The township of North Dundas is installing what have been labelled as, “AODA friendly” swings in municipal parks in Winchester, Chesterville, Mountain, Harmony, and South Mountain. An “AODA friendly” swing was previously installed in the Morewood Community Park.
AODA stands for Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Ac, initially passed in 2001. It is law that organizations must follow standards to become more accessible to people with disabilities.
The goal is that Ontario be fully accessible by 2025. All levels of government, private sector, and non-profits must comply.
The trouble is, these so-called “AODA friendly” swings are most certainly not accessible to many people with physical disabilities. Mobility aids cannot roll through sand. The ground under the swings must allow for safe access, and safe transfer. These do not.
The township states that the swings are suitable for children from 18 months to 12 years.
Accessible swings are not intended for a specific age group, but rather rated for weight.
The swing cannot accommodate people who are neuro-typical or neuro-diverse, and people of all mental and physical (dis)abilities.
Laurie Rae, a Morewood mother with two adult daughters with disabilities, has been advocating for accessibility in North Dundas for 30 years. She is stunned by the lack of foresight on this and other issues surrounding accessibility in the township. She has called for consultation and accountability on issues to address the needs of people with disabilities.
Accessibility Canada, in its 67-page guide to accessible recreation entitled “Pathways to Recreation”, stresses that, “surfacing is one of the most significant considerations, given its importance to facilitating easy access to play equipment and experiences.” In short, if a disabled person cannot safely get to the equipment, it is useless.
The publication stresses that “organizations must make sure that outdoor play spaces have ground surfaces that are firm and stable…to allow wheelchairs to roll easily.”
Other future AODA improvements highlighted by the township include picnic tables intended to be stroller and wheelchair friendly. Many of these tables are made of black metal, placed in full-sun locations. The risk of burns is high, especially by someone with physical or mental disabilities, often dependent on assistance to access the table.
Consultation with the disabled community and advocates would outline issues such at this, and many more.
There are many resources available for communities seeking to improve accessibility for residents, including a variety of publications, numerous agencies intended to ensure access for all Ontarians, and an array of consultation services to help organisations get it right.
The township states that it, “strives to provide recreational and social opportunities for all of our residents and guests to enjoy.” They claim that “many AODA compliant improvements are made to our numerous existing parks and facilities each year, and AODA updates are always considered when developing or renovating our public spaces.”
These latest installments do no reflect the recommendations made by Accessibility Canada.
You can find the publication Pathways to Recreation: Learning about Ontario’s Design of Public Spaces Standard at accessibilitycanada.ca.