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Barrhead home to Canada’s first Disability Pride crosswalk

Between 30 to 40 people brave the heat to paint Disability Pride crosswalk on Main Street

BARRHEAD - More work still needs to be done.

That is why a group of 30 and 40 Barrhead disability self-advocates and their allies felt it was important to paint one of the crosswalks at the Main Street four-way stop between Rocky Mountain Roots and the Scotia Bank on July 7 in the Disability Pride flag patterns.

Des Huges, Criss Schaffrick and Elizabeth Hintz said that although Barrhead is home to the Blue Heron Support Services Association (BHSSA) and Life Empowerment, which provide support to those with physical and mental disabilities, there is still a lot of misinformation about the disabled and equitable access, hence the need for the Disability Pride flag crosswalk.

“Then when we saw all the work [OutProud, who have painted three temporary rainbow Pride crosswalks in the last three years], we knew we needed to do something similar,” Hughes said. “Even though Barrhead is a very welcoming community, people with disabilities face barriers all the time. While much progress has been made about awareness of disability issues and the need for better access, there is still much work to do.”

Hintz, a representative on the provincial disability act commission, agreed.

“The challenges people with disabilities, especially to get equal access, are not talked about enough,” she said, adding growing up with a disability, she faced barriers every day. “Bullying yelled at by adults [for my appearance]. Going for your post-secondary and advanced education is much more difficult for people with disabilities and getting the support necessary.”

The Disability Pride flag has five stripes: green, blue, white, gold, and red. Green represents sensory disabilities; blue represents emotional and psychiatric disabilities; white stands for non-visible and undiagnosed disabilities; gold stands for neurodiversity; and red represents physical disabilities. While the black or charcoal on either side of the coloured stripes commemorates and mourns the disabled people who have died due to ableism, violence, negligence, suicide, illness or eugenics.

July is Disability Pride Month, a time dedicated to celebrating the achievements, contributions, and rights of individuals with disabilities.

They said they approached other like-minded groups and individuals, such as the Barrhead Accessibility Coalition, along with assistance and advice from Barrhead OutProud. In a little more than three weeks, they got everything ready for the crosswalk’s painting.

Town of Barrhead Coun. Dausen Kluin, a member of the Barrhead Accessibility Coalition, said he was pleased to be able to attend the crosswalk painting.

“It is good. It brings people together and shows that our community is inclusive.”

He also noted that as someone who has a disability, he understands, at least in part, the struggles of people who have disabilities and agrees more needs to be done to make Barrhead more accessible to everyone.

One of the projects Kluin is working on is changing the texture of the pavement to help those with vision challenges identify crosswalks.

“So that when someone with a white cane goes over the spot, they can feel and hear the difference,” he said.

When asked about the Barrhead Neutrality organization, which is currently circulating a petition calling on the Town of Barrhead to create a “Neutrality Bylaw” that would prohibit decorative crosswalks and flags other than the national, provincial, or municipal flags on municipal public property, Kluin said it was disappointing.

“There are more significant issues out there that the community should be worrying about than crosswalks and flagpoles that help bring people together,” he said. “But that is a democracy, so that is their prerogative.”

Schaffrick also said she expected some negativity or pushback due to Barrhead Neutrality’s efforts.

“Everything we’ve heard is positive and supportive, especially from the people who have been passing by today and asking questions,” she said

“This is the first Disability Pride crosswalk in Canada as far as we know, and I think that says a lot about our community, and it is something we can be proud of.”

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Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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