Skip to content

North Saanich accessibility activist calls for ongoing improvements on Peninsula

Charlene Froom lauds recent moves in Sidney but calls for awareness campaign
North Saanich resident Charlene Froom calls on local politicians to be more mindful of the concerns of differently-abled individuals in the face of the area’s aging demographic. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

A local advocate is happy to see Sidney take steps to improve accessibility and also hopes to work with Saanich Peninsula on that front.

“To me, we need more awareness,” said Charlene Froom, who lives in North Saanich, but regularly commutes to Sidney.

She has been using a wheelchair for 37 years after injuring her spinal cord in a motor vehicle incident, and her condition has worsened with age. “People do have to realize that we are living in aging community here. There are more accessible needs coming forward.”

Last week Sidney council gave three readings to bylaw amendments designed to improve off-street accessible parking, an issue likely to loom large as Peninsula residents age.

Froom said her biggest concern in Sidney is lack of accessible parking. “I use a van with a side-ramp and there is no accessible parking for (such vehicles), ” she said. “So when I go into Sidney to shop, I look for a place where I can my open the ramp safely to try to buy my groceries or go for lunch.”

RELATED: New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

Sometimes, that process forces her to park some distance away from her intended destination. For example, when she visits one of her favourite waterfront restaurants, she at times must park some distance away on Fifth Avenue.

Froom does not even try to look for accessible parking in certain areas of Sidney, and the lack of such spaces has in past seen her leave because she could not find it.

Looking at North Saanich, she acknowledges the rural nature of the community, where not everything is accessible. “While it is not great, it’s not horrible either, because of the nature where are living,” she said.

Ultimately, she called on local politicians to treat accessibility as a priority and not as an after thought in terms of new construction and renovations. Room for improvement remains, despite previous progress, she said.

While Froom has only recently begun to speak out about the issue, she sees herself in a much bigger role.

“It’s just not about me,” she said. “It’s about other people that need these things too. Some people just don’t have as big as a mouth as I do.”

Her vocal approach appears to be having an effect. North Saanich staff had to publicly apologize for using an accessible parking spot for displays during a pop-up event related to the district’s official community plan review.

ALSO READ: $1.2-M accessible multi-sport court coming to North Saanich rec centre

Do you have a story tip? Email:

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
Read more