Citizen Advisory Committee Making Swift Progress with Town Accessibility Plan
Wednesday, July 28th, 2021 - Yarmouth, N.S. – After just six months of working together, the Town of Yarmouth’s newest citizen advisory committee has completed an impressive amount of work. The Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) was formed in response to Nova Scotia’s 2017 Accessibility Act, which mandates public sector bodies to develop accessibility action plans. While the long-term objectives and goals of the AAC are broad, developing an accessibility action plan is the first task.
The action plan is scheduled to be completed and released next year. Much of the legwork needed to build the plan is has been completed by committee members and town staff. The AAC has a target to present the finished plan to Yarmouth Town Council in early 2022 for review and adoption. The plan will identify accessibility barriers the public experience in the following key areas:
- When using municipal buildings or public spaces (the “built environment”). This means making public buildings, streets, sidewalks, and shared spaces accessible to all.
- When accessing goods and services. This ensures that people with disabilities have equitable access to goods and services they need.
- When receiving communication and information so that all people can receive, understand, and share the information they need.
- When using public transportation - making it easier for everyone to get where they need to go.
- When applying for employment. This is to ensure workplaces are accessible, and supporting people with disabilities in finding meaningful employment.
Identifying barriers is being done through a two-part process: a formal audit and public consultation. The audit has staff working on a full examination of Town-owned buildings, parks and trails to determine accessibility and issues with the built environment. The audit also involves recommending improvements and a schedule to achieve them. The process is well underway, with the audit of the Town Hall building now complete.
Community consultation will begin in September and will allow community members to provide valuable input on the barriers they’ve faced. Through direct consultation, residents can provide first-hand experiences on accessing public spaces and receiving goods and services from the Town. A variety of consultation options will be available to the public to participate including virtual meetings, focus groups, hand-written input, as well as opportunity to provide input through the Town’s “Get Involved Yarmouth” online engagement platform. People’s stories and experiences will play an important part in developing the action plan.
AAC Chair Stephen Nicholl is excited about the work being done to develop the action plan.
“There’s been some hurtles to clear in the beginning with COVID-19, but we worked around them and we are off to a fast and productive start.” Said Nicholl. “As we get closer to completing the audit process, we are looking to soon get much-needed input from the community. We need to hear from people about their experiences. As the town adds and replaces new infrastructure, it’s important to determine all of the issues and barriers so that they can be outlined in the action plan. The plan then serves as a guide for council and staff for all future development.”
Nicholl adds that the committee aims to use a wide lens to determine both the types of disabilities as well the barriers people face.
“As Chair of the group I have always aimed to make sure we look at a diverse range of accessibility issues, from neurodiversity, to mobility and sensory issues. We want to make sure we look at every aspect of Yarmouth from the perspective of all types of disabilities people face so we can better determine anything and everything that might be considered a barrier. We want a future where anyone with accessibility issues will have equal access to as many aspects of life in Yarmouth as possible.”
Committee members are largely made up of people with disabilities, or people who work with those who have disabilities. Committee Vice Chair Jane Walker see this as a major plus.
“It’s really important to our committee, that in addition to ensuring we are inclusive of all disabilities and access needs when completing our work, we have also worked hard to make sure that many of our projects are spearheaded by disabled people or people working in that profession,” said Walker. “It is a priority of ours to have these discussions and our accessibility plan be truly representative of the large disabled population in our town.”
More details on the public consultation process will be made available in coming weeks. The AAC encourages everyone – especially those with disabilities or those work or live with individuals with disabilities - to get involved in the consultation process and tell their stories.
For more information, including videos of past meetings, provincial accessibility legislation, AAC Policy and more visit www.accessibleyarmouth.ca