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'Really great': City approves multi-year accessibility plan

Plan for 2023-28 'a guideline and reference tool' for improving accessibility in city
City council has approved a new multi-year accessibility plan, which was put together over the past year in consultation with the public and the accessibility advisory committee. Pictured are committee members during an advance tour of the newly renovated, fully accessible council chamber.

With hopes to make Orillia a more accessible place for all residents, city politicians have approved a multi-year accessibility plan.

Put together over the past year in consultation with the public and the accessibility advisory committee, the plan is meant to guide city efforts for 2023 to 2028 in removing a variety of barriers from public spaces and facilities.

Beyond focusing on the physical accessibility of public spaces and facilities, the plan aims to improve accessibility in numerous ways by considering the following types of barriers:

  • Environmental barriers, including spaces that restrict or impede physical access, such as doorways too narrow for a motorized scooter;
  • Communication barriers, including issues with processing, transmitting or interpreting information, such as print on that is too small to read, or documents not available in alternative formats;
  • “Attitudinal” assumptions that directly or indirectly discriminate, such as assuming all visually impaired people can read braille;
  • Technological barriers, such as a website without text size options;
  • Systemic barriers, including policy- or procedure-based barriers to accessibility, such as requiring a driver’s licence for an office position, which may prohibit people with visual impairments from applying.

The aim is to give all people — whether they suffer from deafness or hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health disabilities, or vision loss — accessible public spaces and facilities to use.

The plan was created with provincial accessibility requirements in mind, as set out in the  Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

It was approved by city council Monday.

“The multi-year accessibility plan is specifically required for municipalities with a population greater than 10,000 people, and is required to be updated every five years,” said Robin Cadeau, assistant clerk and city staff support for the accessibility advisory committee.

“It is used as a guideline and reference tool when considering and developing municipal services, facilities and other medical amenities for city residents and visitors alike. It’s reviewed and updated annually and the accessibility advisory committee hosts an annual public meeting to review staff-generated updates to the plan.”

Cadeau said the public meeting also provides an opportunity for residents to weigh in on the design of public spaces, such as trails and paths of travel, accessible parking and transit, outdoor amenities, and accessibility in obtaining city services.

The plan outlines numerous efforts taken by the city to increase accessibility in its spaces and services, including the installation of accessible playgrounds in many city parks, accessible washrooms in the Orillia City Centre and other municipal facilities, accessibility ramps and automatic doors, and audible pedestrian signals.

It also outlines efforts that are underway, such as annual resurfacing of the city’s paved trail network, plans to build additional accessible playgrounds, and more.

At the committee’s Nov. 27 public meeting, during which the draft plan was discussed, residents gave feedback on potential accessibility improvements for the city to consider, such as including additional accessible parking spaces downtown.

Coun. Jeff Czetwerzuk, who sits on the committee, thanked councillors and members of the public who participated in the process, as well as city staff for providing the committee with a tour of the new council chamber during the public meeting.

“The committee did a really great job on the on the plan and they worked really hard,” he said.

“Our preview of the council chamber was very great, because we had some folks with accessibility needs who were able to navigate through and bring forth potential challenges. We had a few things pointed out, so I think it’s really great we got a preview and (were) able to get in here early and get those things figured out.”

The full plan may be found in Monday’s regular council agenda.


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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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