What is Accessibility?  – Making Our Community More Accessible

Submitted by the United Way of Lanark County, April 2017

When we think of disabilities, we tend to think of people in wheelchairs and physical disabilities – disabilities that are visible and apparent.  However, disabilities may also be non-visible.  We can’t always tell who has one.  The broad range of disabilities also includes vision, deafness or being hard of hearing, intellectual or developmental, learning, and mental health disabilities.  A disability may be permanent or it may be temporary, and it may happen to anyone at any time.

Accessibility simply means giving people of all abilities opportunities to participate fully in everyday life, to feel included, welcomed and that they belong.

1 in 7 people in Ontario has a disability.  That’s 1.65 million Ontarians.  By 2036, that number will rise to 1 in 5 as the population ages.

The goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is to make Ontario accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.

The AODA includes 5 accessibility standards:

  1. Customer Service – is about influencing attitudes and behaviours
  2. Employment – is about making hiring and employee support practices more accessible
  3. Information and Communications – is about helping people with disabilities access information and communications such as forms, documents and websites
  4. Transportation – is about making it easier for everyone to travel in Ontario
  5. Design of Public Spaces – is about making public spaces more accessible

Accessibility = Great Business Sense!

Persons’ with disabilities spend over $21 billion annually across Canada.  Making our business services and community more accessible to persons’ with all abilities makes great business sense – and everyone benefits.

It’s the right thing to do.  It’s also the smart thing to do.

The value added impact to our local businesses and community by making our services more accessible:

  • Enables persons with disabilities the opportunity to participate in everyday life, feel welcomed, included and creates a sense of belonging;
  • Breaks down barriers on perceiving what people are able to do;
  • Creates opportunities for business to hire persons with disabilities;
  • Increases traffic flow to business when people are provided excellent customer service; are able to easily access services; and are provided with different options to access services based on their, the customer’s needs;
  • Increases the opportunity for repeat business and/or referrals; and
  • Increases tourism and draw people to move to our community;
  • Helps to keep spending in our community.

 

Accessibility and Employment Opportunities 

The labour force in Canada continues to shrink and employers are finding it hard to recruit and retain talent.  At the same time, only 43% of people with disabilities participate in the labour market, compared to 70% of the general population.  1 in 6 people with disabilities live below the poverty line.

Doing the right thing and our part for persons with disabilities includes looking at our hiring practices and opportunities in our business to hire persons with disabilities.  The Employment Accessibility Resource Network, (EARN), is able to assist you to do just that.  An initiative lead by the United Way, EARN brings together in partnership employers, service providers and other stakeholders with the goal of increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and promoting inclusive and accessible workplaces.  A free service that provides support and resources to business and service providers, it includes monthly newsletters, with information on employment, disability topics, video links, tips and other resources, promotion of job postings, networking opportunities and much more!

As businesses, and as a community, we need to make our services accessible to everyone!

Together we can help make our services and community more accessible,

keep people using our local services, staying in our community

and, in return, helping everyone benefit and prosper.

 

To find out more about accessibility requirements, EARN, and to request free resources and services, please contact:

Amy Elsner

AODA Partnership Coordinator

United Way of Lanark County

aelsner@lanarkunitedway.com

613-253-9074

Together we are possibility!