New accessibility committee needs more members

A new accessibility committee being formed by the town needs members to help identify and remove barriers faced by handicapped citizens.
“We’re trying to get people on a committee. We have a couple people interested, but we need more,” municipal planner Faye Flatt said this morning.
Flatt, part of the current working committee comprised of Community Services manager George Bell, Superintendent of Works (Facilities) Bruce Spottiswood, and Clerk Glenn Treftlin, noted the accessibility committee must have five citizens on it, as mandated by council, which passed a bylaw to form such a committee back in January.
These citizens, who are to be persons with disabilities as defined in the Human Rights Code, will serve three-year terms. They will be joined by the current members of the working committee mentioned above.
Flatt cited an example of what such a committee will address.
“One of the areas I would be involved in is site plan agreements. Any new plans would have to comply to standards for handicap access, as determined by the committee,” she noted.
“For instance, for every 28 sq. metres of retail [floor] space, you need one parking space. But there’s currently no pro-ratio saying for every 10 parking spaces, one must be designated for handicap parking.
“This is something the committee would have to determine,” added Flatt.
The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 (ODA) is to improve opportunities for people with disabilities and to provide for their involvement in the identification, removal, and prevention of barriers to their full participation in the life of the province.
To this end, the ODA mandates that each Ontario municipality prepare an annual accessibility plan.
“But it’s interesting that the Town of Fort Frances isn’t even required to have a committee like this,” noted Flatt. “The ODA says all municipalities have to have a plan, but only communities with a population of 10,000 or more have to have a committee.
“[Our] council chose to be pro-active,” she added, noting she recently attended a conference in Sault Ste. Marie where she was surprised to discover Fort Frances was the only small municipality to form a committee for this purpose.
The working committee recently completed an annual accessibility plan, which was approved by council last week. Similar plans will be an annual responsibility of the accessibility committee.
This report identifies what the town has done in the past year to remove barriers and what it needs to address in the near future.
According to the report, the only municipal building with significant accessibility concerns is the public library, but this is a prominent factor in the feasibility study being conducted to determine whether the overcrowded structure should be reconstructed or rebuilt.
Other specific barrier-removal for the near future includes:
•providing a section of counter at a lower height at the Civic Centre and the OPP detachment;
•installing an automatic door and renovating a bathroom at the Children’s Complex;
•increasing the availability of transportation programs; and
•enhancing public awareness regarding the availability of these programs.
The most wide-scale barrier-removal Fort Frances recently conducted was the installation of 49 curb drops on sidewalks throughout the town this summer, bringing the total to 139.
Curb drops are routinely installed when sidewalks are reconstructed.
The full plan is available at the Civic Centre and public library, as well as on the town’s Web site at www.fort-frances.com
To volunteer for the accessibility committee, contact Bell at 274-5323 ext. 214 or via e-mail at gbell@fort-frances.com