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Celebrating accessibility in Winkler

Greg Vandermeulen

Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen, Winkler Mayor Martin Harder and Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Bergen hold the banner that Rick Hansen Foundation ambassador Jared Funk symbolically breaks through.

Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen, Winkler Mayor Martin Harder and Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Bergen hold the banner that Rick Hansen Foundation ambassador Jared Funk symbolically breaks through.

WINKLER - 

The City of Winkler and the Rick Hansen Foundation celebrated recent accessibility improvements at the Winkler Arena on Aug. 11.
“The Rick Hansen Foundation gave us $30,000 to do the work,” Harder said. “The city spent a little bit more, I think it was probably close to $45,000 to get the work done.”
The improvements included a new front entrance where the pavement slopes gradually up to the front doors to replace the steps and wheelchair ramp previously in place. Washrooms have also been made more accessible and a platform was built next to the ice surface to allow those in wheel chairs to enjoy events.
“You can actually sit at ice level enjoying the atmosphere of the game,” Harder said.
The city also considered future expansion plans for the facility and said the new changes will continue to be a benefit. “We knew it wasn’t going to be wasted,” he said.
Harder said they’ve come a long way since the 2006 council had the challenge of traversing the downtown in wheelchairs, prior to accessibility changes taking place. He added they will continue to improve.
“We’ve committed to not stopping just with Rick Hansen funds,” he said.
Jared Funk, ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation was also on hand for the celebration.
A Niverville native who became a C6 Quadrapalegic in a 1993 car accident at the age of 18, he praised the small crowd on hand for their work.
“You guys have stepped up to the plate Winkler and you’ve done it,” he said. “I have seen over the years this city become more and more accessible. It’s been enjoyable to watch.”
With new federal laws regarding accessibility expected in the next year, Funk said Winkler is being proactive.
No stranger to the Winkler arena, Funk has taken in Flyers games, and joked that before he had to watch at eye level, since that’s where the glass started from his view in the chair.
“It will make it more enjoyable to come here,” he said.
Funk added that the design changes are inclusive, and will help everyone including seniors with walkers or scooters, mothers with strollers or kids with hockey bags.
“It makes it inclusive for everybody, not just people with disabilities,” he said. “Winkler stepped up to the plate. It’s a vast improvement.”
Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen was also on hand and said the changes were important.
“This is the one place that people want to gather, and this commitment from the city to take down barriers that people face every day... is to be celebrated.”
Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Bergen agreed.
“People with a variety of abilities just want to be part of the community, they want to be working, they want to be at events like hockey games,” she said. “I think our heart’s desire is that our community gets bigger and bigger and bigger, not just in terms of numbers but in who we are including in our community.”