Note: It’s amazing how Councillors like the one in this article whine about cost when the AODA has been around for almost 8 years already, what were they doing up to this point?
A five-year accessibility plan is a requirement under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) — provincial legislation requiring municipalities to develop and implement standards for barrier-free living.
As Hamilton — along with every other city in Ontario — puts forward its five-year accessibility plan, Councillor Sam Merulla would like to know who’s going to foot the bill.
“As progressive a piece of legislation as it is, it’s very regressive in nature in expecting the municipality to foot the bill … for something that should be a province-wide expenditure,” Merulla said.
It’s going to cost many millions of dollars to make Hamilton barrier-free and to then maintain those programs and infrastructure.
The five-year plan is a requirement under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) — provincial legislation requiring municipalities to develop and implement standards for barrier-free living.
Locally, this will mean things such as audible crosswalk signals, staff training and revised employment standards; physical renovations to public recreation centres and libraries — even City Hall is not fully wheelchair-accessible, Merulla points out.
These initiatives are all part of the city’s proposed 2013-to-2017 plan, which also focuses on recruiting and hiring employees with disabilities.
Many small adjustments will need to be made — such as posting job ads lower down on a bulletin board to be at eye level for people in scooters or wheelchairs, or eliminating a driver’s licence as a requirement for certain jobs.
Then there are the major undertakings, including a $2.4-million overhaul of the city’s website and a $150,000 per year audible crosswalk project.
The city made headway in 2012 with awareness campaigns and assessment reviews — but Merulla said financial constraints have left them with a long to-do list.
“You know, I think … our intents always are greater than our efforts. We always have better expectations but can never finance it,” Merulla said. “We have many, many miles to go.”
The AODA has a compliance framework that includes penalties ranging from $500 to $100,000 for infractions.
As part of the next stage, the city will review its own barrier-free guidelines in addition to exploring incentives to encourage the private sector to achieve barrier-free access.
Merulla will put forward a motion at the General Issues Committee on Jan. 14 to invite the Chamber of Commerce, government representatives and other stakeholders to a meeting in an effort to include everyone in the process.