The City of Yellowknife will develop a policy enshrining its commitment to ensuring people with disabilities are treated with respect and have equitable access to city services and programs.
While the city adopted an accessibility audit and implementation plan in July 2018, there is currently no overarching policy or committee to provide accessibility guidance to the municipality.
At a meeting on Monday, councillors discussed plans to develop such a policy along with an accessibility advisory committee.
“Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s also the right time,” city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett told councillors, highlighting upcoming work on a new aquatic centre.
The draft policy includes commitments to reduce and eliminate physical barriers to city-owned facilities and public spaces, work toward fully accessible public transit, ensure city communications are accessible, and increase engagement with people with disabilities.
The committee will include people with experience of accessibility issues advising the city on things like website design, policies and procedures.
“I think it’s another good step forward on our road in making Yellowknife as accessible as possible,” Councillor Julian Morse said of the proposal.
While some provinces like Ontario require municipalities with more than 10,000 residents to have an accessibility advisory committee, there is no such policy in the NWT. The territory does not have its own building act, nor legislation that provides accessibility standards for buildings, though the NWT Human Rights Act does prohibit discrimination based on ability.
Federally, the Accessible Canada Act came into force in July 2019. Provinces and territories have been encouraged to adopt similar legislation.
During the most recent annual general meeting of the NWT Association of Communities, the city recommended that the NWT develop accessibility legislation.
The city will seek public input on the accessibility policy before it is finalized. Once passed, it will be reviewed every three years.
Councillors are set to vote on the draft policy and plans for the committee at their upcoming August 23 council meeting.