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Accessibility Carries Price Tag

Updated February 2, 2011

Ensuring a standard of accessibility in county facilities and services will become more costly in the future, Norfolk council learned last night.

As the province beefs up its accessibility legislation, Norfolk County, along with other municipalities, have been tasked to improve facilities and offer
staff training. Council was updated on this work by the Norfolk County Accessibility Advisory Committee and the county’s Corporate Accessibility Committee last night.

This work, however, has come at a cost. Twenty-four staff members have worked on county accessibility. This doesn’t include the price tag to renovate washrooms and install elevators.

“We have right here an elephant by the tail, Mr. Chair,” said Port Dover Coun. John Wells.

The province is now mulling over 500 accessibility amendments being contemplated for inclusion in the building code, reported Shelly Darlington, manager of corporate support services. The Built Environment Standard, along with a harmonized Information and Communication, Employment and Transportation Standard, are expected to become law this fall

“Mr. Chair, 500 new pieces of legislation?” Wells said. “Who will ever digest and be able to understand what that means?”

Disobeying accessibility laws, however, can result in stiff penalties, council learned. A corporation such as Norfolk County can be fined $100,000 for every day or part day for non-compliance. Directors of a corporation, like councillors, can be fined $50,000.

While Simcoe Coun. Peter Black sympathizes with the disabled, he is tired of the province downloading its costly initiatives on municipalities. The province will not be contributing any funding to help municipalities meet accessibility standards.

“That’s a disappointment,” Black said.

Planning staff is looking at investing $75,000 into accessibility projects this year. Proposed initiatives include accessible picnic tables, a new sound
system, accessible entrances for the Vittoria Community Centre and Port Rowan Library, orthopedic stairs for the Delhi Kinsmen Pool, and an elevator and lift at the Delhi Community Centre Arena.

“I can’t see how we can complete all these projects with $75,000,” said Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus. “An elevator alone is $45,000.”

The public should be aware of the funding challenges faced by municipalities, said Mayor Dennis Travale.

“Municipalities are going to start making decisions based on dollars rather than services,” he said.

Barbara Simpson 519-426-3528, ext. 112

Article ID# 2958640

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