Accessibility Act Will Cost Taxpayers Millions - Sarnia Councillor

Accessibility News Note:Where do these people come from? They use words like"foisted on", "Draconian" and they dance around discriminating against the Disability Community by pointing the finger at the Province for enacting this law when it is the Disabled who were responsible for getting it implemented in the first place. Heck, they dont even know what it will achieve! Say What? Stop your whining and get down to business now, not tomorrow and read this article Commentary: 'But Heads' Must Not be Allowed to Delay Implementation of the AODA Standards!!


May 20, 2009

SARNIA - Ontario's new accessibility laws are being implemented too quickly, without a plan, and will cost local taxpayers millions, a member of city council says.

Coun. Jon McEachran said the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was foisted on municipalities to implement without any real idea of how much it will cost or what it will achieve.

Councillors are under threat of heavy fines -- as much as $50,000 a day -- if their municipality doesn't comply, he said.

"The province is acting like a kid in a candy store. They want it all and they want it now."

Ontario passed the legislation in 2005 with the intent of making Ontario the most accessible jurisdiction in North America by 2025. The regulations have five main thrusts: customer service, transportation, information and communication, built environment and employment.

All five areas have their own implementation dates that fall at different times over the next year. They introduce sweeping changes to the way municipalities treat accessibility and will lead to millions of dollars being spent to retrofit old buildings, McEachran said.

"Accessibility is a good thing and we need to improve it across the community. But this should be done incrementally . . . We don't need the government to come in with a heavy hand saying you'll treat people nicely."

The legislation is so complicated city council approved the hiring of a co-ordinator at $54,000 annually to oversee the transition.

McEachran said the province hasn't put up a dime.

"We simply can't afford these sweeping changes. This is not responsible government," he said.

Coun. Mike Kelch said the legislation isn't affordable or practical.

"It is the right thing to do," he said. "But if you go through the standards and see all of the requirements, I think even people with accessibility issues would say, "This is not what I'm asking for.'"

City council has asked Ontario for financial assistance but Kelch isn't counting on it.

"I never like these Draconian measures. We're just expected to roll over," he said.

Sarnia Transit director Jim Stevens, who has co-ordinated the city's transition effort, said the initial assumption that transit would be most impacted didn't go far enough.

"It's become significantly harder over the last year and a half," he said. "We're going to have to stay focused on the latest information as the standards continue to evolve."

Stevens said implementation has been "piecemeal" and a coordinator will help avoid duplicating compliance efforts.

"Improving accessibility is very important," he said. "We have to be cautious about how we get there. It needs to be a gradual process but it now appears to be coming all at once."

Article ID# 1573376

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