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Northeast resident chosen to help update the Accessibility Act

Dea Orendi says something as simple as walking through a parking lot can be dangerous for her as drivers may not see her.
Dea Orendi has been selected to be on the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

HUDSON BAY – Hudson Bay local, Dea Orendi, was one of 15 people appointed to the new Accessibility Advisory Committee which was established on March 1 to support the implementation of The Accessible Saskatchewan Act, which came into force Dec. 3, 2023. 

Dea Orendi was born with achondroplasia, which is a type of dwarfism. Orendi said, “Society would know us as little people.”

For many able-bodied individuals, daily activities seem simple, but for a little person, little things can be daunting.

Growing up in a small village in Alberta, Orendi said, she had to ride the bus to school.

“This was exhausting and extremely hard on my body, for 12 years.” Orendi explained that getting on and off the bus, sitting on the seats and dealing with bullying on the bus was the hardest for her growing up.

“Because of my littleness, I don't allow photos of myself, not because I don't like me, but because rude people have always been rude about the dwarf people in photos. And then internet made it worse. This accessibility advisory group is super important to me.” 

“I jumped at the chance of being on the Accessibility Advisory Committee and I'm very honoured to be chosen to be a part of the 15 committee members for the Province of Saskatchewan. 

Orendi hopes to promote "access" to anyone, at anytime and anywhere. Orendi currently resides in Hudson Bay, population 1,403 and although accessibility in rural Saskatchewan is improving, there is a need to improve and educate the public.

Accessible parking spots is one improvement that she’d like to see in her community. Orendi said the Town of Hudson Bay is planning to install more accessible parking spots (formerly known as disabled parking) around town, at locations such as the drug store, general shopping places, medical centre and theatre. Once the snow melts, the Town of Hudson Bay will be installing new “accessible parking only” signs. 

Mayor of Hudson Bay, Betty Lou Palko, said, “We are very proud that Dea has been selected to be on this committee. We hope to improve accessibility in our community as best we can and are already planning to install more accessible parking.”

“I'm so excited to have safer and more parking for individuals such as myself, that need it,” said Orendi

She notes, “Accessibility has gotten a little better over the years.”

Although her father had designed extension pedals for a vehicle, so she could attend college on her own, and not rely on public transportation that was unsafe and extremely hard on her, there were few accessible parking spots at the time. Oftentimes, not being able to find a spot meant waiting until one became available.

“Back then, and even now, there is very little police enforcement. One of my goals, is having better policing on these types of parking spots.”

She found individuals without a disabled parking placard were parking in the accessible parking spots. For her, to be able to park in an accessible parking spot makes all the difference in the world, “I'm safer and I'm able to get to a building, to do whatever it is that I'm there for.” 


Daily challenges

Orendi is married to an average size person and together they have two adult children who also have dwarfism.

“I take my dwarfism head on, but there are many daily challenges for myself and my children.”

Orendi said one of her challenges is transportation: driving a vehicle, parking, getting gas, dealing with a vehicle breakdown and affording the extra equipment needed to drive the vehicle.

Other challenges include washing dishes, locking a public bathroom door, washing hands in a public bathroom, walking through mounds of snow, stairs, laundry, grocery shopping and using an elevator because the buttons are too high. 

Orendi finds that many daily tasks that many take for granted take much more planning in her situation. She explains that if she needs gas, she requires a full-service station as she can’t reach the pump. Using an ATM is similar although it has become more accessible. 

Orendi explains something as simple as walking through a parking lot can be dangerous for her as vehicles may not see her as she is walking by. 

“I usually, if not always, try to bring an average size abled body person with me. There are many things that I can't access, that having someone with me can. They can manage door locks, water taps/soap, parking meters/kiosks, dropping me off at the building doors and then they can go park the vehicle, they can do any extra walking to somewhere to get something for me. But then for their kindness of assisting me for the day, I'll pay for their food, their time, or any fees that they incur from this trip. That money comes out of my pocket.” 

Orendi’s said her disability is physically, mentally and financially hard on her and hopes to bring more awareness of the issues that affect her and many others in Saskatchewan. 

She hopes parents of a child with a disability can travel and shop easier if they can access things like adapted vehicles, buildings with proper ramps and sidewalks and accessible washrooms and restaurants.

Orendi estimates there are about 40 little people in Saskatchewan.

“There is a global estimate, that one in every 15,000 to 40,000 babies are born with dwarfism, so given the population of Saskatchewan is 1,218,976 people, there would be roughly 30.5 little people in Saskatchewan. There are over 400 types of dwarfism, but achondroplasia makes up 70 per cent of the dwarf population.” 

A spokesperson for the Government of Saskatchewan Social Services said the purpose of Accessible Saskatchewan Act is to prevent and remove barriers for persons with disabilities. This supports the government's goal of building strong, inclusive communities for persons with disabilities.