Visually impaired man helps West Kelowna council see accessibility problems

On Tuesday, Justin Kilpatrick told West Kelowna council why he has found it difficult to navigate through the municipality.

Justin Kilpatrick visited West Kelowna council on Tuesday to tell them how he has struggled to navigate his way around the municipality. Kilpatrick gave suggestions of how the district can make life easier for the visually impaired.

Justin Kilpatrick has found it difficult to travel around West Kelowna.

Kilpatrick became visually impaired in 2007. At the time he was living in Richmond and got used to many of the city’s features that helped him to find his way. But navigating has gotten much more difficult since moving to West Kelowna.

“It feels impossible to keep track of where you are due to the lack of sidewalks and beepers from lights,” Kilpatrick told West Kelowna council members during their meeting on Tuesday.

“Seeing as though we purchased a place and we’re probably going to be here forever, I thought I’d come and talk about it.”

Kilpatrick said it is particularly difficult for him to walk around the Save-on Foods area.

“During the winter, when it snowed, I found myself indoors a lot because of the ice and lack of sidewalks.”

Kilpatrick said he travels by following the edges of sidewalks or edges of lawns with his walking stick.

He added that Richmond had features that helped him maneuver through the city, such as bumps on the sidewalk just before an intersection or crosswalks that beeped to help the visually impaired figure out directions.

“In my mind I make a grid and twist it as I walk along,” said Kilpatrick.

Making that mental map is more difficult in West Kelowna according to Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick is on a waiting list to get a seeing-eye dog; however, he said that the seeing-eye dog is trained to go from curb to curb. He was unsure how beneficial a guide dog would be when certain areas—such as Brown Road, where he lives—do not have sidewalks.

Several councillors indicated that they were thankful that Kilpatrick made council aware of his concerns.

“I’m really grateful for Justin coming today and making his presentation. I’d like to make sure that his perspective is not forgotten in our future planning,” said Coun. Carol Zanon.

Mayor Doug Findlater said that Kilpatrick’s concerns helped “raise awareness” for the district unto what needs to be done to make life easier for the visually impaired in the community.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com