September 16, 2021; Liverpool, NS: Accessibility in Queens Coast is moving forward with clear direction, following Council adopting its Municipal Accessibility Plan 2021 – 2030 (QMAP) during the September 14, 2021 Region of Queens Municipality Council meeting.
“Council is pleased to adopt the Queens Accessibility Plan, and to move forward with making changes within our municipal operations and services to ensure inclusion for all our residents and visitors,” said Darlene Norman, Mayor of Region of Queens Municipality. “Some items are easy to address and change now or in the near future, and other recommendations in the plan are bigger projects that will require time, large amounts of money, and planning to implement. We are committed to working towards an accessible Queens County, and will be implanting recommendations from this plan this year and over the next ten years.”
Province of Nova Scotia passed Bill 59, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act in September, 2017, with the intent to remove and prevent barriers that disable people with respect to participation in the broader community. Public sector bodies, including Municipalities, are required through the Accessibility Act to create an Accessibility Plan to aid in guiding toward an accessible Nova Scotia by 2030.
In July 2020, Region of Queens Municipality hired Elise Johnston as its Accessibility Coordinator with the primary focus of preparing a municipal accessibility plan. An Accessibility Advisory Committee was formed in October, 2020, and meets each month to provide insight and personal experiences of barriers.
In preparing QMAP, a variety of methods were used to get information about the accessibility needs and current level of accessibility in Queens County. Among the methods used to gather information were a public survey with almost a hundred respondents; public outreach to organizations, associations, and businesses; online training for the Accessibility Coordinator and AAT; research of best practices, as well as assessments of municipal properties and services. The draft version of QMAP was approved for public review by Council on April 27, 2021, and was made available for public input and review for 45 days.
QMAP contains specific items for action to work toward improved accessibility in Queens in six categories: built environment, education, employment, goods and services, information and communication, and transportation. Municipal facilities and other municipal properties have been assessed, with specific recommendations made for priority areas to address in terms of accessibility, which are reflective of Nova Scotia’s recommended Standards for the Built Environment.
Over the past year, work has taken place to implement some of the recommendations. A number of municipal properties have been upgraded, including replacement of the exterior path and ramp to Council Chamber at the Administration Building; installation of improved signage at Queens Place Emera Centre to identify accessible features; a power door operator to the arena was installed and improvements have been made in the accessible stalls in washrooms at Queens Place Emera Centre. Further work has been planned and included in the Municipal budget in this fiscal year for Beach Meadows Beach and Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre. Many municipal staff have received disability awareness training, and training to ensure municipally created digital and print documents are produced to improve accessible navigation and information.
Cost estimates of priority upgrades are currently underway for long-term budget planning. Funding partnerships for the work that has been completed and underway have been established, with grants received from Community Access-Ability through Nova Scotia Communities, Culture & Heritage Access Fund, and other grant applications are awaiting approval. Future accessibility upgrades will be made with support from grants when possible, in combination with municipal funding.
“The changes needed for accessibility will ensure all are able to be included and will create a stronger community moving forward,” said Mayor Darlene Norman.