There are the typical generalizations about both rural and urban areas such as cities always being a home to most amenities, whereas towns tend to be thought about as dirt roads and farmland. Let’s start with determining what qualifies as a small town, and what falls under the umbrella of a city.
According to our friend Google, cities have a population of 250,000 or more. Small towns, however, have a population of fewer than 100,000. To put this into a further context, Vancouver is classified as a large city with a reported population in 2017 of 675, 218. Meanwhile, the area I am from, Aldergrove, holds a population of 15, 948 as recorded in 2016. Now that we have cleared this up and have some background knowledge, we can take a closer look at living in a small-town versus a big city.
When thinking about an area that would be more accessible to live for those who may have a disability, a city is often what is thought of as it usually is the home to a fastest transit system, and various amenities that are in walking distance from houses or apartments. For instance, Vancouver contains the Skytrain and buses which operate frequently. Along with this, there are streets with various stores and plazas. Additionally, amenities and transit run until late at night, as Vancouverites seem to enjoy their nightlife. Contrary to this, people with disabilities are most often not encouraged to live within smaller communities due to the lack of this type of transit and resources. As someone who has lived in a small town for their entire life, I do agree that these areas do indeed lack fast and accessible transit. Moreover, there may not be audible crossing lights and may lack sidewalks in some spots. So, you may ask, why would someone like me and others wish to live here and promote it?
Well, for one, a sense of community can be very hard to find in a large environment where there is a vast population hustling and bustling around you. In Aldergrove or other smaller areas, the sense of community is more easily established as there are fewer people living in an area that is condensed. Residents have a much easier time connecting with one another. As someone with a disability, I have found this aspect to be quite helpful, as my neighbours have gotten used to seeing me walking with my cane, and therefore have become more cautious when driving around town. Furthermore, once I had a neighbour ask me if I was needing assistance as I was getting into a family member’s car that is often not seen around town. This is not to say that those who are blind need others to always be careful and keep an eye on them, but it is a community bond and duty we all take on as Aldergrovians. In conjunction with this point, navigating throughout a more rural area has increased my mobility skills. For example, I have learned to not solely rely on an audible signal when crossing streets, but rather to use my sense of direction and judgement to determine when it is safe to proceed. I have also recently learned how to walk on an area which does not have a proper sidewalk. In short, living in this area has helped shape me into a versatile traveler who can rely on themselves and navigate in diverse areas. Although this is not to say that audible lights and sidewalks should not be put in.
Overall, the city is the place for easy access and less effort in terms of advocacy, while smaller towns are a place of connection and belonging, allowing its residences to be more than just numbers. Nevertheless, I believe both options are feasible for those who have a disability.
Unfortunately, flashy and convenient seems to trump that which is smaller and takes more effort. Perhaps I am just someone who doesn’t take no for an answer. However; I would rather be involved in something that I can help grow, than to live in what I see as the mundane. I hope I don’t end up moving to somewhere where the traffic interrupts my thinking with the smell of exhaust hitting my nose, but rather, that I stay in a place where I can sleep on a quiet street, listen to the screams and giggles of kids while they bounce basketballs outside, and somewhere where I can smell the fresh rain on the trees.
by Harjinder Saran (Jinnie)