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Accessibility Improvements Continue in Oshawa

2014-05-13

By Geoff Zochodne/The Oshawa Express

Oshawa’s annual state of the union on accessibility was a mostly good news affair.

City council held a special meeting on May 8 to discuss accessibility issues. The meeting even had a personal support worker and sign language interpreter in attendance.

While there is admittedly much to do to make Oshawa a seamlessly accessible city, there was a sense things are much improved.

Derek Giberson, chair of the Oshawa Accessibility Advisory Committee (OAAC), says the City has begun to be recognized as a “leader” in accessibility. He gave a presentation to council updating them on Oshawa’s progress.

“The growth has been amazing to see,” says Giberson. “I think the focus hasn’t changed, it’s still there.”

In 2013, the OAAC reviewed several site plans and suggested improvements for City facilities like the Oshawa Valley Botanical Garden gazebo, the Legends Centre accessible splash pad and Harman Park Arena, among other places.

The City also launched its online chat pilot program, the “service of choice,” in the deaf community, says Giberson. A new accessible design for the City’s website was rolled out as well. Furthermore, City staff has received training on making documents accessible.

One of the OAAC’s roles is to audit City-run parks, trails and other facilities. It will continue to do so in 2014, says its chair.

“There are still older spaces that need upgrades, but we are, a step at a time, getting there,” says Giberson.

The chair also announced the committee would be helping prepare the City for new building standards coming into effect this year. It will also pursue new partnerships and promote accessibility awareness as part of its mandate.

“The work of accessibility is not the domain of any one group,” says Giberson.

As if to prove his point, the next presentation to council was from Vincent Patterson, general manager of Durham Region Transit (DRT).

“We’ve made some great strides even though we’re a relatively youthful organization,” says Patterson.

DRT’s conventional buses are now 99 per cent accessible, he says. The transit service has implemented smart technology on all buses and verbal and visual displays to announce stops, he explains. There is even a support person card to allow people assisting those with accessibility concerns to travel for free.

DRT has also spent $6 million installing more bus shelters, says Patterson. Although “there’s only so much real estate on a bus,” all DRT buses have two designated accessibility spots, he says. He told council the buses are all compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The act’s purpose is to establish accessibility standards for people or organizations that provide goods and services, employ people, offer accommodation, own or occupy a building or has a role in a business or other activity under the regulations, according to www.aoda.ca. The AODA’s target date is January 1, 2025.

DRT has hired a reservationist to help with scheduling special transit services, says Patterson, and extended its call centre hours to help obtain those services.

Reproduced from http://www.oshawaexpress.ca/viewposting.php?view=6439