and getting these groups of people together that wouldn’t typically necessarily congregate, it just allows us all to become better informed and perhaps turn into better advocates.”

Amongst those in attendance were municipal officials, such as Warden for the County of Essex Tom Bain. He said he believes it’s important for all officials to attend this type of conference because they can take the messages given at the workshop back to their communities and spread the information.

“I think it’s a tremendous conference,” said Bain. “It really shows what people who have a physical disability can do and what a motivator, not only for those with disabilities but everyone. When you saw today in the videos and heard what can be done, there’s no stopping someone. You can ski, you can swim, you can mountain climb and not only can you do those things but you can be one of the best at those activities. It’s an unbelievable motivator for anyone who is really feeling they can’t do something, that’s the message today, yes you can.”

For more information about the accessibility committee visit www.countyofessex.on.ca/en/government/essex-county-accessibility-advisory-committee or check them out on their new Facebook page www.facebook.com/EssexCountyAccessibility.

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