Building accessible environments fit to accommodate all people is now, not just a priority, but a responsibility. To meet the needs of people with disabilities and the demands of a largely ageing population, the Canadian government realizes the importance of coming up with measures or standards to support taxpaying citizens.
In lieu of this understanding, the province of Ontario is taking action.
Ontario’s upcoming Accessibility Standards launching in January 2012 will help transform the province in the areas of communications, employment and transportation.
Canada’s Minister of Community and Social Services, Madeleine Meilleur, stated that “with these next standards in place, more people with disabilities will be able do the things that many of us take for granted, like playing in a park, dining in a restaurant, catching a bus and applying for a job.” In further reference to the new Accessibility Standards she suggested, “They will level the playing field and make Ontario a model for accessibility – not only here in Canada but around the world.”
The Accessibility Standards will mainly help in three major areas. Let’s explore them one by one:
1. The Accessibility Standard for Information and Communications
Information and Communications will assist people with disabilities and help them gain access to sources of information that many of us use on a daily basis and take for granted like text books, online web pages, public libraries and more.
Here are some key pointers on what it aims to achieve:
- Helping the visually impaired to access the online world with the help of computer screen readers
- Public libraries will be equipped to house a large variety of print and digital collections
- Providing students with easily accessible formats of learning resources and course information
Six years ago Ontario had already come out with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Currently the province has 4 out of 5 standards in place already. With this, it moves a step closer to its vision of being completely accessible by the year 2025.
2. The Accessibility Standard for Employment
Rules for Ontario employers will include offering disabled employees, if they really need it, information pertaining especially to them to use in case a crises situation arises.
The Accessibility Standard for Employment will make accessibility a part of human resources in organizations to encourage the procuring, hiring and communication process with employees with disabilities. The standard’s main aim will be to facilitate companies to support and retain capable and skilled employees.
3. The Accessibility Standard for Transportation
The main focus of The Accessibility Standard for Transportation is simply making all provincial transportation services accessible to everyone. The standard covers all forms of transportation including subways, buses, trains, taxis, streetcars, ferries and even public school buses.
Some of the areas it aims to reform are equal fares for all, courtesy seating and announcements before boarding and on-board public transport vehicles.
Here are some changes that will be phased over time:
- Vocal pre-boarding and onboard announcements to alert passengers for major stops, direction, destination and more
- Dissolving any extra charges for people with disabilities to bring aboard their wheelchairs, walkers etc.
- Making the repair of accessibility equipment top priority and being cooperative towards people with disabilities until everything is repaired.
To conclude, accessibility will benefit everyone. Providing self-sufficient travel, universally designed facilities and dedicated staff will give all people the opportunity to visit more places leading to increased business and job opportunities, in turn bringing in more tax revenue.
Making accessibility an integral part of life in Canada, says a lot about a country that values and respects all of its citizens. It’s just another reason for a proud Canadians like us to say, “Go Canada, Go!”