By Benjamin Aubé
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 12:14:28 EDT PM
Dave Vallier, the city’s community development planner, was at council on Monday to discuss Timmins’ Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, which aims to eliminate barriers and improve accessibility throughout the city. Council will be looking to adopt the plan as a bylaw in order to help make the city fully accessible by 2025.
TIMMINS – Timmins is taking steps to eliminate some of the barriers that people with disabilities still face throughout the city.
City council will be looking to adopt a new Multi-Year Accessibility Plan as a bylaw. The plan would be in place until 2017, posted on the city’s website, and be subject to annual review by council and the city’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC).
The plan goes hand-in-hand with the province’s goal to be completely barrier-free for people with disabilities by 2025. It helps implement the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005 and also helps meet Ontario’s Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulations.
Community development planner Dave Vallier explained how the plan will help achieve goals such as implementing accessible website technology, co-ordinating feedback systems and enhancing the process for providing notice of service disruption. City staff (without the proper accreditation) will be trained in programs similar to the customer service standard.
Vallier said despite the province mandating the requirements, there is currently no funding coming from the government.
“The training dollars is money we budgeted for training,” said Vallier. “There are more specifics (in the plan) as far as commitment and goals in so far as to what we want to do as a municipality.”
Other goals listed in the plan include making public buildings and facilities more accessible, taking accessibility into account as part of planning and subdivision approval, reviewing designated parking spaces, and improving access to municipal elections.
The plan was devised in accordance with the MAAC, which includes a handful of councillors in city hall.
According to the 2006 Census, an estimated 4.4 million Canadians – one in seven to be precise, or 14.3% of the population – reported having a disability in 2006. That was well up from the 2001 data, which showed 3.6 million people with disability, or 12.4% of the population.
The city’s plan also noted that 40.5% of people aged 65-plus had a disability in 2006. Recent population projections estimate that over 6.7 million Canadians will be aged 65 and higher, or one-fifth of the country’s total population, by 2021.
“Training is a part of the integrated standard,” Vallier told city council. “We need to make sure people are mindful of the policy language, and of the multi-year plan as well, just so people are aware.
“The training is not as extensive as the customer service standard. Together with HR, we need to discuss a best practice moving forward to make sure we get everybody trained but we’re not doing it three times a year for two standards or twice a year for the same standard. We need to make sure we’re doing this as cost-effectively as possible.”
Mayor Tom Laughren said he was in agreement with implementing the plan as part of a city bylaw.
“Ensuring best practices is important,” said Laughren. “But the other part that’s really important for me is that it’ll remind us that we need to push government. Instead of mandating all the time, they have to make sure there’s some dollars out there as well as we go forward in the next 15 years with this.”
Coun. Michael Doody agreed, adding he was pleased with the “tremendous feedback and co-operation” of those sitting on the MAAC.
“I really believe this is a win-win situation for us and the people with disabilities,” said Doody. “We tend to forget there are literally thousands of people out there with a disability that still have the capability to do a great deal of work even though they have a disability.
“Here, the city will be getting an annual update, it will be on the website. I think it’s the only way to go. Yes, there’s no doubt there will be some areas where it will cost us a few dollars to make things accessible, but I think we’re going in the right direction. We’ve gone a long way.
“The main thing is we have to remember it could be somebody we know, somebody in our own family, and they have the same amount of smarts as everyone one of us but maybe they have a disability. They deserve the same rights.”