Working to make Fort St. John’s businesses more accessible and inclusive

“I can’t talk about accessibility without talking about inclusion. Accessibility is one thing, inclusion is another. Accessibility is being able to get into someplace, but inclusion means being able to be included in the environment that we are in.” 

The recently adopted Official Community Plan includes many measures to make the community more accessible and inclusive, looking to the future of the city, and other bylaws are in the works. Slater argues it’s also beneficial for existing businesses to become more inclusive, as it eventually affects their bottom line. 

“If I come to your business with my friend, I can’t get in, we’re not going to go in to that business, and it’s what I call the snowball effect,” she says. “I really would like to encourage you to think about that bottom line: How can I make my business accessible so that people can be included?” 

She uses the example of if she and her friends or large family go to a restaurant and she can’t enter, or if there isn’t a table that’s easy to get to, they not only lose her business, but the entire party’s. This reasoning not only applies to people in wheelchairs; it includes anyone who has mobility concerns. 

“When we’re making it accessible for people with disabilities, we’re not just doing it for us, we’re doing it for all. We’re doing it for moms with baby strollers, we’re doing it for the seniors, we’re doing it for everyone.” 

Some of the things the MDAC suggests to help include reducing clutter in aisles and entrances, lowering the level of door handles and considering the height of objects on shelves or display racks. The committee is making itself available to help local business avoid that “snowball effect”, offering to work with them to renovate, build, or simply share information.