By Monica DeVidi
So, your municipality has created an accessibility plan. Now what?
In June 2021 the Government of BC passed legislation that requires more than 750 public sector organizations – including local governments and health authorities – to establish accessibility plans. These plans must outline how local governments will identify, remove and prevent future barriers for those with disabilities. Organizations are also required to form accessibility committees and create a feedback system to refine the plans (UBCM, 2023). Local governments are required to complete their plans by September 1, 2023, and Health Authorities by September 1, 2024.
As local governments finish their plans, whether they are created in partnership with other municipalities in their region, or amended versions of existing plans, they might consider applying an Equity Lens to enhance their implementation. Ideally, an Equity Lens is applied throughout the entire planning process, from the initial stages through to the monitoring and evaluation. The provincially mandated regulations are a positive force in sending local governments on the path to including equity in these accessibility plans. For instance, accessibility committees should ensure some members are persons with disabilities and/or represent disability serving organizations.
An equity informed and intersectional approach would also ensure that people from different cultures, income levels, genders and sexual orientations are included in the committee, as not all people with disabilities have the same lived experiences.
Once accessibility plans have been made public, all data received through the feedback mechanism would be considered, and acted upon, as municipalities move forward with implementation. It can be helpful to clearly document the path between feedback and action and demonstrate that municipalities are listening (BC Accessibility Hub, 2023). Monitoring and evaluation is also an important phase that can help determine if plans have been successful in reducing barriers, while also revealing experiences of inequity. It’s important to have clear plans to determine what success looks like, with equity being an indicator of success, and to share lessons and ways forward with the community.
Applying an Equity Lens during the implementation of accessibility plans will help local governments become aware of inequities among those living with disabilities and help address barriers and/or create long lasting change that will benefit the entire community. If applied during the planning process, an Equity Lens can also help with the plan’s successful implementation. Local governments have an opportunity to address challenges that people with disabilities face in their communities, and using an equity-informed approach can result in more inclusive, collaborative, fair and effective results.
To hear more about applying an Equity Lens in municipal planning, attend BCHC’s PlanH webinar – Equity in action: How leaders can champion inclusive policymaking – on November 8, 2023.
BC Accessibility Hub: “Feedback” with link to BC Government Accessibility Feedback Page
BC Healthy Communities “Applying an Equity Lens in Age-friendly Communities Planning”
Disability Alliance BC “Developing Your First Accessibility Plan: A Guide for BC Prescribed Organizations”
UBCM “Requirements for Local Governments Under the Accessible BC Act” guidance document
BC Accessibility Hub. (2023). Feedback.