WEB ONLY: New accessibility requirements coming in 2010

May­or John Green says Wellington County is in a good position to meet new provincial accessi-bility requirements coming into effect next year.

“We’ve been working on it pretty diligently for a number of years,” Green said at the Feb. 10 Mapleton council meet­ing.

He specifically mentioned the ongoing efforts of Centre Wellington councillor Walt Visser, who has some physical limitations, and Puslinch councillor Matthew Bulmer, who is legally blind.

Green was responding to several questions from council about impending requirements under the Accessibility for On­tarians with Disabilities Act, originally passed in 2005.

One regulation – the accessible customer service standard – is of particular concern be­cause public sector organizations such as Mapleton must conform to the legislation by Jan. 1.

The regulation states persons with disabilities must be given an opportunity equal to that of others “to obtain, use and benefit” from goods and services provided in a manner that respects their “dignity and independence.”

Clerk Patty Sinnamon ex­plained the county has already approved policies, practices, and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities.

“Everybody has to be train­ed,” Sinnamon said, adding she plans to conduct training sessions for all Mapleton staff throughout the year.

“I foresee very little cost in relation to the training since I plan to do it in-house,” she told council in a report.

The goal of the new accessibility regulations, which also include sections regarding in­formation and communication, built environments and transportation, is to have all organizations fully accessible by 2025, though public organizations must observe more expedient  compliance  than private ones.

Green said the goal with the customer service regulations is to have a pool of people available on request to provide services for those with disabilities.

“It’s going to be a huge thing in some of the larger muni­cipalities that haven’t progressed like we have,” Green said.

Sinnamon told council she hopes there will be flexibility with the new regulations, as some are not very realistic.

For example, she noted, the information and communica-tions component states both internet and telephone voting must be offered in municipal elections.

“Notwithstanding the costs to provide these alternate methods of voting, the industry cannot physically meet the needs,” Sinnamon said, mentioning the 2000 election when many voters could not vote due to an overload of the Bell system.

Council voted unanimously to accept the customer service standards policy.