May 8, 2017 – Barbara Simpson, The Observer – An innovative charging station program that empowers those who use mobility devices to go the distance is set to expand in Sarnia.
The City of Sarnia is rolling out its Charge n’ Go initiative to local businesses by offering them grants – each up to $500 – for them to create their own designated charging stations for people to recharge their electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
“We want (these charging stations) to be everywhere,” city accessibility coordinator Dale Mosley said Monday. “It’s almost like a movement.
“We want it to be commonplace for businesses to have charging stations, so if a person is stuck and they need a charge, they can go into a business and that business accepts them and it’s a safe place to go.”
Last year, the City of Sarnia started up the Charge n’ Go program – believed to be the first of its kind in Canada – in partnership with the County of Lambton.
A total of 13 charging stations – which each consist of a designated, blue-coloured outlet and matching signage – can now be found in public spaces across Lambton County, including at Canatara Park, Sarnia city hall, the Strangway Centre and all the county library branches.
While city staff don’t monitor usage, Mosley said he knows anecdotally that the charging stations are being utilized.
“I’ve heard Strangway is getting used a lot,” Mosley said. “I get phone calls every once in a while asking where (a charging station) is because somebody’s battery is low and [asking] how can they get to it and then I give them directions.”
Plans are in the works to identify all charging stations – including those located at local businesses – onto Google Maps, Mosley noted, so out-of-town travellers can have this information at their fingertips.
While the city has started making grants available for businesses – in the event some wish to install new plugs in more accessible areas of their operations – Mosley said participating in the Charge n’ Go program doesn’t have to cost much.
Each business just needs a standard electrical outlet and signage provided by the city.
“It doesn’t really have to cost the business anything,” Mosley said, noting the average charge costs between 17 to 25 cents.
But in return, Mosley said businesses can reap several financial and social benefits because the program essentially “opens the door to more people.”
“You’ll be known as a socially-responsible business and that goes a long way,” Mosley said.
About 4.4 million – or one in every seven – Canadians have a disability, according to the Rick Hansen Foundation. Globally, more than one billion people live with a disability, representing the world’s largest minority and the only minority group that anyone can become a member of at any time.
“In the end, you’ll get your return on investment,” Mosley said. “You also get to market your business in a unique way.”
Other communities, like Kincardine and Stratford, have started inquiring with the city about the program, Mosley noted.
“Sarnia – outside of our own city – in Ontario we’re known for being very accessible and very inclusive, so we have that movement in Sarnia. Why not be a part of that?”