Sunday, July 21, 2024

Meaford Becoming More Accessible

Stephen Vance, Staff

accessiblesign270At their final meeting of the year on December 14, Meaford councillors were given an update on the various accessibility initiatives that have taken place throughout the municipality in recent months.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law on June 13, 2005. The province developed mandatory accessibility standards in order to identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. The ambitious goal of the legislation is to make the Province of Ontario fully accessible for all people with disabilities by the year 2025.

The AODA is comprised of five parts, or Standards, including Customer Service, Information and Communications, Employment, Transportation, and the Design of Public Spaces. Deadlines for compliance range from January 1, 2010 into 2021. The Accessible Customer Service Standard was the first standard to come into effect and all of Ontario’s nonprofits and businesses were to be compliant as of January 1, 2012,” staff told council in a report.

Earlier this year, the municipality established a five member Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC). In compliance with the AODA, the membership on that committee includes three with disabilities.

The AAC advises the Municipality of Meaford Council and staff members on ways to identify, prevent, and remove barriers for persons with disabilities with regards to municipal services, programs and facilities,” council was told.

mary solomon awardMary Solomon, a member of the new committee was presented with a special award by Mayor Barb Clumpus at the December 14 meeting in recognition of her many years of championing accessibility initiatives.

“On June 13, 2015 the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) celebrated 10 years as legislation. The Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO), with the support of the Government of Ontario, recognized individuals who demonstrate leadership in accessibility and disability issues through the new AODA 10th Anniversary Champion Award. Mary Solomon, a member of the Municipality of Meaford’s Accessibility Advisory Committee was chosen as the recipient for this award, being recognized for her outstanding demonstration of leadership in accessibility, disability issues, passion, and commitment in the promotion and awareness of accessibility and inclusiveness in our community,” council was told.

Among the many accessibility initiatives that have taken place in recent months are a “StopGap” ramp project, and reviews of municipal facilities that have resulted in several improvements to accessibility.

At its June 3, 2015 meeting, the Accessibility Advisory Committee recommended that the StopGap Ramp Project be supported by Council as a way to address accessibility issues in the downtown business district and to encourage business owners over time to improve accessibility to their buildings. The StopGap project was initiated and implemented in other municipalities including Stouffville, Orillia, Toronto, Cranbrook, Mt.Pleasant, Stratford, and others,” staff told council in their report.

The AAC has held their meetings at a variety of facilities throughout the municipality.

At each location the AAC used a template provided in the Provincial Government publication, AccessON, which enables discussion on approach/entrance, access to goods, services, programs and facilities, usability of restrooms, and additional access,” reported staff.

The following locations were included in 2015 for facility reviews:

  • Meaford Public Library

  • Meaford Museum

  • Harbor/harbor house

  • Sydenham Depot

  • Bognor Hall

  • Woodford Hall

  • Riverside Hall

  • Meaford & St. Vincent Community Centre & Arena

  • Council Chambers

Reviews of those facilities have resulted in a host of improvements made in order to improve accessibility including:

Bognor Hall

  • Entrance ramp constructed and door opening assists Sydenham Depot

  • Capital project to provide service to the west part of the Municipality

  • Automatic entrance openers, accessible unisex washroom, accessible reception counter, sidewalk upgrades with construction underway during the writing of this report

Council Chambers

  • Reconfigure the Council Chambers, improving paths of travel and removing trip hazards

  • Replacement of the presentation and audio system including addition of hearing assist devices

  • Door opening assists

  • Webcasting equipment installed

Memorial Park

  • Improved beach access

Meaford Hall

  • Accessible ramp from the terrace to the parking lot

  • Accessible coat rack installed for patrons

Municipal Office

  • Reorganized front reception area to include a larger accessible counter

Municipal Website Changes

  • Image slider on the homepage with pause/play button

  • Improved site navigation with logical ordering and user-friendly, plain language headings

  • Enforced proper use of headings in page content

  • Improved link text, avoiding “click here” style writing

  • Colour contrast revised to meet accessibility guidelines

  • Contact information added to the bottom of many service-oriented pages to keep people from reaching information “dead ends”

  • Alt text added to images where necessary

  • Improved use of top and side menus improve navigation, used consistently throughout the site

Future projects will include the launch of an Accessible Facilities Map that will be available on the municipal website and will identify the locations facilities throughout the municipality with accessible washrooms, parking lots, and even automatic door openers.

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