A Wheelchair in Prince Rupert
by: Emma Kivisild
People thought I was crazy for moving to Prince Rupert in a wheelchair. But here I happily am.
I haven't lived in Prince Rupert for that long – I came in the spring of 2016. We came because our daughter lives here, we could buy a house, we like the weather (!), my partner lived here as a child. And we have lots of family.
Prince Rupert is beautiful, and a delight as a place to live. So much nature! Ravens clucking, deer in the streets. Oh my, the candied salmon. Fresh fish to deep fry at home. Long summer days, like, really long summer days.
Try explaining to someone from Vancouver that you can always find parking. That it only takes five minutes to drive anywhere. That people greet you. Try telling them that the parking at the hospital is free. That when you are on a flight out, you zip downtown in five minutes, get on a bus (wheelchair accessible) and your driving is done and you will be on time.
But, that said, it could be better. Specifically, living here in a wheelchair is sometimes a chore.
First, the sidewalks. Outside of downtown they are in dismal repair, with hardly a smooth rolling surface among them. In my neighborhood, up near Pigott Place, there are actually telephone poles in the middle of the sidewalk.
Then, the hills! The stairs! Brainiacs that we are, we bought a house at the top of a hill that is too steep for a wheelchair. In town, able-bodied people take stairs from one street to another. (Don’t wear high heels!) . Houses often tower above or sit well below street level. Climb up, climb down, climb up, climb down.
It's just so hilly and the corollary is that everyone has stairs to get into their house. We were able to solve this by building a ramp at our house, but I do not expect everyone to do that. So far, I have managed parties by using a light manual chair and arriving late enough for a critical mass of party guests to be there already. Then they carry me and the chair up to the house. At the end of the party, same thing in reverse. I cannot leave too late because that critical mass must still be there. So far, I can be carried. I have an appreciation for strong people with good backs.
You would think that places like restaurants, offices, and stores would have already solved this problem for me. Well not quite. I have to thank the many people who have made accessibility something that some people think of, but… Since I have been here, my doctor's office has installed a ramp. (Hooray!) But you should weep with me for that great restaurant (or so I've heard) on the second floor. Or the magical store where I can get in at the back, but then can’t move anywhere inside. Or the dentist that I can't get to at all (There are others, thank God, including mine, where they treat you in your chair!).
I get around, though. The movie theatre has a side door. There are accessible restaurants and coffee shops. Yay for the community centre and the people who come to my house and the technology that saves me.