Impact to Be FarReaching

December 10, 2010

The County of Renfrew is doing its part to raise awareness of forthcoming accessibility laws for Ontario businesses and organizations.

This week, the County of Renfrew’s accessibility advisory committee along with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation hosted a free accessibility and housing workshop at the county building.

The halfday workshop sought to provide information on accessible and affordable housing, to identify communitybased groups dealing with accessibility and those affected by it, and to share best practices on accessibility, particularly for the private sector and builders.

According to Bruce McIntyre, the county’s media spokesperson, the second phase of the province’s implementation of Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, comes into effect on January 1, 2012. That gives business owners, and builders of commercial structures slightly over one year to be ready.

Mr. McIntyre suspects that many businesses are procrastinating in looking at their compliance.

“Hopefully today is helping get people thinking about this,” Mr. McIntyre said. “Because in one year it’s going to come up and smack them in the face if they’re not ready.”

He said the workshop was intended to help those facing the new rules, to get information on how to deal with accommodating the needs of the disabled community
through physical changes to buildings and properties, as well as the training of staff on dealing with members of the disabled community.

Mr. McIntyre noted that about 25 people attended the free workshop including many municipal building inspectors, some members of the disabled community, business owners, contractors, and agencies such as the Neil Squire Society and Community Living Upper Ottawa Valley.

One of the guest speakers, Jamie Shipley, senior advisor of research information transfer with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), reminded everyone that making properties accessible means more than mobility issues. It also includes making access easier and safer for the visually and hearing impaired, seniors and those with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Mr. Shipley provided those in attendance with a brief overview of the CMHC, about ongoing research on accessibility, programs, and funding possibilities for accessibility projects.

The other guest speaker was Victor Fiume of The Durham Group, a pastpresident of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association. He discussed the process of building and providing accessible housing based on practical experience. In addition, he provided tips to contractors and municipal building inspectors about modifications to residential homes, commercial, retail, and municipal buildings and on building codes.

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