Becoming one of the most accessible communities in Canada

crosswalk

Like the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

HRM must further improve accessibility and to hire a workforce that better reflects the municipality’s population.

According to Stats Canada nearly one fifth of Canadians are people with disabilities; it is anticipated to grow to one third by 2026. Nova Scotians have the highest prevalence of disability in Canada.  18.9% of Nova Scotians are over 65. As people age, many experience mobility issues.

Accessibility is for everyone. Changes to make the city more accessible improves the quality of life of citizens of all ages and stages, from seniors, to parents pushing a stroller, to people living with disabilities.

Accessibility is a right. The municipality must work to meet these commitments. I will work to ensure HRM becomes one of the most accessible communities in Canada.

Since the last election, the accessibility of our infrastructure, public transit, and programs, facilities and HRM’s services has been something I’ve worked hard to improve. The municipality has taken steps to make sure that the whole conventional transit fleet is accessible by the end of next year. The Mayor’s office lead the establishment of a temporary ramps program for businesses. Funding for assessing accessibility needs increased from $260,000 to $400,000. More and more “curb cuts” or sidewalk ramps are being upgraded to meet CSA standards, we can see that work underway on Spring Garden Road right now!

Even when HRM is not directly responsible, the municipality has been leading change. Provincial building code discussions and the building code revisions are underway. A dramatic increase in spending is speeding up work to make sure HRM facilities are accessible inside and out.

It’s a good start.  Here are three areas where I think we can do more in the next term:

All HRM public facilities and public events must be fully accessible by 2020.  They will at least meet the Canadian Standards Association (CSA)and the Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) design guidelines.  In addition, all streets & sidewalks should be made accessible to all as fast as possible. To fast-track this I propose the entire 2017-18 sidewalk budget be dedicated  to bring curb cuts in high traffic areas (schools, high pedestrian areas, hospitals, seniors manors, etc) up to these accessible standards.

Transit service accessibility must be improved by increasing the capacity of para-transit. We need to use the Accessabus fleet better to increase the total number of trips and reduce wait times. When necessary, we will use accessible taxis to help.  HRM must invest to make conventional transit service more accessible.  HRM will provide Access-a-Bus users with free access to the conventional transit busses during off-peak hours, deflecting ridership away from the very expensive Access-a-Bus service.

I will strive to change the organizational culture within HRM so that the needs of people with disabilities are reflected in both long term planning and daily operational activities of the HRM organization.

In 2011, Nova Scotians with disabilities aged 25 – 64 had a 52.3% unemployment rate. HRM must commit to diversity in its workforce with a standard that reflects our city’s population.  A baseline study will be completed by 2018 along with an employment affirmative action program. A target of 2024 will be set to achieve equality of employment.

Cultural change is never easy. Annual reporting and establishing a staffer to act as a compliance officer will help ensure the culture shifts and stays changed.

Commitments:

  1. All facilities and events accessible by 2020, accessibility in roads and sidewalks increased, as well as a one time blitz in 2017/18
  2. Transit made more accessible by utilizing taxis to augment accessible bus service, and focusing on making the conventional bus service more accessible.
  3. Set a target of workforce equality by 2024, with a goal of changing HRMs organizational culture to reflect needs of people with disabilities in both long term planning and daily operational activities, including an “Accessibility Impact” section to staff reports.
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