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County Waste Carts Raise Accessibility Questions for Local Committee

Collingwood resident Kathryn Bloomfield was born with spina bifida, and is confined to a wheelchair.

With the roll out of the new County of Simcoe automated waste collection system which started the week of Nov. 1, many resident concerns that vary in scope have been brought to the forefront about the choice to use a one-size-fits-all approach.

While county council voted last month to move toward offering alternate cart size options starting in January which may help many when it comes to accessibility concerns, Bloomfield said she had hoped that with a new system, the county might have considered an approach that could have included accessibility accommodations.

Through the Independent Living Centre, Bloomfield receives funding to hire an attendant to help her at home six days a week, about two hours per day.

“My problem is, you can’t put (the bins) out until after 7 p.m., and I don’t have anyone here in the evenings. By the time she gets here in the morning, sometimes it’s already been picked up,” said Bloomfield. “I thought about asking my neighbours. It crossed my mind that maybe there’s another way.”

While she said she has always had difficulty getting her garbage and recycling to the street every week, she hoped that a change to a new system might also mean a change in thinking.

Bloomfield also serves as vice-chair of Collingwood’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. During the committee’s Nov. 18 meeting, some members said they found the new bins easier to move than previous options. Others asked questions about how many people in Collingwood might be wheelchair-bound and may be experiencing similar issues to Bloomfield with getting the bins to the street.

“I don’t know what that number would be, but maybe we could have houses that are flagged so the garbage collectors could roll empty bins back to the person’s front door?” asked committee member Robyn Sheldon. “I don’t know what the feasibility of that is, or where you draw the line.”

“The whole point of the AODA is to move things forward, and if we’re making a change in the system, maybe we can make a change (to improve) accessibility,” she said.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) aims to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. The AODA became law on June 13, 2005 and applies to all levels of government, non-profits, and private-sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees.

Under the AODA, the government is responsible for creating accessibility standards that organizations must follow, with the ultimate goal being to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive by 2025.

The committee had planned to send a letter to the County of Simcoe raising accessibility concerns with the new automated waste carts, but decided during the meeting to instead gather more information on the new cart sizes and decide at their February meeting whether they still wanted to send a letter.

“There are pros and there are cons, as there are with most things,” Vanessa MacDonald, chair of the committee, told “There is no one fix or cure-all,” she said.

MacDonald said some accessibility concerns with the bins include the size such as height and weight and manoeuvrability. Overall, MacDonald said she is hopeful that the county’s pivot to allow cart size swaps will help the situation.

“If they’re smaller, that will help some. I think it’s important that they’re open to discussion,” she said.

The county moved to its new automated cart system Nov. 1 a move that sparked a flood of concerns from residents about the size of the bins.

On Oct. 26 during a council workshop on the matter, county council pivoted on their one-size-fits-all sizing position, voting in favour of allowing residents to swap their existing carts for smaller sizes by request. County staff estimate the requests for swaps would begin in January 2022, with the actual swaps starting to take place mid-February 2022.

During the day-long workshop, some councillors raised concerns about the accessibility of the new carts.

“When it comes to the design of the carts, I tried using one while sitting in a wheelchair, and I think the main issue may not be the actual size of the cart, but is actually that some residents may not be able to push the cart,” said Adjala-Tosoronto Mayor Floyd Pinto. “The cart has to be tilted to move it. Would it be an option for the manufacturer to put four wheels on the cart?”

Tiny Township Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma suggested referring the matter to the county’s accessibility advisory committee as well as lower-tier accessibility advisory committees to seek different ideas on how the system could be improved.

“The carts are easier to move than they look, but to Coun. Pinto’s point, from a wheelchair perspective, I’m not sure. Perhaps it may be as easy as designing an add-on,” said Walma.

Rob McCullough, director of solid waste management with the County of Simcoe, said that some municipal waste programs offer special accommodations to support those with accessibility requirements, while many jurisdictions do not due to the uniform nature and contractual obligations of their programs.

“In our previous manual collection system, the county did not provide individualized services,” he said.

McCullough said the ergonomic handles and wheels on the new carts are senior- and disability-friendly.

“We also anticipate that once the exchange program launches, that a cart with reduced capacity may also further support residents in rolling their carts. As well, carts can be left roadside as an alternative option, and residents can carry smaller materials or bags to the carts each week,” said McCullough.

As the automated cart collection program matures, McCullough said the county will be monitoring all input received.

“Equal accessibility for all is extremely important to the county,” he said. “We’re always working to identify opportunities to enhance our services and support residents.”

For more details on the cart program visit the link below. .

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