ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

Sign Up for AODA Alliance Updates by writing: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Learn more at: www.aodaalliance.org
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

The Wave of Action on Disability Accessibility Gradually Spreads Across Canada But Still Lots To Do to Get All Governments to Take Needed Action

June 29, 2015

Summary

What is happening across Canada on the accessibility front for people with disabilities? That is the focus of our last AODA Alliance Update before a summer break.

In this Update, we take a quick trip to see what is going on across Canada on the accessibility agenda.

Decades ago, each province as well as the federal government passed human rights laws that ban disability discrimination. As well, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes it unconstitutional for any government or any law to discriminate because of a physical or mental disability. Under these laws, people with disabilities must individually fight barriers, one at a time, by fighting their own human rights complaint or Charter constitutional case against each barrier.

It is widely recognized that while human rights legislation is helpful, it alone will not ensure that our society becomes fully accessible for people with disabilities. As for pro-active measures to remove and prevent disability barriers, here’s a quick tour across Canada:

1. Ontario

Ontario was Canada’s first province to enact a comprehensive disability accessibility law. A weak, unenforceable Ontarians with Disabilities Act was enacted in 2001 by the Conservative Government under Premier Mike Harris. Four years later, a stronger, enforceable Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was enacted in 2005 by Ontario’s Liberal Government under Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. An Independent Review appointed by the Government confirmed last fall that Ontario is behind schedule for reaching that goal. Even the Government has acknowledged that its implementation of the AODA has flagged in recent years, and needs to be revitalized.

We continue to emphasize the importance of everyone reaching out to their local Ontario MPP, and pressing them to urge accelerated efforts at getting Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. While the Government announced some helpful measures earlier this month, these are far less than what Ontario needs to get back on schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025.

To support our effort, it is important for AODA Alliance supporters around Ontario to keep taking examples of unfair barriers they face to the local media. This helps keep the pressure on the Government of Ontario to speed up its work on disability accessibility.

The upcoming Pan/ParaPan American Games provide a great opportunity for this. The Wynne Government has made huge claims about accessibility in connection with the Games. On June 28, 2015, Michael Coteau, the Ontario minister responsible for the Games, tweeted on Twitter:40 Days until the #TO2015 Parapan Am Games! The most #accessible multi-sport Games in history...” Yet we have revealed that the Government has not done anything to get local restaurants, stores and other tourism/hospitality providers to actually increase their accessibility to customers with disabilities in the lead-up to the Games.

If you encounter any accessibility barriers that tourists and para-athletes with disabilities would face when trying to enjoy what southern Ontario has to offer tourists, photograph or video-record them. Post them on social media. Send them to your local media. Urge them to cover these barriers. Encourage them to approach the AODA Alliance for background on the campaign for accessibility in Ontario.    

Some of our priorities in the upcoming weeks will include:

* getting the Government to enact strong and effective amendments to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard to substantially strengthen it. The recommendations of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, delivered to the Government in the fall of 2014, are far too weak. In some cases, they would actually would make things worse and violate promises on accessibility that the Government has made to us.

* getting the Government to get to work on developing the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. The Government announced back on February 13, 2015 that it would develop this new accessibility standard. However, we’ve seen no meaningful action since then. It has claimed to be doing background research on this topic for months and months.

* getting the Government to agree to develop other needed new accessibility standards, including ones to address barriers in education and in residential housing, and to address the retrofitting of existing buildings that are not being renovated.

* getting the Government to start now to strengthen its enforcement of the AODA. We cannot wait for 2016 to see its weakened enforcement restored and improved.

* getting the Government to far more effectively and accountably embed accessibility in the daily work of the Ontario Public Service, with proper leadership within that organization, so that it can begin to lead Ontario by a good example on accessibility.

* getting the Government to take far more action to remove accessibility barriers in Ontario legislation and regulations. Premier Dalton McGuinty promised this review as far back as September 2007. Progress to date has been painfully slow and paltry. We know of no legislative accessibility barriers that have been fixed during the eight years since the Government made this pledge to us.

2. The Federal Government

Canada has no national disability legislation, and no comprehensive action plan that will ensure that Canada becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities. In 2007, the Government of Canada under Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to enact a national Disabilities Act. However, no bill has been enacted or even introduced into Parliament. We are unaware of any major public consultation on what to include in a national disabilities law.

As we announced earlier this year, a national community coalition, Barrier-Free Canada, has formed to advocate for a Canadians with Disabilities Act. On January 26, 2015, it wrote the major party leaders seeking a commitment to create a Canadians with Disabilities Act. In the run-up to this October’s hotly-contested federal election, no federal party has made an election pledge so far to enact a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

We encourage you to sign up with Barrier-Free Canada. It’s free. Send an email simply stating that you support its call for a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Send your email to info@barrierfreecanada.org

For More on Barrier-Free Canada, visit its website at www.barrierfreecanada.org

Follow Barrier-Free Canada on Twitter @barrierFreeCa

3. Manitoba

In 2013, Manitoba became the second Canadian province to enact a disability accessibility law. The fantastic community advocacy coalition, Barrier-Free Manitoba, did a superb job for over five years, spearheading the campaign that led to the enactment of that legislation.

Now, Barrier-Free Manitoba continues its work, advocating for the effective implementation of that legislation. In two recent email updates from Barrier-Free Manitoba which we set out below, Barrier-Free Manitoba reported on the Manitoba Government’s plans to develop a Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and its decision to have the Manitoba Public Service lead in efforts aimed at becoming accessible to people with disabilities.

For several years, we have shared ideas, strategies and feedback between the AODA Alliance in Ontario, and Barrier-Free Manitoba. You can learn more about the work of Barrier-free Manitoba, and sign up for their email updates, by visiting http://barrierfreemb.com/

4. Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia, elected in 2013, promised to develop new provincial accessibility legislation. It now intends to bring forward a bill for the Nova Scotia Legislature to consider in 2016.

The Nova Scotia Government appointed a committee to make recommendations on what its accessibility law should include. That committee has reported. It drew on Ontario’s experience, among others, in formulating its recommendations. It is noteworthy that among other things, these recommendations called for action to focus on barriers in several important areas including, among others, education. We urge the Ontario Government to get that message.

Below we set out the Nova Scotia Government’s most recent announcement about this. We also set out the executive summary of the final report of the committee which the Nova Scotia Government appointed to make recommendations on what the new accessibility legislation should include.

5. British Columbia

In 2014, the BC Government announced a strategy to improve accessibility in that province by 2024. Among other things, BC is considering whether to develop accessibility legislation.

Below we set out the B.C. Government’s announcement on its website of its action plan leading to 2024.

6. Saskatchewan and Newfoundland

Earlier this month, the Saskatchewan and Newfoundland Governments each announced a new strategy or action plan on disability accessibility. We set out below a news article about the Newfoundland announcement and an announcement on the Newfoundland Government’s website. We also set out a news article about the Saskatchewan announcement.

From what we see, these include potentially helpful limited measures on accessibility. However they appear to include no commitment to develop accessibility legislation. In our experience, these kinds of non-legislated action plans, while helpful, are neither permanent nor enforceable. They are no substitute for strong, effective, enforceable mandatory accessibility legislation.

This will be the last AODA Alliance Update for a few weeks. We hope all enjoy a great summer.

The Ontario Government only has 9 years, 6 months and 1 day left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.

Please "like" our Facebook page and share our updates.

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting
http://www.aodaalliance.org

MORE DETAILS

1. May 21, 2015 Update from Barrier-Free Manitoba

On May 19, 2015, the Honourable Kerri Irvin-Ross, Minister responsible for persons with disabilities and the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA), released the first annual implementation plan (attached) as required under the AMA.

The implementation plan sets out six strategic priorities and the actions that Government will take on these by March 31, 2016.

Are we pleased with the plan?

We think that is it is a pretty good start - far from perfect but definite proof that the Minister and the Government are serious about this landmark legislation.

The positive highlights for us include:

These are all absolutely essential for the Government to achieve the AMA's legislated mandate to have made significant progress toward full accessibility by 2023.

There are two limitations. One is the delay in requiring accessibility plans by small public sector organizations. The deadline for these is now 2017. This is one year later than we had originally expected. The delay might actually be necessary but only because the Government left it so long to start work on this requirement.

The second limitation, a much more serious one, is the lack of any clear commitment to more effectively resource the Disability Issues Office (DIO) and the Accessibility Advisory Council. These two bodies have critical roles to play in the implementation of the AMA and don't seem to have the resources needed to take on the development of the promised standard in the areas of transportation, information and communication and the built environment until after March 31, 2016.

Ontario's version of the DIO had 33 staff persons at the beginning of that province's implementation process. In contrast, the DIO has a staff complement of only around 7 full time staff. So while Ontario was able to work on five standards concurrently, Manitoba only has the resources to manage one standard at a time. And as it is now taking more than 12 months to develop a standard from start to finish, it might be five more years before the first set of accessibility standards is in place.

We think that the standard development process needs to be sped up. This will require additional resources. Sadly, the first annual implementation plan does not speak to this issue.

So good work on your first implementation plan honourable Minister. Now the challenge will be to complete the work set out in the plan and to secure the additional resources needed to make faster progress.

As a final note, we’ve heard that the Customer Service Accessibility Standard might be made into regulation before the end of the summer. That’s very good news. Of course, we will be watching to see if the Minister has acted on our recommendations for needed improvements.

Thank you as always for your interest and support. We’ll be keeping you in the loop regarding future developments.

2. June 4, 2015 Update from Barrier-Free Manitoba

We are pleased to pass on another good news story to end the week. 

It’s about the requirement for public sector bodies to develop Accessibility Plans, an important but lesser known part of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). The plans are meant to promote a focus on increasing accessibility among the public sector bodies that goes well beyond mere compliance with the standards. 

All government of Manitoba departments and large public sector bodies are required to have developed Accessibility Plans by 2016. This includes government departments, Crown corporations, regional health organizations, colleges, school divisions and cities of more than 10,000.

Smaller public sector bodies and government agencies will also have to create Accessibility Plans but these won't be required until 2017.

Each of these plans must be made in consultation with the disability community and must incorporate the following:

The plans must be made public and must also be reviewed and renewed every two years.

The Disability Issues Office has just released a guide to help public sector organizations develop Accessibility Plans. The guide, for the time being, is only available as a PDF (attached).

As they say, a goal without a plan is just a wish. While these plans won't make full accessibility a reality by themselves, they are another important tool in reaching this goal.

This is just another reason why we all worked so hard to secure passage of the AMA. It is also one of the reasons why we continue to work to ensure that the act is implemented promptly and effectively. 

3. Government of Nova Scotia News Release

Originally posted at: http://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20150603002

Government Releases Report on Accessibility Legislation
Department of Community Services
June 3, 2015 11:38 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Government released a panel report today, June 3, on accessibility legislation for Nova Scotia. The report provides government with direction and recommendations on what the legislation should contain to make Nova Scotia accessible to all.

A panel of 22 people from community and government organizations, assisted by volunteer subcommittees, developed the report. Nova Scotians also had the opportunity to provide ideas and feedback through 11 consultation sessions that were held across the province last year.

"Being a part of this panel has been the highlight of my 36 years of advocacy work," said panel member Marcie Shwery-Stanley. "As a person with a disability, I look forward to my dream of living in an inclusive and barrier-free Nova Scotia."

"Accessibility is the right of all Nova Scotians," said Joanne Bernard, Minister of Community Services. "This report will lead us to a place where barriers in all facets of life are torn down, and opportunities are built."

In response to the report, Ms. Bernard is creating a team to guide the legislative drafting process. Some of the team's key priorities include identifying a detailed timeline for the legislative process, and key milestones and checkpoints to ensure the work progresses.

The team is also tasked with laying out an education and awareness plan so Nova Scotians and businesses understand the new legislation.

Following United Nations conventions, the province will phase in accessibility standards over time to make it easier for people, organizations and governments to implement them.

"Some time will be afforded for organizations to be compliant, but not indefinitely. We need to continue to make progress, because we all gain when every Nova Scotian has access and is treated fairly," said Ms. Bernard.

Once in place, the accessibility legislation will ensure:

-- every Nova Scotian has the right to live and work to their potential
-- persons with disabilities are able to participate fully in our society
-- barriers are eliminated in employment, public spaces and buildings, service delivery and public transportation
-- better communication between government and businesses
-- a focus on creating better awareness of the need for accessibility in Nova Scotia

Government is expected to introduce the new accessibility legislation in the fall of 2016.

The report is available online and in various accessible formats at http://novascotia.ca/coms/accessibility/ .

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FOR BROADCAST USE:

The province released a panel report today (June 3rd) on Accessibility Legislation for Nova Scotia.

The report provides government with direction and recommendations on what the legislation should contain to make Nova Scotia accessible to all.

Government is expected to introduce the new accessibility legislation in the fall of 2016.

The report is available online and in various accessible formats at Nova Scotia dot C-A slash C-O-M-S slash accessibility.

-30-

Media Contact: Lori Errington
902-424-6792
Email: Lori.Errington@novascotia.ca

4. Access and Fairness for All Nova Scotians

The Minister’s Advisory Panel on Accessibility Legislation Report and Recommendations -

Executive Summary

The Minister of Community Services’ Advisory Panel on Accessibility Legislation was established on June 24, 2014, with the intent to consult with Nova Scotians on what should be contained in new enabling accessibility legislation for the province.

The panel committed to presenting findings and high-level detail on the legislative content to the Honourable Joanne Bernard, minister of community services/minister responsible for the Disabled Persons Commission Act, on or before February 13, 2015. From the outset it was determined that the legislation should address access issues related to the following:

Early in the fall of 2014 the panel developed an accessibility legislation discussion paper and invited Nova Scotians to provide their input. This discussion paper was the result of significant efforts of the panel members and the committees established by the panel. The public was offered the opportunity to participate in 11 consultation sessions held across the province and to submit their written feedback through letter, e-mail, or web-based options. Submissions could also be made verbally, by telephone. Close to 250 individuals attended the public sessions, and more than 100 Nova Scotians submitted feedback.

Overall, the discussion paper’s legislative proposals were well received and supported by Nova Scotians. The specific nature of the vast majority of the feedback responses related more to eventual outcomes leading from the enacted legislation than to what the legislation should contain. Although not surprising, it did validate what the panel and its committees provided as a legislative framework in the discussion paper. Many of the public respondents provided thoughtful recommendations applying to standards development, which will be addressed after the legislation has been drafted and enacted.

Specific to the proposed legislation, by way of the input received and discussed by the panel, the panel recommends that the following overarching elements be addressed in the new law:

An accessibility board should be established and resourced under a minister (preferably the minister of justice). The board should be comprised of impartial citizens having the appropriate skills and abilities necessary to make decisions and exercise the powers noted in the legislation.

These 11 overarching recommendations are supported by further details noted within the body of this report. It’s important to note that respondents saw the need for public education as being a paramount consideration and further suggested that the legislation did not have to be in place to begin working and communicating with the public through awareness and education activities. These activities, which are the responsibility of the government, would seek to address some of the greatest challenges associated with the legislation: awareness and attitudes. Engaging in awareness and education initiatives early in the process will result in increased understanding and changed attitudes leading to the concept of barrier-free access becoming a component of mainstream values. This includes an awareness that barriers, including those that are systemic, come in various forms (physical, communication, attitudinal, environmental, etc.).

It is clear that the individuals who took the time to attend a public consultation session or provided a written response to the discussion paper are passionate about this legislation and attentive to how it will impact their lives at a very personal level. The feedback received included many personal stories on how barriers affect them or someone they know.
Nova Scotians want to be involved in the process every step of the way. They will provide the perspectives and input required to ultimately lead to a truly accessible Nova Scotia where every Nova Scotian can live, work, play, and learn in an environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and fulfilling.

We firmly believe that this legislation must be cross disability, all encompassing, and inclusive. Persons with disabilities and the organizations who serve them must continue to be involved in the development and ongoing review of the legislation.

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities

- perspectives and input required to ultimately lead to a truly accessible Nova Scotia where every Nova Scotian can live, work, play, and learn in an environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and fulfilling.

We firmly believe that this legislation must be cross disability, all encompassing, and inclusive. Persons with disabilities and the organizations who serve them must continue to be involved in the development and ongoing review of the legislation.

5. Announcement by the Government of British Columbia

Originally posted at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/accessibility/accessibility-2024

Government of B.C.
Accessibility 2024

From Dec. 3, 2013 to March 11, 2014, the province of B.C. held a public consultation to provide British Columbians with a disability, their families and members of the public the opportunity to share their thoughts on what government, businesses and communities can do to reduce barriers and increase accessibility for people living with disabilities.

In June, 2014, the Premier released Accessibility 2024: Making B.C. the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024. Accessibility 2024 is a 10-year action plan, designed around 12 building blocks that represent the themes that emerged through the disability consultation process.

Accessibility 2024 includes measures for success and cross-government commitments that will help improve accessibility in B.C. for people with disabilities. Highlights of Accessibility 2024 include:

Consultation on options for a made-in-B.C. approach to accessibility legislation.

Committing to address income-assistance issues raised in the disability consultation through policy reforms, including separating disability assistance from income assistance to recognize the requirement for longer-term financial support.

Improving supports leading to increased employment opportunities.

6. CBC June 19, 2015

Originally posted at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/province-announces-plan-to-include-people-with-disabilties-1.3121115

Province announces plan to include people with disabilties [sic]

The province has announced a three-year plan to make the province more inclusive for people with disabilities.

The plan sets out 43 things the government will do between now and 2018 to promote inclusion.

It hinges on building a more positive image of disability, bettering supports and services, and including persons with disabilities in decision making.

The plan also promises to make government buildings more accessible.

However, it does not say which buildings will be changed or how improvements will be made.

The province has not set aside any extra money to implement the strategy and many of the action items will not happen until 2017 or 2018.

Minister Clyde Jackman said those details will be figured out as the plan is implemented, and that in future years they will budget money for specific projects

Specifics include launching a social media campaign to alter public attitudes, holding an accessibility summit, and changing hunting rules to make it easier for those with disabilities.

Not political move, Jackman says

This strategy was promised by the PCs in the last election, but Jackman said this announcement is not about politics.

"For me personally it's not that it's part of the blue book, it's simply for me the right thing to do," said Clyde Jackman, Minister Responsible for Status of Persons with Disabilities.

"They deserve our support, as a province we need to show our support to them."

Paul Walsh is the chairperson of the Provincial Advisory Council for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. He said he's pleased that government has proposed fixed dates for each aspect of the plan.

"It's about equal access not special access," he said.

"People with disabilities aren't looking for anything special, we're looking to be treated with dignity the same as everyone."

Government revealed the plan at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John's to highlight the facility's new ramp system and accessible parking.

The provincial government has put almost $5 million into Arts and Culture Centres across the province to improve accessibility.

7. June 23, 2015 Announcement by the Government of Newfoundland

Originally posted at: http://www.recreationnl.com/action-plan-guides-future-provincial-inclusion-strategy/ Recreation Newfoundland & Labrador
Action Plan Guides Future of Provincial Inclusion Strategy
June 23, 2015

The Provincial Government today marked the release of an action plan to guide further implementation of Access. Inclusion. Equality – A Provincial Strategy for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, with the unveiling of $1.7 million in accessibility upgrades to the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s. The Honourable Clyde Jackman, Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities, was joined by the Honourable David Brazil, Minister of Transportation and Works, for the event.

“The establishment of the Disability Policy Office in 2009, and the release of the inclusion strategy in 2012, represent a fundamental shift toward full equity for persons with disabilities throughout our province. While investments in programming, services and accessibility upgrades have been ongoing, this action plan is the next step in our efforts to build a truly inclusive society. It’s about making sure accessibility and inclusion are not an afterthought, but rather how we make decisions and live our lives each day.”
             – The Honourable Clyde Jackman, Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities

The three-year action plan (2015-18) outlines 43 initiatives which advance the five strategic directions outlined in Access. Inclusion. Equality. Those strategic directions are: shifting public perceptions of disability; engaging persons with disabilities; improving accessibility in the built environment; improving access to disability-related supports; and changing the service delivery culture to be more fair and respectful.

Highlights of the action plan are included in the backgrounder below. The full action plan can be viewed at: www.swsd.gov.nl.ca/disabilities/pdf/dpo_isap.pdf .

Meanwhile, participants at today’s event also had the opportunity to view completed accessibility upgrades at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s.

“Through an investment of $1.7 million, much work has been completed to ensure the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre is accessible to all individuals. This project is one of several that have been undertaken to improve access and support inclusion at Arts and Culture Centres across the province. A total investment of $4.5 million, including $1 million this year, will see the continuation of this work at the Arts and Culture Centres in Gander, Stephenville and St. John’s.
            – The Honourable David Brazil, Minister of Transportation and Works

In recent years, the Provincial Government has moved forward on a number of initiatives to improve the status of persons with disabilities. Blue zone parking regulations have been strengthened, investments have been made through the Accessible Vehicle Funding Program and the Inclusion Grants Program, and Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation has increased its inventory of fully accessible and “visitable” units – and helped the private sector and non-profit groups create more.

“Inclusion is about equal access, not special access. This action plan, like the strategy itself, can move us closer to being a province where disability is a routine and everyday consideration in how we design buildings, infrastructure and programs; in how we communicate, and in how we serve customers and clients. The Provincial Advisory Council for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities is very pleased to see the action plan released, and we look forward to its full implementation.”
             – J. Paul Walsh, Chair, Provincial Advisory Council for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

As an example of community-based partner involvement to help implement the action plan, the Provincial Government has provided the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities with a total of $125,000 to facilitate three projects that advance inclusion.

“We are pleased to see the release of the action plan and are excited to be working in partnership with the Provincial Government on its implementation. We will be bringing the knowledge of people with disabilities to the development of training materials, working to ensure all our citizens have access to voting in provincial elections, and working to help media and marketing companies to better understand disability and promote a more positive image. There is much to be done and working together, we will get there.”
             – Kelly White, Executive Director, Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

The inclusion strategy action plan was developed in consultation with the 18-member Provincial Advisory Council for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, partner departments and agencies throughout government, and informed by more than 600 organizations and individuals through the province.

QUICK FACTS

The Provincial Government today released an action plan to guide further implementation of Access. Inclusion. Equality – A Provincial Strategy for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

The plan is available at: www.swsd.gov.nl.ca/disabilities/pdf/dpo_isap.pdf

The action plan outlines 43 practical, concrete initiatives which advance the five strategic directions outlined in the strategy, which are: shifting public perceptions of disability, engaging persons with disabilities, improving accessibility in the built environment, improving access to disability-related supports, and changing the service delivery culture to be more fair and respectful.

The launch of the action plan coincided with the unveiling of $1.7 million in accessibility upgrades at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s, for a total investment of $4.5 million in accessibility upgrades at Arts and Culture Centres throughout the province.

Upgrades at the St. John’s location include improved access from the box office to the main auditorium and to the stage; the addition of accessible washrooms in the children’s library and upgrades to six other washrooms; upgraded door hardware/handles; and additional and upgraded blue zone parking.

The inclusion strategy action plan was developed in consultation with the 18-member Provincial Advisory Council for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, partner departments and agencies throughout government, and informed by than 600

– 30 –

Media contacts:

Heather May
Director of Communications
Department of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development
709-729-0928, 697-5061
heathermay@gov.nl.ca

Jacquelyn Howard
Director of Communications
Department of Transportation and Works
709-729-3015, 689-2624
JacquelynHoward@gov.nl.ca

J. Paul Walsh
Provincial Advisory Council for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities
709-609-2767
acadean@gmail.com

Kelly White
Executive Director
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL
722-7011
kwhite@codnl.ca

BACKGROUNDER
Highlights of Action Plan for Inclusion Strategy

The action plan to further advance Access. Inclusion. Equality. A Provincial Strategy for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, focuses on initiatives which reflect the five strategic directions of the strategy: shifting public perceptions of disability; engaging persons with disabilities; improving accessibility in the built environment; improving access to disability-related supports; and changing the service delivery culture to be more fair and respectful. Some highlights of the 43 actions are listed below. The full list of actions can be viewed in the action plan at: http://www.swsd.gov.nl.ca/disabilities/pdf/dpo_isap.pdf

Public Engagement – Develop and implement accessibility guidelines for government public engagement activities so that consultations and meetings are fully inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Accessible Information – Implement new accessibility guidelines for public information to ensure equitable access to Provincial Government information and documents.

Accessible Procurement – Work with community and other stakeholders to develop new public procurement accessibility and inclusion guidelines, so that products, leases and contracts by the Provincial Government take accessibility into consideration.

Hunting – Make Wild Life Regulations regarding the Disabled Hunter and Disabled Angler Program more inclusive.

Universal Design – Promote universal design with private and community stakeholders so that new buildings are barrier-free.

Emergency Processes – Encourage emergency management planning processes to be inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Visual Alarms – Increase usage of visual smoke and fire alarms in private homes for better safety of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Assistive Technology – Review and provide recommendations for development of a provincial assistive technology program so that individuals have better access to disability-related equipment and products.

Inclusive Education – Evaluate the Inclusive Education Initiative and Service Delivery Model for Students with Exceptionalities.

Transitioning – Implement a transition policy for students with an exceptionality going into and within schools, post-secondary institutions and community.

Paid Family Caregivers – Evaluate the Paid Family Caregiver Pilot Project to guide next steps with a focus on flexibility and choice.

Sport – In partnership with ParasportNL, further support the participation of persons with disabilities in sport and recreation activities.

Service Animals – Promote broad awareness and education regarding the Service Animal Act, with specific focus on industry, such as tourism and hospitality.

Deaf Culture – In recognition of its unique language and culture, engage the Deaf community to identify opportunities to celebrate and promote awareness about Deaf culture.

Social Media Campaign – Shift public attitudes by challenging negative stereotypes and building knowledge about barriers and how to remove them.

8. The Regina Leader Post June 22, 2015

Originally posted at: http://www.leaderpost.com/health/Saskatchewan+disabilities+strategy+unveiled/11157775/story.html

Saskatchewan disabilities strategy unveiled
By Emma Graney, Leader-Post

REGINA -- Andrea Lavallee has high hopes the provincial government will adopt the 12 disability strategy recommendations she has worked on since October 2013.

Not just for her family and son Maxime, diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, but for all people living with disabilities in Saskatchewan.

Lavallee was part of a 15-member citizen consultation team that met with people and organizations across the province to hear personal stories, ideas and solutions.

The result was released Monday — a 58-page disability strategy entitled People before systems: Transforming the experience of disability in Saskatchewan.

As part of the team that developed the strategy report, Lavallee feels “like the people’s voices were heard in Saskatchewan.”

The next part, she said, is accountability, though she is confident that the recommendations will convince “a lot of people to take action.”

“I think (government) will read the reports and understand it hopefully from a real, human level,” she said,

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer insists those recommendations will be taken seriously by government, and says she will meet with her colleagues and ministry officials over the summer to go over the recommendations and figure out by fall how best to implement them.

“I think our government’s track record ... has shown our dedication and commitment to individuals with disabilities,” she said, listing the introduction of the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program, elimination of the Community Living 440 wait-list and moving residents of Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw into the community.

Lavallee said one of the biggest points to come out of the consultations with community was the need for government to “recognize families and challenges, and working to address them — whether or not boxes are checked.”

“It’s about looking at the person as a person — not a project, or a statistic, but really a person in Saskatchewan,” she said.

“Once we have met the needs of those people, Saskatchewan will flourish even more, because there is so much potential that has been untapped in these families and those people who experience disability.”

egraney@leaderpost.com
Twitter/LP_EmmaGraney

DISABILITY STRATEGY: 12 RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Make disability programs and services accountable to the people they support
  2. Adopt fair eligibility rules that focus on the impact of a disability, rather than simply a medical diagnosis
  3. Improve access to disability program and service information, intake and service delivery
  4. Promote and protect the rights of people experiencing a disability so they can live safely in their community
  5. Ensure First Nations, Metis and Inuit people are well-supported regardless of their home community
  6. Expand opportunities for people experiencing a disability to contribute to the economy
  7. Improve access to community supports
  8. Remove barriers to inclusive, quality education
  9. Promote the value of family caregivers and help families provide quality care and support
  10. Support disability service providers to develop the skills and resources needed to provide effective and respectful care
  11. Create accessible communities to meet the needs of all citizens
  12. Commit the resources needed to advance a vision of Saskatchewan as an inclusive province.