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Jan. 1 is Deadline

September 4, 2009

PETAWAWA – The town is well positioned to meet the legal requirements of the Customer Service Standard policy as laid out in the province’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

As a public sector organization, the town must comply with the standard by Jan. 1, 2010, while private businesses, non-profit organizations and other service providers must comply by 2012.

Councillor Theresa Sabourin, chair of the Petawawa Accessibility Advisory Committee, told the finance and management committee that staff will draft a customer service policy next month. It will establish written policies, practices and procedures that respect the dignity of individuals, addresses equal opportunity and the use of assistive devices.

The town also needs to develop a policy for the provision of access for service animals and support persons, ensure there are notices posted for temporary disruptions of service that people with disabilities rely on to access goods and services and training for employees.

Coun. Sabourin noted the standards included in the act, which aims to make Ontario barrier-free before 2025, are at various stages of development and for most standards the legislative components are still forthcoming. The four categories where standards are being addressed is customer service, information and communication, employment and the built environment.

In terms of buildings, the advisory committee is seeking feedback from the town’s building department. Coun. Sabourin said they know the standards are not recommending any retrofitting of buildings, however, she doesn’t know of any specific timelines for implementation beyond customer service.

“Until we actually see the specifics and the timelines, they are looking through a lens at what is fair,” she said.

Coun. Sabourin noted that elections in the future will be affected by the act. Secure voting methods will have to be in place to allow a person with disabilities the chance to vote privately and independently. Municipal candidates would be required to provide election and candidate materials in accessible formats.

Last spring, the City of Pembroke raised questions surrounding the 2005 act which calls for the municipality to provide information and communication services if requested by a person with a disability. The city estimated it could cost between $250,000 and $750,000 to implement these customer service standards.

The town tabled supporting a resolution from the city until the advisory committee could assess the potential ramifications of provincial legislation.

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer reporter

Article ID# 1729763

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