This post is written by guest blogger Accessibility Advisory Coordinator Steve Murphy.
Ramp It Up!
Since 2005, the Province of Ontario (Canada’s largest), has been working to comply with the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005). The goal of this legislation is to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025 in the areas of customer service, transportation, employment, information and communication, and the built environment.
The legislation applies to government and to private business with a staggered compliance timeline. The Provincial government will lead, followed by upper and lower tier municipal governments and finally the private sector. This phased-in approach allows for a sharing of resources and expertise to mitigate challenges and promote successful compliance at all levels.
As a public servant working in this particular field for over a decade, I can attest to the fact that there is still a lack of awareness about the need and value of providing accommodations to those with a disability. There is a plenty of road ahead to the place where all members of our communities are able to participate in the activities around them with as much independence as possible. My role with the Regional Municipality of Niagara, is to ensure the organization meets its compliance obligations and to promote accessibility across Niagara, which is home to about 430,000 residents.
In Niagara, there are numerous cities and towns with downtowns characterized by older buildings and steps, lots and lots of steps.
To address this challenge, I made a series of presentations to local Chambers of Commerce pointing out that many of their storefronts were inaccessible to persons with disabilities. I also asked for their help in supporting a community project called “Ramp It Up” to make their storefronts accessible.
Assisting me in this effort were two fourth-year nursing students from our local university. Their program requires students to work on a community-based project. We also met with the principal and construction teacher at a local high school who were more than willing to have their students build portable ramps for the stores in their community. We suggested they could paint them as the community saw fit with catchy logos, school crest, etc.
A local lumber store donated lumber, hardware and paint for these ramps. In the end we achieved more than just ramps. We created awareness of an important issue and brought a community together in support of a shared goal. Together, business leaders and local merchants, educators, high school and university students completed a project to benefit their community, an achievement chronicled by local media.
To date we have introduced the “Ramp It Up” project to four communities in Niagara. We have been welcomed by high schools, merchants, our university and other community supporters. People are talking about the ramps, students are showing their family members what they did in school, and neighboring communities are asking to participate in the next initiative – solid indicators success.
Accessibility Advisory Coordinator
905 685 4225 ex 3252