Progressing towards a barrier-free town

Community News

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Petawawa Accessibility Advisory Committee (PAAC) presented its barrier-free report and work plan to council, highlighting what can be done to make the town a more inclusive place.

PAAC Chair Sheila Clarke admits Petawawa has already come a long way; the municipal office entrances are currently under renovation and there are a large number of accessible parking spaces on town property. However, some of the notable issues still to be addressed include better signage with orientation clues for people with visual impairments, washrooms with better designed faucets and grab bars, and the creation of scent-free policies. “These are the things that we feel could be fixed and easily maintained in the Town of Petawawa at a fairly reasonable cost,” said Clarke.

PAAC has applied for several grants at the provincial level to help move these projects forward.

The report presented on June 6 was based on a 2014 PAAC barrier-free audit. They looked at various municipal buildings, rating how accessible they were, and compiled a few changes. Some fixes are quick and inexpensive, while other buildings will be impossible to alter as they are too old. “We have until 2025 to make these changes, to make us accessible and I think we are well on our way to that,” said Clarke.

To help achieve this, PAAC created a work plan. One of the objectives is to make all Petawawa municipal buildings accessible to everyone, which is currently underway. The committee will be reviewing and commenting on new site plans and researching the creation of a municipal bylaw to ensure new buildings have things such as automatic doors. PAAC also wishes to raise awareness of the Accessibility Act of Ontario and the challenges that people with special needs can face.

“The public awareness part is such an important part of a plan like this because able-bodied people don’t always see the pitfalls that are right there,” commented Councillor James Carmody. “Just little things like potholes on the walkway where somebody’s cane might get caught.”

In conjunction with the library, PAAC is creating two resource manuals for residents. They are also looking at building partnerships, creating accountability standards, and plan to offer training and develop knowledge for municipal staff and council. “We are really excited about what we are doing, and we hope to recruit a few more members,” said Clarke.

For more information on PAAC or to join the committee, call Christine Mitchell at 613-687-5536.