Accessibility policy aims to “open Edmonton”

I have been a legally blind transit user for 15 years.

I used to avoid travelling to new places in the city. It was so much work to plan everything ahead, to make sure I got off at the right time and did not get lost. Often, I would not be able to get sleep the night before. I would be so worried about getting lost. Now, with buses that declare their route upon arrival, that state their current location as they go, that integrate with a simple and easy-to-use app with real-time information, Edmonton is open to me like never before.

Small changes—often not even focused on disability—can be life-altering for some. As a member of the City of Edmonton’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) for over three years, I have seen a great deal of growth in Edmonton’s approach to accessibility and disability.

Working on a variety of projects with City Council and the Administration, our committee has been able to change lives. Often, these projects focused on a single property, program or service where the committee provided input. This work was rewarding and valuable, but there were always more requests than a volunteer committee could satisfy.

September 2019 will be the beginning of a dramatic shift.

2019 Mayor’s Awards at City Hall with AAC Committee Members  (L to R) Chris Minchau, Mark Orbell and Jason Pisesky
2019 Mayor’s Awards at City Hall with AAC Committee Members
(L to R) Chris Minchau, Mark Orbell and Jason Pisesky

On September 18, the Accessibility for People with Disabilities Policy C602 will be presented to the Community and Public Services Committee. On September 24, the policy goes to City Council for discussion and debate.

This policy is the culmination of years of extensive research and engagement by City staff with the AAC, accessibility organizations and the public. We expect this hard work to pay off big for all Edmontonians.

Accessibility Policy public engagement,  Edmonton Tower
Accessibility Policy public engagement, Edmonton Tower

When the policy passes, it will put an onus on all City departments to come up with a plan to incorporate accessibility in their work going forward. Of equal, or, perhaps greater, importance, the policy includes measures for accountability and for regular review.

We hope that these mechanisms will help ensure that the new policy is more than just a declaration that accessibility is a principle we endorse. Rather, it will be a first step on a long road to better spaces, places, programs and services for Edmontonians of all ages and abilities.

The committee’s work on specific buildings, programs and services will continue, but we are looking forward to the dawn of a new age that should have an increased focus on policy and philosophy by everyone working on a project and at every stage of a project’s life. We hope this new focus helps improve the quality of life of all Edmontonians and we look forward to helping to keep the City of Edmonton accountable to the ideals that this policy represents.

Editor’s Note: Jason Pisesky, pictured at the top of the post, chairs the City’s Accessibility Advisory Committee