London politicians move forward with demands to create barrier-free city
The city’s accessibility advisory committee had threatened to resign if demands weren’t met
It took the threat of a mass resignation and a set of strict demands to "open the eyes" of city staff and council.
For the first time in years, London's accessibility advisory committee is seeing progress with politicians who have pledged to create a barrier-free city.
In June, members of the group met with the mayor to discuss next steps after it threatened to quit in the spring.
On Tuesday, the city's community and protective services committee approved the outcome of that meeting and the group's general proposal. Politicians also asked staff to determine the feasibility and timeline of parts of the project.
"It seems like we have their attention and the attention of the community and it seems like there's a will to do something about it. So, we're hopeful," said chair Jacqueline Madden.
The group wants the city to focus on creating accessible community gardens and pathways. It also wants to be included in the next multi-year budget, among other requests.
Madden said initial frustrations stemmed from a lack of overall support from politicians who had a bad track record of keeping promises and following through with motions they've approved.
For example, the idea of having an accessible community garden was raised up to four times but still not acted on.
In the recent meeting with the mayor, the group laid out requests to be made within a 30- and 90-day time period, including long-term goals.
Some of the asks include:
In the next 30 days after anticipated approval:
- Read out a statement of commitment at all city meetings and post it near the entrance of city hall.
- Provide information on accessible taxis.
- A list outlining all former committee requests.
In the next 90 days after anticipated approval:
- Add captions to all city owned YouTube videos.
- Ensure accessible pathways during road work and construction.
- Continue progress on accessible community gardens.
Mayor Matt Brown said he was "grateful" for the committee's honesty.
"I think that it really helps focus everybody's attention on just how serious this issue is," he said.
The committee has asked to be considered in the next multi-year budget. It also wants the city to revisit topics on para-transit, infrastructure and employment.
Even though full council has yet to approve some of the demands, the accessibility and advisory committee said change is underway.
'Much more work ahead'
"Progress has been made but there's much more work ahead of us as well," said Brown.
The city has already asked members of meetings to include the statement in its workflow. Staff has also started clearly indicating what kind of supports are available to people at those meetings.
The committee withheld its resignation but hasn't completely withdrawn it.
Jay Menard, a member of the group, said he hopes to see change but the possibility of resigning could still be on the table.
"We don't want to resign, we want to affect change in the community that we represent," he said.
"It's horrible to say but it's reflective of society as a whole and its commitment to diversity and inclusivity especially as it relates do accessibility. There's a lot of lip service paid to doing the right thing but when it comes to executing these things whether intentionally or unintentionally there's still a lot of barriers out there," he added.