Survey will inform city’s Accessibility Plan to enhance services and plan upgrades to public spaces and facilities Barbara Latkowski
Sept. 23, 2022
To help minimize barriers for those with disabilities, the City of Cambridge is looking for input from the community on how to improve accessibility in its programs, services and facilities.
Cambridge residents are invited to complete a short survey before October 21.
The City of Cambridge is asking for public input to help recognize the diverse needs of residents and visitors and to respond by providing services and facilities that are accessible.
“We understand that to really help meet the needs of the community, we want to ensure that we provide residents with an opportunity to share their experiences,” said Olga Vigil Letang, supervisor of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility services at the City of Cambridge.
“When you think of anyone from an equity deserving or equity seeking group, or those who are living with disabilities, who better to speak to their experiences, than them?”
Community feedback will be valuable in helping shape the 2023-2026 Accessibility Plan that will outline what the city will do to prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities.
“We have extensive history, expertise, and knowledge in accessibility, and we work within the equity field, however, our lenses are very different from those that are actually living it, day to day, within the City of Cambridge,” Vigil Letang said.
“We are hoping to gain better insight and use that to inform what we do and try to find ways that we can incorporate the needs and concerns into the plans that we put forward.”
The Accessibility Plan will also outline strategies that will continue to meet requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
Under the AODA, standards are developed in areas including customer service, information and communication, employment, transportation, and design of public spaces to help identify what must be done to eliminate barriers for people with disabilities.
The city’s Accessibility Plan covers city facilities, services and public spaces.
Transportation, however, falls under the Region of Waterloo, and is not included in the plan. Private businesses, their layout and services, fall under the province’s jurisdiction under the AODA and the Ontario Building Code.
All municipalities in Ontario are required to have an Accessible Advisory Committee that advises council on issues surrounding the AODA. The Cambridge Accessibility Advisory Committee (CAAC) provides advice to council and assists the city in promoting and facilitating a barrier-free Cambridge for citizens of all abilities.
“As a city we are really lucky to have people who are advocates and champions in the community, who really try to fight for the needs of residents and bring forward their perspectives,” Vigil Letang said.
Under the AODA, a barrier is anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in their community limiting access to places and activities because of the way it is designed.
“As a city, we definitely excel in many areas, and in others, we have more work to do,” Vigil Letang said.
“Especially now, after our experience with the pandemic. The world has shifted and people are coming back to services. We are identifying different barriers and accessibility needs that may have not been at the forefront during the last couple of years.”
The survey is available in different formats. Residents can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 226-218-4716.
“We are offering alternative and accessible formats to the survey, so for those who want to share their experiences but might feel there are barriers, we want to help meet their needs,” Vigil Letang said.
“We really want to make sure we are reaching diverse populations, and those that may typically feel like they don’t have a voice to share their concerns.”
In addition, Robyn Hyland, accessibility coordinator at the City of Cambridge, says the survey is open to all identities and backgrounds.
“We are looking for anyone who has lived experience,” Hyland said.
“We are also looking for feedback from family members, care givers, community partners and agencies that work with the disability community, so that they too can give us some very valuable insight.”
To learn more and provide your feedback visit, engagewr.ca/accessibility-plan(opens in new window/tab)”