I have the honour of serving as the council liaison for the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC). This committee’s aim is to improve the City’s livability, accessibility and inclusiveness for people with disabilities by providing recommendations and advice to City Council regarding facilities, infrastructure, services, programs, activities, and policies. The AAC has two sub-committees including the Community Engagement Committee and Policy Committee. Zachary Weeks has been with the AAC for five years, and currently serves as the committee chair. Zachary is a passionate advocate for individuals with disabilities in Edmonton and is proud to help make Edmonton a more inclusive city.
Throughout my time with the AAC I have learned a substantial amount about the barriers and opportunities that people with disabilities have in our city. It made me realize that Edmonton has a long way to go before our city is truly accessible for all our citizens. We are lucky to have the AAC and passionate advocates like Zachary, so that we are moving in the right direction.
Zachary has agreed to share some of his words of wisdom with us, regarding important issues of accessibility in Edmonton.
Question: Why is it important to keep accessibility in mind?
Zachary’s Answer: Inclusion. We have a wonderful city with tons of amazing things for residents to experience. Some of those things are not able to be enjoyed by everyone. We are in a day and age when we recognize that physical access is important (still room for improvement though) but we often forget about others disabilities that may include deafness/hard of hearing, blindness or invisible disabilities that are not as identifiable as the next.
Question: What are some of the major issues for citizens with disabilities?
Zachary’s Answer: Some of the major issues for Edmontonians with disabilities include
- Unreliable accessible transportation specifically provided by third-party providers.
- Immense lack of services for those with deafness and hard of hearing such as American Sign Language or captioning at public events.
- Accessible and affordable housing
Question: How can Edmontonians better support people with a diverse range of abilities?
Zachary’s Answer: I think one of the key things that people are possibly afraid to do, is ask questions. It’s OK to ask questions! Having an open mind on things makes the world so much easier.
Question: What impact does the Accessibility Advisory Committee have on Edmonton?
Zachary’s Answer: We review programs, services, policies and plans for city facilities to identify issues or barriers for people with disabilities. We then collaborate with the city to overcome those barriers. We also consult with citizens together perspectives and feedback.
Zachary is an excellent example of an Edmontonian who is actively engaged in bettering the city we all live in. Zachary and the AAC have taught me about the importance of accessibility from a physical, mental, or social perspective. Being on the AAC helps to ensure the decisions City Council makes are done with accessibility in mind. We know that one of the major goals of the AAC is to ensure they are consulted early on the issues that come before council. That way, they can provide meaningful feedback before projects are well-underway. A good example of this was with the new downtown area. The AAC was engaged early on to make sure that Rogers Place was being designed with the needs of all individuals in mind. This includes everything from accessible seating, hearing accommodation, and more. Because of work like this, the downtown area is much more inclusive to all Edmontonians.
Zachary and I agree that the community members who volunteer on the AAC are passionate advocates of inclusion in Edmonton. The committee is made up of a diverse range of citizens with a variety of ability. They work together, to help improve our city for current and future generations. I am honoured to listen to their recommendations about how our city can better serve our diverse community. If you would like to keep up-to date with the work of the Accessibility Advisory Committee, I encourage you to follow them on Twitter and Facebook!
Written by A. Knack, M. Banister, with contributions from Z. Weeks.