There is something very special about shoreline parks and beaches in any city, town, village or rural community during Springtime.
The glistening sunshine reflecting off the water, the rich hues of newborn green budding forth from the variety of trees and shrubs … of differing shapes and sizes; the burst of bold colours blanketing the artfully arranged flower beds … all of this framed and bordered by the soft pale sands of the beaches nearby.
True beauty to behold … for those who get to see it.
But this season, in Vancouver, there’s an ugly omission from this pretty picture.
Excluded from Vancouver’s parks and beaches this Spring are those with cerebral palsy who need motorized mobility equipment to get there; excluded are those with muscular dystrophy in wheelchairs; excluded are those with multiple sclerosis, on their canes or in wheelchairs; excluded are those with cystic fibrosis, brought there by their family; excluded are people with severe rheumatoid arthritis, driven there by friends to enjoy, admire the scenes; excluded are those with Parkinson’s Disease or those who have suffered strokes and can’t walk very far; excluded are the amputees, wheeling up to the water’s edge in their chairs on special mats; and, gone are the frail elderly, on canes, in chairs or using walkers … once permitted to admire the sights, smells, sounds of springtime in Vancouver’s prime waterfront “public” areas.
Gone in Spring 2020.
I paid a visit to several waterfront parks/beaches Sunday and noticed lots of “the favored” people enjoying themselves: those fit enough to walk, jog, bike, exercise … many, many frolicking in the sand and sunshine.
A beautiful sight.
But something was missing.
And then it hit me: It all reminded me of those scenes from German newsreels in the mid-1930s, showing fit, lean, physically “superior” types also exercising and frolicking in the sunshine … smiling for the cameras as they enjoyed their parks and beaches.
While others, including the handicapped (“behindert”) were absent, excluded: “Unerwunscht”
Sunday, in Vancouver, I didn’t spot a single handicapped or mobility challenged person or anyone on a walker enjoying our waterfront parks or beaches.
There are 600,000 disabled in BC … I suspect about a third of them probably live in the Vancouver area … maybe more. Yet … I didn’t see ONE on any of the waterfront beaches or adjoining parklands.
Well, of course not. How could they get there???
As I wrote recently, Stanley Park was closed to ALL vehicles 24-hours a day, seven days a week … making it impossible for any frail elderly or physically challenged to drive themselves or have families/friends drive them around/through the Vancouver’s top gem.
You can review that piece here: http://harveyoberfeld.ca/blog/park-board-blockade-keeps-handicapped-seniors-families-out-of-stanley-park/.
Now, with the warm, sunny weather beckoning … the situation in Vancouver has become even worse … because of the fascist-like, exclusionary reality created by Vancouver Park Board decisions/actions.
Keeping the disabled away from even more sites are barriers, barricades and even large logs across the entrances to all the Vancouver Parks Board waterside parks and beach parking lots, blocking access/use by anyone … but especially hurting the frail elderly and handicapped, whose families and friends used to be able to drive them to these scenic sites so they could enjoy them too.
Keep out! Verboten!
And aiding and abetting the Parks Board’s fascist-style exclusionary decisions/policies are their allies at Vancouver City Hall: also making sure no physically-challenged types even try to get near or around their de-facto ban.
After Vancouver declared that during the Covid-19 crisis, it would stop enforcing meter, residential parking, even rush hour traffic restrictions, it soon reversed itself in some areas: the West End, Kits Point, Point Grey … strict enforcement was re-introduced in ALL areas adjoining and abutting the waterfront parks and beaches!
They don’t, of course, legally name/designate the physically-impaired as banned, but let’s keep it real: the blocking of parking lots and blockading all the streets nearby makes access virtually impossible.
Except for those physically fit enough to literally go to GREAT lengths to get there.
Kits Beach, to Spanish Banks, to Jericho, to Locarno, to First, Second, Third and Sunset Beaches, and, of course, Stanley Park are now all “Physically-Challenged-Free Zones”. (Except for maybe the very lucky who happen to live right nearby!)
All that are missing are signs saying “Behindert Unerwunscht!” (Handicapped Unwelcome!)
Today’s fascists are much more sophisticated: instead, electronic traffic signs along nearby roadways and wooden street barricades warn “Local Traffic Only” is “Strictly Enforced” …. should those with even a substantial degree of physical difficulty dare think of trying to make it to the parks or beaches.
And don’t buy the propaganda that it’s only because of Covid-19 … to keep people safe.
In other cities fighting Covid-19, parks and beaches are either closed to ALL …. or open to ALL … with social distancing.
That’s treating everyone with equality and fairness and being inclusive: instead of pushing the discriminatory, exclusionary mindset now governing at the Vancouver Park Board and City Hall.
Vancouver’s physically-challenged residents and families and friends are just as capable as everyone else of practicing safe-distancing !!!!
They should not be EXCLUDED by physical barriers from getting anywhere that is open to other citizens … but WELCOMED.
Like everyone else!
One day, Vancouver will be liberated from the fascist thinking that believes it’s alright to adopt/implement actions that bestow special privileges on the favored and impose exclusionary restrictions that in effect bar others.
And putting up wood/steel/concrete barriers and restricting access to nearby streets constitutes clear discrimination and exclusion.
One day, I hope thinking and caring Vancouver residents (and historians) will ask how did this happen in 2020: that the disabled could be summarily blocked/excluded from Vancouver parks and beaches … yet no one spoke up or did anything?
Well, almost no one.
At least now, people won’t be able to say “We did not know!” … “Wir wussten es nicht”.
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