The Town of Sidney released its accessibility plan to the public at last week’s Nov. 14 council meeting. The plan’s main priorities are change readiness, impacts on daily living, mobility and road safety, and infrastructure and public space.
The Accessible BC Act requires organizations to form and consult with an accessibility committee, so the municipalities of Sidney, Central Saanich, and North Saanich formed the Saanich Peninsula Accessibility Advisory Committee (SPAAC). The tri-municipal advisory committee focuses on improving the livability, accessibility, and inclusivity of people with disabilities who live, work, and play on the Saanich Peninsula.
A partial mandate for this committee includes responding to referrals from Councils of each of the SPLG regarding issues related to accessibility for persons with disabilities and identifying barriers for persons with disabilities in the community. They will also recommend solutions for consideration by the Saanich Peninsula Local Governments (SPLGs). Their meetings are open to the public.
In May, a government of Canada grant was announced that would provide local governments up to $7,500 to enhance processes, to retain and engage skilled employees with longer-term disabilities, to subsidize workplace improvements related to accessibility access and to help them meet the provincial requirements for Accessibility Plans. The funding comes through the National Institute of Disability Management and Research (NIDMR).
The program provides BC municipalities a free program assessment and improvement plan of their current Return to Work and Disability Management Program by licensed and certified disability management professionals (CDMP) certified auditors.
And while not a full Consensus Based Accessibility Management Audit, the program could have offset at least some municipal costs related to their office best practices and programs.
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In both cases the municipalities seem to have worked solely with private consulting firms and, according to NIDMR grant manager Steve Inouye, the list of municipalities that have received disability management funding thus far, is confidential.
The Town of Sidney engaged an accessibility consulting firm, Left Turn Right Turn (LTRT), to conduct a high-level exploration of its systems and infrastructure and to identify high-priority barriers to accessibility.
In accordance with the 2021 Accessible British Columbia Act (ABCA), the Sidney plan incorporates ABCA requirements of inclusion, adaptability, diversity, collaboration, self-determination and universal design. Universal design (UD) is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.
The plan was developed in consultation with the Saanich Peninsula Accessibility Advisory Committee, and with community input that was gathered over the summer through an online survey. In fact, all three Saanich Peninsula municipalities enhanced their websites to include online forms that allow continued direct public feedback regarding local accessibility issues.
The city is still collecting online feedback from residents here.
The accessibility plan outlines not only individual but “systems changes” to the city’s operations and infrastructure and details 35 initiatives related to transportation, municipal and emergency services, municipal communications and public engagement, employment, and procurement with the Town of Sidney. These system changes will reflect the principles of active transportation design guidelines and adaptable housing design standards that may be integrated into future zoning bylaws.
While some initiatives will be implemented in the short term, others will be implemented on a more long-term basis, as infrastructure is renewed and new capital projects are undertaken.
The District of Saanich published its draft accessibility plan in August, written in consultation with Melissa Lyon of Accessibility and Inclusion Matter consulting. It formed the Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion Council Committee in February and advanced the work on the draft by supplying the council with feedback and recommendations.
Some of the work that will come out of the proposed plan includes accessibility improvements to infrastructure, training in disability awareness, collection of diversity data, and a review of the city’s emergency planning. The city is also receiving ongoing feedback on its plan at [email protected]
The Town of Sidney plan will be reviewed before it is renewed in 2026.
Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Capital Daily