Date Posted: December 02, 2009
WATERLOO REGION – On the eve of the International Day of People with Disabilities, the Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo announce new policies that position them to provide even better access to goods and services for residents with disabilities.
Some existing practices have been formalized, and policies consolidated as both cities adopt new accessibility standards for customer service policies. The policies comply with the customer service legislation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), passed in 2005 and are part of the cities’ commitments to providing goods and services that are accessible to all.
“We’re building on programs and services that we already provide to meet the customer service legislation,” said Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr. “We’re making accessibility and inclusion part of the fabric of our daily interaction with the public.”
Adds Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran, “Our goal is to ensure this community is a place where all people, regardless of their ability, can fully enjoy everything our city has to offer. Ensuring that our facilities are accessible and that our programming meets the needs of all citizens is important to sustaining a vibrant society.”
Customer service standards
The AODA legislation puts in place standards for customer service for municipalities, which apply to all employees, volunteers, agents and other third parties who deal with members of the public on behalf of either city.
The standard sets out requirements with regards to customer service training, receiving and responding to feedback and service disruption announcements.
The standards also include guidelines on service animals that the cities addressed through amendments to their existing policies on animals in public facilities to include all service animals, as it is no longer just dogs being used by individuals with disabilities.
Both Kitchener and Waterloo already exceed the requirements relating to support persons with the existing personal attendant for leisure (PAL) program. This program allows a person with a disability to participate in City of Kitchener and City of Waterloo programs and services accompanied by a support person. The support person can attend at no charge, if they are assisting a person with a disability to use the programs and services.
The customer service legislation includes provisions for persons with disabilities to be allowed to use their own assistive devices to access goods and/or services. Assistive devices are also available at city facilities. A detailed list and information on how to use those devices will be available on the cities’ websites or from the facility where the device is located.
Residents should be aware that they have the right to ask for alternate formats for any public documents or accommodations that will allow them to participate in public programs and processes. Sign language interpreters for meetings, accessible locations for public meetings and large print documents are all examples of ways residents can get involved in public programs and processes. Other accommodations and formats are available upon request as well.
The AODA was established to ensure that people with disabilities have the same kind of opportunities as everyone else. The act set in place accessibility standards in five important areas: customer service, transportation, information and communications, built environment and employment. A committee was struck to develop each standard and once each piece of the legislation is passed, timelines for compliance will be set. Municipalities must be in compliance with the customer service standard by January 1, 2010.
For more information:
Manager, Corporate Communications
City of Kitchener
Manager, Corporate Communications
City of Waterloo