Accessibility at AMCTO: A Year in Review

Written by Rick Johal Director, Member & Sector Relations @Rick_Johal

This past year was very busy for AMCTO on a number of fronts. As a professional association that delivers a wide array of services to its members (local government professionals); in 2015, we also took on a series of priorities for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. These priorities included community focused events on a weekly basis that spanned over two months and extended all the way across Ontario. In addition to this, we created and delivered the “AODA Champion” award program and finally, began development of the Accessibility Hub website (welcome…and thanks for visiting!). Stripping away all else, I want to discuss why I felt 2015 was such a special year for AMCTO. In particular, we were focused on celebrating the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the AODA legislation. Leading the charge was AMCTO’s Project Manager, Lynda Staples. It was through her tireless efforts and commitment that made our delivery of these priorities a booming success. The year began with us delivering community focused accessibility events that brought together community members from municipal accessibility advisory committees, representatives from public sector organizations, businesses, not for profit agencies, accessibility based organizations and many general members of the public. Throughout these events, attendees indicated both how inspired and engaged they were to hear about practices that were breaking down barriers to help make Ontario more accessible. The nine events were delivered in the following communities over a two month period:

  • Peterborough: April 8th, 2015
  • Chatham: April 15th, 2015
  • Ottawa: April 22nd, 2015
  • Vaughan: April 29th, 2015
  • Timmins: May 6th, 2015
  • Burlington: May 13th, 2015
  • North Bay: May 20th, 2015
  • Fergus: May 27th, 2015
  • Thunder Bay: June 11th, 2015

Perhaps, even I was a bit surprised to see the level of community interest and our ability to engage an audience beyond local government. Over the nine events, AMCTO attracted over six hundred individuals to these events and it ensured there was an appropriate spotlight on the topics covered at the events. On the other hand, it was a bit less surprising when considering the caliber of our event speakers, who included:

The feedback received on the events were highly positive with an overall satisfaction rate of 95%. Plucking one example of the feedback we received, an attendee noted the following:

“This was a day that left me feeling inspired and aware of the struggles so many go through, but it was also nice to see the leaps and bounds the AODA has helped us make in its 10 years. It was such a pleasure to hear the amazing speakers tell their stories. Thank you so much for putting on such a great session”.

Following the events, we turned our focus to the AODA Champion awards which aimed to recognize individuals from across Ontario for their contributions to achieving the inspiration behind the AODA legislation (not just compliance). AMCTO awarded over one hundred individuals for their commitment and contribution to advancing the goals of accessibility and inclusivity. A list of award winners can be found in AMCTO’s Q1 Municipal Monitor magazine on page 4. As an added bonus, Lynda Staples ensured that each of these awards was presented at the winner’s local city council meeting. This provided for great local media coverage and a ceremonial recognition from Mayor’s and city councilors. It even prompted some cities create their own formal events for recognition (i.e. City of Toronto). Personally, I was taken aback to witness the social media buzz that followed on twitter as award winners were being recognized weekly throughout November and December. In hindsight, a useful hashtag might have helped out but all one has to do is search “AODA Champion” on twitter and there is no shortage of wonderful stories on these exceptional Ontarians. Finally, the year concluded with early development of the Accessibility Hub website which creates an on-line venue where information, resources and dialogue can continue to be explored around accessibility. From an AMCTO perspective, there is no expectation that this dialogue be contained only to local government interests but instead that there is broader recognition that communities themselves have many actors who can and will benefit from an improved understanding of accessibility matters. While it is early days…we are hopeful that “The Hub” can be a go-to-spot for folks wanting to know more about accessibility in Ontario, including those from other jurisdictions who look to Ontario as leaders.