Town making progress towards accessibility
PARRY SOUND - The town is working to meet provincial legislation with its 2012 Accessibility Departmental Plan.
Prior to presenting the lengthy report at its July 3 meeting, town bylaw enforcement officer Tammy Purdy made a deputation to council to talk about the progress made and the work left to complete in order for the town to be in compliance with Ontario’s Disability Act. The town has been completing accessibility plans since 2001.
“There’s a lot of work that we have to do,” said Purdy. “As you’re aware, in 2005 the act was passed and there are five standards: the employment standards, the transportation standard, information and communication standard, the environment and customer service...It’s not just physical barriers, it’s attitude, it’s technology, that type of thing.”
Although the town is in compliance with most of the customer service standards, all of the town’s websites need to be updated to be more user-friendly for those who are visually impaired - a potentially costly and time-consuming venture, Purdy said.
“(The websites) need to be organized....we have a lot of information on there that may not be user-friendly for our community. We need to look at how our websites work with various assisted devices,” she said. “When we put content on to our website, such as pictures and videos, they’re not being put on where a lot of the screen readers of assisted devices can read it. We have content on there, but it’s not accessible for those devices.”
“To be in compliance with the general regulations we have to establish an accessibility plan. We already do an annual accessibility plan, but now instead of doing it annually, we have every five years. We have to look at our procurement, how we tender our services and consider the needs of persons with disabilities. We have to train our employees and volunteers on human rights and different policies we need to implement.”
The town’s transit system is going to be the most challenging and potentially the most expensive to bring into compliance, Purdy said.
“We’re being mandated to do some (things), even starting in January 2013, that’s really going to affect our transit. Right now our specialized transit, the only people who can use it are persons confined to a wheelchair or scooter. As of January 1, 2013 we have to be able to provide that service (specialized transit) to anyone who cannot use a conventional system,” she said. “The transit drivers have to be able to provide enough time to assist someone who needs to get on or off the bus. If someone has a walker and they chose to take the conventional system, instead of the specialized transit, then we have to allow them the time to get on and off the bus. That could affect our scheduling times. The legislation says we have to allow for people to get off where they choose if they have a disability.”
Additionally, according to the legislation, specialized transit will also have to be on demand, instead of by booking 72-hours in advance, as it is currently set up.
“What’s in this (report) is not going to happen in the short term, this is a long term goal that we’re all trying to achieve for the betterment not only our community, but every community in the province of Ontario,” said Coun. Dan McCauley. “I commend the province for setting out these regulations for every municipality to achieve them. But it is something that is going to take some time and it is going take some money on behalf of the municipality at the end of the day.
Coun. Brad Horn said he hoped the provincial government would take into consideration the difficulty small municipalities, such as Parry Sound, may have in becoming compliant with its public transit.
“I don’t think a cost factor has been attributed yet to what it will take to bring our system up to the standards,” Horne said. “There is a lot of work to do over the next few months and some serious questions about our transit system will have to answered.”