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Disabled, seniors will become isolated

Community boxes not accessible: advocates

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Canada Post ought to take another cold, hard look at its plan to kill home delivery, say advocates for the disabled and the elderly.

"This is a shock and an erosion of a fundamental service that people depend on," said Laurie Beachell, the national co-ordinator for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

What customers have to say

The Free Press asked Winnipeggers currently receiving their mail via home delivery what they think of Canada Post’s decision to phase out the service and replace it with community mailboxes. Here’s what they said:

 

“It’s not really very inclusive. What are they going to do with people who have trouble getting out in the winter to pick up their mail?... I have a disability and in the wintertime, it is extremely hard for me to breathe because I have a lung disease and it would be really, really difficult if it was -30 C and I was having an episode. I don’t know what I would do to get mail.”

— Victoria Stone

 

“I don’t think it would be that big of a problem... My grandparents have to do that same thing. They actually go to a post box. I guess some people have complaints about it, but I don’t see it as that big of deal.”

— Matthew Malazderwich

 

“I still like getting things through the mail. I don’t totally trust the computers because of hackers... It’s not very good for small business. Apparently, they’re going to have to pay more from what I’ve heard. It seems to be hurting the people who can least afford it.

— Dan Diplock

 

“If I need a computer, I go to the library, but it sucks when you have to go. It’s cold... I walk everywhere. For other people with disabilities or seniors, it’s not practical.”

— Yesi Mino

 

“I’m not really healthy. It’s my first time out in two weeks... I have to walk, but it’s slippery. It’s difficult. There’s going to be a box somewhere? Where are they going to put those? Every corner? I’ll tell them no mail for me.”

— Donata Jankauskas

— compiled by Roberta Bell

"The cancellation of door-to-door mail delivery will be a huge problem for people with disabilities and the elderly," said Beachell in Winnipeg. "It becomes even more critical with winters such as ours. Getting down our street right now is a major challenge."

Snow-packed sidewalks and slick, rutted roads will make it tough for people with mobility issues to get to a community mailbox, he said. If they can't go, they'll be more dependent on family or neighbours.

"In the worst-case scenario, they'll have to hire someone to pick up their mail and bring it to their door," said Beachell.

Many can't afford to pay someone to pick up mail, or access the technology to use email and rely less on Canada Post.

"Many Canadians with disabilities are poor," said Beachell. "Many do not have access to new technologies. They simply cannot afford them. They don't have a computer or an email account," he said.

"The new technologies for many within our community are a liberating force but only if you can afford them. Door-to-door delivery is critical in major urban centres and it is an issue of access for people with disabilities."

In one of the lowest-income neighbourhoods in the city, Canada Post's announcement was unwelcome news Wednesday.

"It's a shocker," said Rick Caslake, program manager at the Barber House 55+ Active Living Centre in Point Douglas

"I can give you 10 names of people who can barely get out of their house once we clear their sidewalks," said Caslake. "They're not going to be able to get their mail. At this time of year? Oh man." He said they'll have to rely on "the goodness of their neighbours."

The centre delivers meals to 23 shut-in seniors every Sunday, and letter carriers are the only other source of contact for many.

"With a (Canada Post) superbox, there is no connection with these seniors -- that little bit of community. The post office has always done that," said Caslake.

"It's just one more thing taken away," said Norah Stark, a senior living in the West End. The retired librarian has seen food stores and recreation centres in her neighbourhood disappear during the years. Now, her letter carrier is disappearing, too, and she'll have to pick up her mail from a community post box in her area.

"It's going to be a real chore in the wintertime and I'm more spry than a lot of my friends," Stark said. "When it's cold and streets are slippery, it's dangerous."

"Definitely, it's going to pose a problem," said Stark, whose son lives nearby and she can call him for help or to get her mail. "A lot of people don't have anybody."

"I think that's terrible, just terrible," she said.

Beachell said vulnerable Canadians will be affected the most. "It's a critical way of remaining connected," he said, "This is a pretty drastic move and certainly there needs to be some understanding of how important door-to-door delivery is for people."

Letter carriers will report it when the elderly and people with disabilities on their route aren't checking their mail, for instance, Beachell said.

 

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2013 A5

History

Updated on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 8:06 AM CST: adds sidebar

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