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February 4, 2003

Accessibility issues to forefront

From: The Orangeville Banner, Canada - 04 Feb 2003

News - The new recreation centre being built at the corner of Alder Street and Montgomery Boulevard in the west end of Orangeville will have strobe emergency lights so that the hearing impaired can be alerted of an emergency.

The cost is about $15,000, which will be paid for through the rec centre’s contingency fund, but as councillors discussed the feature, all agreed that it was worthwhile.

“It is a health and safety issue for the residents of this town,” said Coun. Doug Wilcox.

The strobe lights are just one of many accomplishments of the town’s accessibility committee, which was formed last fall.

As timing would have it, the committee was set up just before a provincial directive that requires municipalities with a population over 10,000 to establish an accessibility advisory committee.

“We got a jump on things, which is good for us because we are already on our way to making things happen,” says Lee Stewart, who sits on the committee.

The committee, which includes Coun. Gail Campbell and members of the public Peter Roy, Stewart, Adam Dougall, Larry Rankin and Barb Rankin, is working on getting Orangeville’s buses wheelchair accessible and setting up a resource library for disability access issues. The committee also hosted an open house and encouraged the town to put hearing devices and large font agendas in the council chambers.

As well, as the town constructs new buildings and makes repairs, accessibility will be considered. For example, as public works replaces sidewalks, curbs will be cut to be wheelchair accessible.

Making town hall accessible will also be a priority — making elevators accessible to all with Braille pads and verbal announcements of the floors.

Although the committee will only make recommendations on how to make municipally-owned property and facilities more accessible, Campbell hopes that by raising the profile of accessibility issues, private enterprise and builders will be willing to go beyond the current codes.

And, she says, it will bring disabled people, who are relatively invisible in the community, to the forefront.

“(The committee) enables people to come together and work cooperatively. Disabled people in this community had no venue previous to this,” said Stewart.

Barb Rankin agrees. “Everyone with a disability runs into different problems. If we are able to make people aware that we are here then we hope people will come forward with their problems so we can help solve them,” she said.

The committee meets the second Tuesday of each month at 10:30 a.m. Members of the public are invited to attend.