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More barriers drop

Posted By ALISON LANGLEY , REVIEW STAFF WRITER
January 6, 2010

Removing service barriers for people with disabilities means much more than simply making sure buildings are accessible, says a member of the mayor’s disability advisory committee.

“Yes, ramps are important but it really goes way beyond ramps,” said Ian Greaves, of Niagara Falls.

The main focus, he said, is education and a new government standard that came into effect Jan. 1 is a step in the right direction.

Hospitals, schools and other public sector organizations are now required to have an accessibility standard in place for customer service.

The standards include policies on how to provide services to people with disabilities and to train employees on how to meet the needs of customers with a variety of disabilities.

“So much of this is really all about education,” said Greaves, who is also a member of the region’s accessibility advisory committee.

“We need to help people develop new attitudes and the city (of Niagara Falls) has been very good at doing this.”

Many of the new requirements are procedures the city had already been doing, although not in a formal manner, said Jason MacLean, the city’s health services specialist and member of the disability advisory committee.

City properties are fully accessible and service dogs have always been allowed inside municipal buildings.

Those practices have now been formalized into a standard policy and staff underwent training last November.

Greaves, who has multiple sclerosis, said a formal accessibility standard goes a long way towards making Ontario barrier free.

“With this, we’re enabling people to participate in community life,” he said.

The District School Board of Niagara created a draft policy last November and is currently awaiting feedback from a policy advisory committee made up of representatives from every sector within the board.

The new policy will be brought before the school board later this month, said Linda Kartasinski, superintendent of planning and transportation at the DSBN.

At the Niagara Regional Police, employees are required to completed an e-learning training module by the end of the month.

The majority of members have already successfully completed the mandatory training, said NRP spokesman Const. Nilan Dave.

Private companies will need to meet the same requirements by 2012.

The customer service standard is one part of the provincial plan to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.

Greaves is also a member of the province’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Council which provides advice to the Ministry of Community and Social Services on developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards concerning goods, services, accommodation, facilities buildings and employment.

“Accessible customer service is about learning how to communicate with someone who has a disability and, most importantly, it is about being willing to help,” Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services, said in a media release.

More than 1.8 million Ontarians have a disability, and that figure is expected to increase as the population ages.

Article ID# 2248442

Reproduced from http://www.niagarafallsreview.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2248442