Council approves multi-year plan for accessibility

(Gazette file photo)

Council approved a four-year Accessibility Plan on Tuesday.

The plan identifies specific requirements for Prince Edward County and includes steps that have been taken and will be undertaken between 2017 and 2021 to ensure compliance with the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulations (IASR).

A report presented to council on Tuesday indicates the County was advised by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario that they were undertaking a file review of the municipal accessibility plan. The directorate recommended the County review, update, and incorporate additional standards into the plan in order to assist in completing the municipality’s annual reporting, which is due Dec. 29.

The County must meet requirements under the IASR, which came into effect in July 2011. Those include establishing, implementing, and maintaining a multi-year accessibility plan that outlines the municipality’s strategy to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility. The County must post the plan on its website, review and update the plan, and prepare an annual status report.

The staff report says it’s expected there will be additional costs associated with incorporating the requirements of the Accessibility Plan into various activities and capital works, but those haven’t yet been assessed.

The plan highlights the various ways the municipality considers accessibility when it comes to things like customer service, communications, employment, and training. It also outlines how accessibility is contemplated in the design of public spaces such as trails, outdoor play areas, service counters and waiting areas.

Many of the municipal requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act are currently in practice at the County. Some, such as ensuring all internet and web content include live captioning and audio description, are expected to be in place by 2021.

There wasn’t any discussion from council on the plan and it was quickly approved. Subsequently, councillor Steve Graham indicated he had a question on the issue and expressed concern with how the approval was handled.

“I would’ve liked to ask a question about accessibility and how important it is with our community,” he said.

He said he would have liked more information before approving the four-year plan.

“We just approved it just like that, nobody asked a question and it’s a massive deal to a lot of people,” he said. “What are we doing? We don’t hear reports from accessibility ever, never.”

Graham said he would like a better overview of the plan at a future meeting.

Mayor Robert Quaiff advised Graham that he could make such a request for a future committee-of-the-whole meeting and offered that the full plan was included on Tuesday’s agenda.