MAHONE BAY, N.S. – The Royal Canadian Legion in Mahone Bay is hoping the town will follow its example when it comes to accessibility.
Mahone Bay Legion Branch 49 was recently designated as an age-friendly facility, becoming the first building in town to earn an accessibility certification.
And according to branch members, any building can be made accessible.
Helen Whitehouse, branch president, said she was thrilled to have made the building more welcoming.
“The process isn’t complicated,” she said. “It just makes it easier for people to come and visit the branch.”
Whitehouse noted the process began three years ago and dozens of changes were made to meet the accessibility standards set by the Nova Scotia Community Links Aging Well Together Program.
Changes included new signage, renovated bathrooms, handrails and more.
She said many of the changes were small, things that most people might not notice, but would make a huge difference to individuals with accessibility issues.
“We just worked slowly away at it,” she said.
But accessibility doesn’t just include the building.
Branch member Lloyd Westhaver said part of the certification included staff training to help and understand accessibility issues.
He said exercises included handling wheelchairs, maneuvering steps and washrooms.
In one instance, staff were asked to put on glasses that altered their sight to better understand how things like stairs could be an obstacle to people with vision issues.
“You put them on and you had someone lead you because you couldn’t do it on your own,” he said.
When asked if the training had given him a new perspective, Westhaver was quick to respond.
“Oh my Gosh, yes. Most places aren’t accessibility friendly. It does make a big difference and it gets you thinking: what if it were me?”
The question is one that Legion members hope the town considers moving forward, especially given the South Shore’s aging population.
Community Links coordinator Carla Malay, who helped get the building through the certification process, applauded the Legion’s commitment to accessibility.
In fact, a ceremony on May 7 was held at the building to present the certification.
“It didn’t happen overnight,” said Malay. “They made an unbelievable amount of changes.”
Penny Carver, town councillor, also attended the ceremony and stressed the importance and challenges of addressing accessibility.
“We’re entering into a phase now where accessibility is very much a public issue,” she said.