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City ready for new accessibility standard

December 31, 2009

The City of Belleville is fully prepared for Ontario’s first accessibility standard when it comes into force Friday, says the chairman of the accessibility committee.

Coun. Garnet Thompson said municipal employees have been properly trained to accommodate the implementation of the standard — for customer service — which all public sector organization’s must be in compliance with.

Hospitals, schools, municipalities and other public sector organizations must make sure their services are accessible by meeting requirements such as training staff about meeting needs, communicating with individuals in a manner that takes into account their disability and permitting customers to bring their service animals such as guide dogs.

“All the obligations for customer service have been met,” Thompson said. “The human resources department has looked after that and in the library, the Ontario Library Association contracted it out and we had a half-day training for all staff at the library.”

Thompson said the customer service standard’s main focus is ensuring staff understand individuals with disabilities simply want the same services every citizen receives. Public sector organizations are obligated to provide that, he said.

“Customer service focuses on a lot of different areas and we’ll be looking at all of them,” Thompson said. “As of Jan. 1, it was mandated we have this in place and as the years go on there’s more and more we’re going to have to do.”

The customer service standard is one part of the provincial plan to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. That means, said Belleville’s manager of human resources John Martin, that there will be further work in the coming years.

“We’ve developed a policy in the city that will likely be approved soon and we’ve had a look at all of our buildings to see what services we have such as wheelchair lifts, accessible doorways, accessible washrooms and that sort of thing,” Martin said.

That inventory of what is currently in place and what will need to be changed will serve the city well over the next 15 years, he said, as more standards are implemented.

With the 2025 goal approaching all municipalities and public sector organizations will be making changes, he said.

“There’s going to be retrofitting of buildings over the next 15 years, there are new build standards coming in for construction…. There’s quite a few things coming in as part of this program,” Martin said.

Article ID# 2242494

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