Paru le vendredi 6 novembre 2009 sur The Gazette
Councillor will champion accessibility Lise Poulin enters politics with a plan
For Lise Poulin, newly elected borough councillor for Lachine, the leap from answering customer complaints at Bell to municipal politics will be an easy one.
JOHN MAHONEY THE GAZETTE
Newly elected borough councillor Lise Poulin, 30, outside Lachine’s borough offices yesterday.
“I think basically it’s just listening to customers, whether they are Bell customers or citizens,” said Poulin, 30, one of five Union Montreal candidates elected in Lachine, as she busily prepared for her new life. “Listening to their needs and trying to find a win-win solution. It’s pretty much the same job.”
But Poulin brings something new to the world of municipal politics as the first councillor in Montreal to use a wheelchair.
Born in Michigan with muscular dystrophy, she has lived in Montreal most of her life. She has never taken the métro, for obvious reasons, but other than that, she prefers to dwell on what she can do rather than what she can’t.
First on the list, make the city more accessible to the physically disabled, as well as for an aging population who doesn’t find it so easy to get up stairs, either.
Poulin says city hall, where she has been once to meet the mayor, is already accessible to wheelchairs, as are the Lachine borough offices, where she will work after she’s sworn in Nov. 12.
But then there are the 18 other borough offices, she says, some of which still have work to do, as well as countless municipal libraries, Maisons de la culture, pools, sports centres and community centres that are impenetrable for people on wheels.
“I want to make sure (people in wheelchairs) can get into all borough offices, to be sure they can speak their minds and ideas. Then afterwards we’ll work on the rest.”
Poulin, who was at one time the poster child for the Canadian Association for Muscular Dystrophy, doesn’t mind being the poster child for accessibility in city politics.
“People have always reminded me that I was different, but that’s fine. Sometimes it got me into contact with other people because people were curious and wanted to know me, and that opened doors for me.”
But on top of the architectural changes needed, there remains work to be done changing mindsets, she says.
While going door to door campaigning, many people came out of their houses onto the sidewalk to meet Poulin. Some didn’t. “There are some people that still think a person in a wheelchair doesn’t have a place at city hall. But I now have four years to show them they’ll still be well served. ... In the past, people put together mental illness and physical handicap, but now it’s being broken apart. We have all our heads, we can make decisions we can manage. It’s not about intelligence.”
Now, what to tell her old boss? Press 1 for “I quit.”