12/03/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/03/2023 09:14
Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is proclaimed by the City of Vaughan annually. This day serves as an important reminder that accessibility remains a key city-building priority at the City!
Our goal is to create a fully accessible community by 2050 and make Vaughan a model city for inclusion. Offering universal access to City programs, implementing new services, creating accessible play spaces, using accessible technology, implementing inclusive employment practices and building accessible facilities are some of the ways we are working to achieve this vision.
Here are a few examples of how we are advancing accessibility:
2023-2027 Multi-year Accessibility Plan
The City's recently approved 2023 to 2027 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan(PDF) outlines a comprehensive five-year strategic approach to advancing accessibility and inclusion, and how we will create an accessible and inclusive community for all residents, visitors and businesses. The plan was designed following extensive consultations with community members, stakeholders, accessibility experts and government partners at the regional, provincial and federal levels. It also aligns with the principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act(AODA). Drawing from the feedback received, the City has derived the following five guiding principles that shape this plan: Health and Safety, Clear and Accessible Information, Inclusion and Equity, Accessible City, and Continuous Improvement.
The City has updated its website and ensure content complies with World Wide Web Consortium - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA at minimum, working towards Level AAA. The new vaughan.ca launched in early 2023 and includes a cleaner, more welcoming interface and enhanced accessibility features, such as required captioning for all images and a tool allowing users to automatically translate content into 51 different languages widely spoken in York Region.
Accessibility Champion Awards
Established in 2019 by the City's Accessibility Advisory Committee, the Accessibility Champion Awardsrecognize businesses and individuals who advocate for accessibility and inclusion, and provide goods or services to people with disabilities within the Vaughan community. Since its inception, 13 awards have been presented. Nominations will be accepted again in January 2024.
The City's Accessibility Policy(PDF) was updated and approved by Council in 2022. The policy provides a framework to guide the review and development of other City policies, standards, procedures, by-laws and guidelines to comply with the AODA and the IASR. The City also has an Accessibility Standards for Customer Service Policy(PDF), which details specific requirements regarding providing goods and services for persons with disabilities.
Vaughan City Hall Welcome Desk
In line with the Design of Public Spaces Standards in the AODA, the main floor of City Hall was redesigned to include a consolidated single-counter information desk with an accessible height station, along with self-service kiosks with six standard height and two wheelchair-accessible height touchscreens for barrier-free access to information about City programs and services. The new space opened in March of this year.
Accessibility Advisory Committee
The Accessibility Advisory Committee(PDF) was established to help guide the City in removing and preventing barriers in policies, practices, programs and services in a way that meets the requirements of the AODA. The advisory committee assisted in creating Vaughan's Multi-Year Accessibility Plan and helps identify accessibility opportunities and challenges within the community.
2022-2026 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Plan
The City's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Plan(PDF) aims to foster a city and workplace culture that is inclusive and respectful, where all residents, employees, businesses and visitors are provided with accessible opportunities to engage and participate. Key priorities are as follows: embedding a culture of belonging; data-informed decision-making; equitable employment; Indigenous relations and reconciliation; achieving equity; community engagement and participation; and continued accessibility excellence.
Diversity and Inclusion Business Unit
As of 2021, the City has had a business unit that leads the organization's diversity and inclusion activities, provides strategic guidance and advises on policies, processes and procedures related to diversity, and advances accessibility efforts in Vaughan.
Anti-Hate, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee
The Anti-Hate, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee(PDF) provides support in the
implementation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, and offers a forum for discussion on matters of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and anti-hate in the city. This advisory committee serves a four-year term, coinciding with the Term of Council.
Rick Hansen Foundation Gold Certification
The Rick Hansen Foundation has awarded multiple City facilities with Gold Certification for accessibility. Most recently, the City received Gold Accessibility Certification for Maple Community Centre, pre-construction Gold Certification for Fire Station 7-12, and Accessibility Certifications for Fire Station 7-7 and Bathurst Clark Resource Library. Other City facilities awarded by the foundation include Vaughan City Hall, Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service firehalls 7-4 and 7-10, Vaughan Civic Centre Resource Library, and North Thornhill Community Centre and Pleasant Ridge Library as a combined facility. Various accessibility enhancements, such as automatic door openers, tactile walking surface indicators at stair areas and accessible seating, have contributed to reaching this milestone.
Other awards the City has received for its accessibility efforts include the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association Accessibility Award and the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility.
Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion
The City won a 2022 Canadian HR Award in the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion category. Presented by HRD Canada and Canadian HR Reporter, these awards recognize teams, leaders and employers for achievements in the HR profession. The Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion award acknowledges an organization that has diversity and inclusion at the heart of its business. As an equal opportunity employer and forward-thinking municipality, the City champions an environment of inclusion, accessibility, equity, integrity, learning and mutual respect through human resources policies, practices and procedures.
Project SEARCH is an internationally successful transition-to-work program for students with developmental or intellectual disabilities. The program focuses on preparing students in their final year of high school who can benefit from personalized support in an intensive year of career development and internship experience. For this year-long pilot in 2022/23, the City joined forces with the local school board and a community agency to offer mentorship, dedicated training spaces and internship opportunities across multiple City divisions.
The City's participation in the 2022/23 program helped to break down workplace barriers faced by people with disabilities. And of the eight student interns who successfully completed the work-placement program, three have been hired by the City!
Vaughan recognizes that democratic engagement is an integral part of building an inclusive and welcoming city. To make community engagement more inclusive and representative of diverse perspectives and needs, diversity, equity and inclusion principles are embedded into the City's Stakeholder and Community Engagement Strategy and Policy. This includes ensuring proper accommodations are provided to interested participants who require them, all spaces used are accessible and more.
Inclusive Design Standards
Having inclusive design standardsallow the City to advocate for any new development in the community to be inclusive and accessible for all and demonstrate the City's market leadership from an inclusive design perspective. These standards exceed the AODAand Ontario Building Code requirements and outline examples and best practices to make buildings and other areas, like play spaces, washrooms, trails, service counters, office environments and places of worship, as inclusive as possible.
Other accessibility initiatives
The City is investing in a Wayfinding Signage Pilot Program around the area of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre - Vaughan's downtown core - to improve City facility signage, both indoors and outdoors. Additionally, the City is partnering with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to launch a Wayfinding and Accessibility Pilot Program across several City sites.