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Councillors Consider Best Way to Make Accessibility Changes in city

Nov 24, 2009 – 03:48 PM
By Kristen Calis

PICKERING — A motion to pave the way for those living with disabilities took a detour recently.

Preparing to meet new provincial rules on accommodating those with physical disabilities was on the mind of Ward 1 City Councillor Jennifer O’Connell, who wants to get a head start on the planning due to a long implementation process. Some phases of the legislation won’t be introduced until 2025. Her motion was referred back to Pickering’s accessibility advisory committee by council.

“I don’t want to wait until it’s too late and someone says ‘you didn’t take into consideration accessibility issues,'” she said in an interview following the council debate.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is currently being reviewed by an independent reviewer, Charles Beer, who is accepting input for his report, which is expected to be complete in 2010. The act was created to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025.

Coun. O’Connell’s motion requested that all future sidewalks, trails, parks and pedestrian connections in Pickering be built fully accessible, defined under the act, and where not defined, be reviewed by the committee; that they be built to a minimum width of 1.8 metres; and that the accessibility committee be invited to comment on proposed buildings and site plans.

But not all of council was impressed with the idea, especially Ward 1 Regional Councillor Bonnie Littley, council’s representative on the committee. She agreed with the motion’s sentiments, but not on its implementation. She said committees are looking at all of the standards that have been set out by the Province.

“There’s been a lot of discussion, and good discussion, on how to move accessibility forward,” she said.

She felt the motion wasn’t based on fair public process, and that it should have gone to Pickering’s accessibility committee, of which half of the members have disabilities.

Coun. O’Connell said she consulted at least one member of the committee but decided to bring the motion to council simply for direction and so other councillors could see it.

“I hope the committee looks at it,” she said. “If they can make it better, great.”

Community activist and former councillor Maurice Brenner attended the meeting to give his thoughts on the topic. He felt it’s time to start taking public comment into consideration regarding changes to the act. Although the Province has provided municipal training on customer service for those with disabilities, he feels it’s time to go deeper.

“This isn’t about customer service,” he said. “This is about the everyday things you and I take for granted.”

The committee will review the motion before it returns to council.

Reproduced from