"A city is only as strong as its weakest neighbourhood". The Kitchen Table Talks are providing lively and wide ranging discussions on how our neighbourhoods can support everyone to live a decent life. We continue seeking voices less heard in public meetings and forums. One participant shared a write up she did on a kitchen table talk she attended. The initerested is still there and there is still time if you wish to host a Kitchen Table Talk in your neighbourhood this September. Contact us to find out how.
*The testimony has been modified to ensure privacy of the participants in the kithcen table talk.
Decent lives in strong neighbourhoods:
“A city is only as strong as its weakest neighbourhood.”
On August 19th, I participated in a kitchen table discussion with the Social Planning Council. The discussion was centred around two main themes: “what is a decent life?”, and “what is a strong neighbourhood?”. The group also talked about barriers to living a decent life in a strong neighbourhood which are relevant to the stroke recovery population, and brainstormed ways to break down these barriers.
The group discussion brought up many aspects that make up a decent life. Among the ideas were; feeling safe; feeling included; opportunities for socialization; opportunities for meaningful contribution to society; having the basic needs of life met (food, shelter, water, clothing); having adequate income; being able to find support when needed; and feeling happy.
One of the major themes in the discussion was access to transportation services. There was a resounding agreement that access to transportation, especially for differently-abled persons, is a barrier to living a decent life in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Suggested improvements to the system included more flexible scheduling of Mobility-Plus transit, special training of transit employees in sensitivity with customers with mobility restrictions, and more consistency with drivers on particular routes, so that drivers and customers can get to know one another.
The discussion of “strong neighbourhoods” brought the group discussions primarily to accessibility. The “strong neighbourhood” would have wheelchair access in all public places, sidewalks would all have ramps instead of curbs, snow and ice would be promptly removed from sidewalks, and all aspects of a decent life would be readily available to people within the neighbourhood itself, to reduce the need to travel. One idea that was brought forward was to have a City Council planning committee of people with lived experience to ensure that the unique needs of the differently-abled population are being considered in municipal decision making processes.
The secondary focus of the discussion of “strong neighbourhoods” was community culture. In a “strong neighbourhood” people would all know one another, be friendly, inclusive, and supportive of one another. The importance of community centres and other community meeting places such as parks were brought up often. The importance of making community spaces and programs accessible for differently-abled persons was a key point. It was suggested that perhaps community parks could have dedicated outdoor exercise areas, in addition to play structures for children, to bring people together and promote healthy living.
The special guests from the Social Planning Council plan to synthesize all of the data they gather from kitchen table discussions and meetings throughout the community and bring them to City Council. The discussion was certainly stimulating for all those in attendance. Hopefully members of this group and people at large who learn more will feel inspired to advocate for the needs differently-abled in their own neighbourhoods and regions, and this will help contribute to everyone’s quest to live a “decent life”.
By: Emily Lehan, MD Candidate, Class of 2018, University of Ottawa