Council considers accessibility in the county

(Gazette file photo)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

As part of their January 11th Regular Council Meeting, the municipality’s elected officials received a report from the Corporate and Legislative Services Department regarding the multi-year, 2022-2026, Accessibility Plan.

The new plan builds upon commitments made by the county in 2017 with a focus on complying with the Accessibility for Disabled Ontarians Act (ADOA)

The report has been informed by the municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), which is comprised of a group of volunteers who live with a disability.

“The Committee provides feedback to Council and staff on municipal accessibility policies, on site plans and renovations of municipal facilities, and on compliance with provincial accessibility standards and legislation. Committee members worked collaboratively with staff to provide input to the 2022-2026 accessibility plan and are committed to ensuring the successful implementation of these priorities in support of making the County a barrier free community,” wrote Ken Dewar, Chair of the AAC.

The report in question contains several commitments to be made by staff and council from 2022-2026. These include:

  1. To continue implementing the AODA Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation;
  2. To review all unresolved issues carried forward from previous plans; and
  3. To report to Council on an annual basis on the progress of the Plan, as well as updating the Plan, as necessary

Some accomplishments noted in the report include:

  1. A new municipal website to comply with the IASR
  2. Internal review process put in place for all site-plan applications to ensure accessibility is considered.
  3. Training for applicable staff on accessible document creation and report writing
  4. Conducted an accessibility survey among County staff and residents Page 7
  5. Worked on creating the 2022-2026 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan

As per the report in question, the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) also made several recommendations for its 2022-2026 work plan. These are:

 

  1. Assess and identify the need for accessibility provisions to County services with the goal of increasing participation and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
  2. Within the community, research opportunities for grants and incentive programs for local businesses to help increase and promote accessibility.
  3. Provide educational resources to businesses, local organizations and groups about ways to make their goods and services more accessible in various formats.
  4. Show commitment to community engagement by ensuring all businesses and organizations providing goods and services are implementing accessible practices and create a strong sense of civic pride in doing so.
  5. Ensure all municipal services strive to meet standards on or before the AODA compliance deadlines.

Ken Dewar, Chair of the AAC spoke to council regarding the report and future goals of the committee.

“Our core responsibility is to work with staff to reduce accessibility barriers, change attitudes and create greater awareness about the importance of making the county more accessible,” said Dewar.

He further iterated that the 2022 goals were not only realistic but will also make a big difference to the lives of those with disabilities.

Sophiasburgh Councillor Bill Roberts (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“The 2022 goals are to develop an accessible design checklist for site plans, which we review regularly in our meetings, to develop a municipal election accessibility plan, participate as needed to the Shire Hall renovation project, and assess whether the Canadian Hearing Society Video Remote Interpretation Project is appropriate for our customer service department,” he noted. “We will also consider the accessibility as part of any proposed extension of the patio plan, and provide input on the Bloomfield Town Hall, Ameliasburgh Heritage Village accessible pathways and the Bloomfield Bus Shelter municipal parking lot.”

Gary Morden also spoke to council. Morden implored council to fast-track his sister’s application for a whole-home short term accommodation, as it is intended to be geared towards those with disabilities.

“My sister, Bonnie, applied for a whole home STA back in March,” said Morden.

“She wants to get on with retirement. Our application is on hold indefinitely. Again, the thrust of this is, we hope council will keep in mind that this home was built and renovated for Bonnie and her son who is 35 and in a wheelchair. He was born with cerebral palsy. It is absolutely barrier free and would work well for others too,” Morden explained. “Maybe council would consider developing a category for accessible homes.”

Morden bemoaned the length of the whole-home STA applications, which began in April 2020.

“The moratorium started in April 2020 and here we are…still hasn’t been dealt with. I would hope we could get at it and get at least part of this moving ahead,” stressed Morden. The accessibility is marketing. It would bring people the area that can’t manoeuvre. Most AirBNB’s are totally inaccessible.”

Councillor Bill Roberts inquired as to what parameters Morden had in mind for determining accessibility.

“How far would you go in terms of defining a category and what was necessary in that category,” he asked.

Morden replied the definition of accessible with regards to STAs would have to remain up to council and that his purpose is simply to bring the idea to them.

Councillor Janice Maynard inquired as to whether Morden had considered turning his sister’s house into a long-term rental.

“Have you considered a long term rental? I’m sure there’s a need and market for long term rentals in this category as well,” she said.

“This has been in the long term rental category since June,” replied Morden. “We did not find anybody that wanted to rent it. We have a person now…who just needed it for a month. It didn’t seem the demand was very high. Of course, the big term factor here is the rent. The short term rental…we all know increases income. Bonnie trying to develop an income stream so she can retire. She’s over 65. That house will be part of that income retirement. She doesn’t want to sell her house, she wants to keep it, but allow it to help her produce income so she can retire.”