Sask. city drops ‘handicapped’ term from parking signs, councillor hopes other communities will do the same

A Saskatchewan city councillor says small changes to parking signs in their community are making a big impact. 

Earlier this year, Tracy Johnson convinced her fellow councillors to pass a bylaw so the city could remove the word “handicapped” from parking signs in Warman, Sask., a community located about 20 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.

Now the signs will display a symbol of a person in a wheelchair or use the word “accessible.”

Johnson said the word handicapped is limiting and shouldn’t define people. 

“It doesn’t empower and it doesn’t make one feel very good. I have a physical disability, but I’m more than able to do what others can do,” Johnson said.

Johnson has been an advocate for people with disabilities and equal access since her leg was amputated in 1993 following a basketball injury. She continued to play at the collegiate level after the surgery.

She said the sign changes in Warman have been welcomed.

The word ‘handicapped’ has been removed from signs in Warman, Sask. (Liam O’Connor/CBC)

“It’s been so easy. The business community has been absolutely receptive and fantastic. I went and tackled it from the education aspect, that it was not demeaning or belittling at all, but just to educate and inform. And I had no backlash at all,” she said.

Saskatoon accessibility advocate John Loeppky said many people with disabilities still face barriers, but Johnson’s work is helping.

“I would say it’s a positive move forward. I would just ask: where do we go from here and how does it impact further municipal policy when it comes to disabled folks in these centres like Warman?” Loeppky said.

Johnson agreed there’s more work to do. She hopes other communities will adopt Warman’s approach. She plans to talk with local and provincial government leaders in the coming weeks — advocating for more change. 

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