The Municipality of Dysart et al is committed to playing a proactive role towards removing barriers and improving accessibility in both physical buildings and services.  We our represented on the County of Haliburton Joint Accessibility Committee by our Municipal Clerk and work with the Committee to prepare a five year Accessibility Plan as required under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).   The current plan can be reviewied in detail at the Dysart Branch of the Haliburton County Public Library or online by clicking on the link on the side bar.

Several training requirements have evolved from the new legislation starting with Accessibile Customer Service Training.  All of our staff, Council and committee members are required to be trained with regard to this policy.   Third party contractors and consultants who perform work with the public on our behalf are also required to provide records that they have undertaken training in this regard.

Over the past few years, Dysart et al has been identifying and removing barriers both in the workplace and throughout the broader community.   All new municipal buildings and significant renovations require accessibility review by a panel of persons living with various types of disabilities.  Since this legislation has been enacted, several projects have enhanced accessibility to our residents and visitors.

Streetscape changes on both York and Highland Street assist greatly with accessibility as curbs, sidewalks, accessible parking spaces, audio traffic signals, and parking meter placement have all been designed specifically with greater accessibility in mind.

Renovations to the A.J. LaRue Arena include several new accessibility features including an inclined lift to the viewing stands to integrate patrons more fully, accessible washrooms, accessible entryways and a new accessible changeroom and shower.

The Haliburton Highlands Museum has undergone significant renovations in the past couple of years which includes a lift to the second floor, accessible entryways, washrooms and ramps from the parking area.

The DYMO Bus provides accessible transit services in and around Haliburton Village.   If you are living with a disability and require transportation assistance, please see the link on the sidebar for more information regarding this specialized accessible public transit service.

The Dysart et al Administration Building itself saw a major addition in the past decade which allowed the Council Chambers to be moved to the main floor and the creation of a new public accessible washroom making our services fully accessible to the public.

The new standards require us to consider accessibility when we make purchases and provide services.  We try to integrate this thinking into our every day planning on a go forward basis.   In 2011, Council adopted an electronic agenda format which means anyone can access agendas, minutes and reports on line using personal assistive devices if necessary.  When replacing a swing set in the Head Lake Park, the Parks Department purchased an accessible swing as part of the structure to ensure that children have opportunities for play as well.

There are some things we can’t do anything about due to age and location of structures, but anything new or changed will include consideration of accessibility requirements.  For example, recently, we purchased new portable toilets for use in various parks and made sure they were accessible versions.  We’ve also created new permanent accessible privies in Head Lake Park.

The progress isn’t always readily noticeable, especially for those struggling to get around, but a review of the barrier removal initiatives over the last decade will demonstrate that things are being accomplished and organizations and businesses are getting on board where they can as well.   Our local ski resort has the first covered surface lift in Canada meaning people using sit skis or adaptive equipment can get to the top of the hill much easier.

If you are building a new home or even renovating, consider barrier free design for your own long term living needs.  Simple changes like widening doorways and installing lever type handles, a ramped entranceway and creating an accessible bathroom are all design considerations that can be worked into new construction plans with minimal cost difference.  They may not seem like necessary things now, but even a temporary disability like a broken leg can leave you wishing you’d planned ahead.