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Accessibility Plan ’Investment for All‘

KAREN MCKINLEY
10/04/2009

A proposal to make all public and private buildings accessible to all disabilities is being reviewed.

The idea, being prepared under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), was up for public discussion at Confederation College on Saturday.

Groups representing persons with disabilities and individuals met to look at some of the proposal – over 225 pages of it – to give their feedback.

There are standards in place already to make access to buildings and services easier, said Ron Ross, president of Persons United for Self-Help (PUSH) Northwest.
The real concern is making the public aware of them.

“There are five standards already and one has been enacted into law, the customer services law, which is supposed to make retail and service universal for all people,” Ross said during a break in talks.

“There are many people and businesses that don‘t have all services, including different kinds of print and lower counters. There needs to be a lot more education for the public to understand this is for everyone, not just disabilities.”

Feedback in general has been positive, Ross said. Some issues have arisen like cost and preserving heritage buildings. There is a cost summary included in the proposal which he said is reasonable, ranging from a two-per cent increase to 40 per cent for retrofits and compliance to new building standards.

“We‘re concerned there may be a backlash from the public because of the retrofit costs,” Ross said. “We understand this and we are asking if this should be mandatory for all buildings, or should there be exceptions. There can be some compromise.”

PUSH Northwest treasurer Allan Buchan added he understood some groups would be uncomfortable with retrofitting older buildings as this may ruin those structures or cause them to lose heritage status, but he pointed out the many innovations already in place for persons with disabilities.

“This could replace the Ontario Building Code in many ways,” Buchan said. “There are already many changes the public is enjoying. I see a lot of people using ramps, electric doors and signage. As the population ages we are going to need these changes to make life easier for all people, it makes sense to have them.”

The talks will wrap up by Oct. 16, then suggestions will be passed on to a committee and the government. Buchan said the proposal could be enacted in as little as six months. He said he still wanted to see the proposal enacted with an option for changes to be made in a year, if needed.

While the proposal is aimed at those with disabilities, Frances Brunton said she wanted everyone to look at the proposal because it‘s for everyone.

“I‘d like to see people without disabilities at these talks so they can see what it‘s all about,” she said. “We‘re thinking about the future. As people age they may develop a disability and need better access. It‘s an investment for all of us.”

To view more information on the proposal, visit www.mcss.gov.on.ca“.

Reproduced from http://www.chroniclejournal.com/stories_local.php?id=215407