Town seeking input on accessibility issues

Duane Hicks

In accordance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA), the Town of Fort Frances is updating its annual accessibility plan and wants public input to identify barriers within municipal facilities, premises, and services that may prevent a person from participating or accessing their services or information.
Humans Resources manager Christine Ruppenstein said this week that the town has just put out an accessibility questionnaire, and is encouraging residents to offer their observations if they’ve encountered barriers of any sort.
“It’s best to get the information from the people that use the services, that require the services,” she noted. “We want everybody to be inclusive; that’s the intention—inclusivity for everybody to be able to utilize any services we provide.
“If we offer services that people aren’t able to access, we want to be able to work towards removing those barriers for members of the public.”
Ruppenstein explained that “barriers” refer not only to
physical or architectural ones, but those with regards to information, communication, attitudes, technology, policies, or practices.
“A lot of people think of wheelchair ramps and power doors, but there’s other components,” she stressed.
Ruppenstein said everyone is welcome to provide input, not just those who have disabilities.
“There’s a lot of caregivers out there that will assist people in accessing our services,” she noted. “Those caregivers probably have a lot of information.
“Parents, guardians, family members, employees that have had to provide a service for people—we encourage them to fill [the questionnaire] out.”
Ruppenstein reiterated the public’s input is important, and that the information received will be considered when updating the town’s accessibility plan, which can be found at the town’s website at
The last accessibility survey was conducted in 2005, with Ruppenstein noting some of the prevalent barriers identified in it have been, or currently are being, addressed.
For example, accessibility issues at the Fort Frances Museum were identified in the 2005 plan and these were addressed during the extensive renovations there in 2007.
Likewise, improved accessibility was a significant reason behind building the new Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre, as opposed to upgrading the old building, and as such plays a major part in the facility’s plans.
Ruppenstein said updating the accessibility plan involves looking at what has been done since the 2005 plan, especially in light of any new regulations that have come into effect since then, as well as any additional barriers that have been identified since then, including ones provided by the public via the questionnaire.
“When it’s in our plan, we can make a conscious effort to work toward alleviating those barriers,” she explained.
The town’s accessibility working group is hoping to have a draft version of the updated plan ready by late November or early December, at which time it will be presented to the public for input and feedback before it is finalized in the new year, added Ruppenstein.
The questionnaire is available at, as well as at the Civic Centre, Fort Frances Public Library, and Memorial Sports Centre.
Ruppenstein even can fax one to you if you call her at 274-5323.
The deadline to complete and return the questionnaire is Friday, Oct. 23 at 4:30 p.m.
For further information, or alternate questionnaire formats, contact Ruppenstein at 274-5323 or via e-mail at