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Accessibility Must Happen

Fri Mar 4 2011

Making our city accessible to everyone is not a frill or a luxury. It is the right thing to do.

It is apparent already that all citizens in our community should be treated the same way, regardless of ability. That will become increasingly critical
in coming decades, given the high number of baby boomers who are aging, many of them likely with mobility issues.

So, while you might not, at this point, get the push for accessibility because you aren’t living with physical limitations, you will understand sooner than
you think.

It makes good sense, then, that the provincial government is pushing forward with implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
The initial investment, particularly for small businesses, may be difficult to handle. But, in the long run, an accessible business will be a more successful business and the investment will be worth it.

The same goes for organizations supported through public funding, such as the municipalities across Ontario. It is impossible to argue that municipal services should not meet the needs of all citizens.

It is in all of our best interests to update Hamilton’s municipal systems and services. The process has already begun, with the customer service component completed. The province is now asking the City of Hamilton, along with all municipalities, to update transportation, information and communications and employment.

That will come with a substantial price tag to cover, among other things, the cost of website and equipment upgrades, consultants, training, new tools and
software licences and more transit drivers and staff. Early estimates indicate the upgrades to the transit system alone will hit about $6.5 million.

The final stages of the accessibility upgrades will be the most expensive. That’s because it involves infrastructure such as buildings, vehicles and sidewalks, which the province wants cities to widen to two metres.

The accessibility act is not new. It was passed in 2005. What is new is the draft of proposed standards for the transportation, communications and employment upgrades that were released Feb. 3. Municipalities have only until March 18 to provide feedback on the standards and the timelines covering those standards.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario wants the province to extend the commenting deadline, arguing it is not enough time for municipalities to fully examine the ramifications of the upgrades. That is a reasonable request and the province should act on it.

It is also reasonable for the province to show us some money for the next phases of upgrading. This is a provincial issue, not a strictly local one. The
province needs to ante up and help cash-strapped municipalities, including ours, become accessible to all.

Lee Prokaska

Reproduced from http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial/article/495856–accessibility-must-happen