The County of Simcoe is pleased to present its 2020 annual status report that demonstrates the progress taken to implement the 2019-2023 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, as required by the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).
The County of Simcoe's 2019 – 2023 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan was prepared in consultation with person with disabilities and the County of Simcoe's Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee and received County Council's approval in May 2018. The Plan outlines the County of Simcoe's strategy to identify, remove and prevent barriers faced by persons with disabilities and outlines how the County will continue to comply with accessibility legislation.
The Accessibility Annual Status Report for 2020 highlights the County of Simcoe's accomplishments over the past year (September 2019 to September 2020), which have improved accessibility and removed or prevented barriers within the County of Simcoe's facilities, programs and services. The report also demonstrates the County's continued commitment to accessibility and awareness as well as meet its legislative requirements.
This report and other accessibility information related to the County's programs and services will be made available in alternate formats upon request and will be posted on the County of Simcoe's website.
Statement of Organizational Commitment
The County of Simcoe is committed to providing people with disabilities consistent opportunity and access to County of Simcoe goods, services, and facilities. The County will ensure that policies, procedures, and practices are provided in a manner that is timely and addresses integration, independence, dignity, and equal opportunity. The County will endeavor to follow the compliance schedule of the legislation when implementing each of the requirements addressed in this policy.
Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee
The County of Simcoe participates as a member of a Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee with the Township of Oro-Medonte, Township of Adjala-Tosorontio, Township of Springwater and Township of Tay. The Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee advises the Councils of the participating municipalities on matters regarding the accessibility of County and Township owned and operated facilities as well as programs and services offered by the municipalities. The members of the 2018-2022 Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee are listed below.
It should be noted that although the County of Simcoe, Township of Springwater, Township of Tay, Township of Oro-Medonte and Township of Adjala-Tosorontio have a Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee, the five participating municipalities continue to maintain and implement separate multi-year accessibility plans and prepare separate annual status reports.
Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee Members
- Doug Mein, Chair (Citizen Appointee)
- Susan Hamer, Vice-Chair (Citizen Appointee)
- Liz Grummett (Citizen Appointee)
- Fred Heyduk (Citizen Appointee)
- Jan Dobson-Rose (Citizen Appointee)
- Deputy Warden Barry Burton (County of Simcoe)
- Councillor Sandy Talbot (Township of Tay)
- Councillor Shawn Scott (Township of Oro-Medonte)
- Councillor Ron O'Leary (Township of Adjala-Tosorontio)
- Councillor Anita Moore (Township of Springwater)
Community Accessibility Partnerships
- The County of Simcoe continued to participate as a member of the Simcoe County Accessibility Group. This group consists of staff from the County of Simcoe, 16 member municipalities, the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia, and neighboring municipalities who are responsible for accessibility activities and legislative compliance at their respective organizations. Members continued to share information via email and telephone, as required.
- The Clerk's Department maintained membership in the Ontario Network of Accessibility Professionals (ONAP), which is comprised of staff at municipalities and other broader public sector organizations across Ontario. The Clerk's Department maintained regular contact with the group via email in order to share information and resources and discuss accessibility questions and concerns. The Legislative Coordinator participated in ONAP's Spring 2020 Virtual Meeting on May 28 and 29.
- The Clerk's Department continued membership in the South Western Ontario Accessibility Group, which is a sub-group of ONAP, consisting primarily of accessibility staff in South Western Ontario. The Clerk's Department maintained email contact with the group. Various accessibility topics were discussed and resources shared to assist staff in the implementation of accessibility initiatives.
- The Legislative Coordinator made a presentation to the Simcoe County Clerk's and Treasurers Association in February regarding WCAG 2.0 closed captioning requirements. Throughout the year, the lower tiers asked questions to further navigate the requirements when recording or live streaming their Council meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council Proclamations to Promote Accessibility and Disability Awareness
- On behalf of County Council, the Warden continued his annual proclamation of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3, 2019) and National AccessAbility Week (May 31 to June 6, 2020). By observing these events, County Council acknowledges the importance of accessibility and disability awareness. Media releases and social media posts followed these proclamations.
- The County ran a week long social media campaign during National AccessAbility Week. The County's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts were used to raise awareness and promote inclusion. Some examples of the social media posts for the week include:
- It's National AccessAbility Week! This week is dedicated to recognizing accessibility and inclusion across communities and workplaces.
- DYK – 211 helps connect people to the right information and services based on their needs. Call 2-1-1 from anywhere in Ontario.
- DYK - The Accessible Canada Act came into force July 2019, making National AccessAbility Week legislated to take place every year beginning on the last Sunday in May to celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities.
Accessibility Planning and Reporting
- This annual status report outlines the County of Simcoe's accessibility activities and accomplishments over the past year. This report meets the annual status reporting that is required by the IASR under the AODA and will be posted on the County's website.
- The County's 2019 – 2023 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan was approved by County Council on May 22, 2018. The final plan is posted on the County's website and internal intranet and is made available in alternate formats as requested.
- The County of Simcoe and participating municipalities prepared a 2020 Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee Work Plan. The work plan outlined projects and tasks for the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee for 2020. An annual work plan will continue to be developed for the Committee.
- In November 2019, the County submitted their 2019 Accessibility Compliance Report to the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. The County reported non-compliance on consulting with the Accessibility Advisory Committee on new or redeveloped outdoor play spaces. It was recognized that the playground designs/drawings for the two new social housing builds in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach were not put before the Accessibility Advisory Committee for their review. The Ministry requested that the County consult with one person with a disability in order to become compliant. In March 2020, the County consulted with the Chair of the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee and reported back to the Ministry that the consult had been completed and the Ministry closed the file.
- The County's accessibility training provided to all new employees via the Learning Management System underwent a revamp in 2019/2020. This included changes to make the online learning experience more engaging for users as well as incorporating legislative updates. The original training module titled, “Accessibility, Disability and the Law" consisted of 89 slides with a multiple choice quiz at the end. The new orientation training titled “Creating an Accessible Simcoe County" is broken down into four modules, making it easier for new employees to digest the information. Each module contains voiceover recordings of the content and consists of 11 – 28 slides; covering the requirements of the accessibility standards in the IASR and the Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities. At the end of each module there is a knowledge checkpoint that consists of one multiple choice question.
- The County continued to provide training on the AODA and its Regulations, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and general accessibility and disability awareness to new County of Simcoe employees. Records are kept on the completion of the training as per the legislative requirements. During the period of this annual status report, approximately 168 new employees received the training.
- The Human Resources Department (HR) launched new learning and development opportunities for all staff in January 2020. A number of sessions were offered that promote positive mental health in the workplace including Mindful Meditation – an Introduction and The Working Mind. Sessions were planned for in-person participation therefore due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sessions from March on were cancelled. HR began work on a new learning plan that focuses on virtual learning in order to continue offering the new learning and development opportunities for all staff remotely.
- In June, the Human Resources Department arranged for a virtual EAP session for all County staff with a focus on dealing with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 100 staff members joined the hour-long session. Staff could also reach out to the facilitator for a one-on-one session following the group session.
It is recognized that there are natural synergies between the County's 2018- 2023 Positive Aging Strategy and the requirements under the AODA. With an aging population, the age friendly initiative works towards providing enhanced opportunities for older adults and/or persons with disabilities throughout the County. Updates on the Age-Friendly Initiatives during the period of this annual status report that most benefit persons with disabilities are highlighted below:
- The County continued the Age-Friendly Seniors Housing Grant Program that provides $500,000 in annual funding to support the development of age-friendly housing. This annual program supports the development of age-friendly housing by including accessible, adaptable and inclusive designs and/ or incorporating a range of support services that would allow older adults to continue to live independently in their homes and participate in their community for as long as possible.
- In 2020, 55 applications were approved in 15 municipalities.
- The majority of accessibility projects applied for by individuals were to convert bathrooms, walkways and to add stair lifts and grab bars.
- In 2019 the Age-Friendly Business/Organization Guide and Recognition Program saw 16 businesses complete the accessibility assessment and receive recognition from the County of Simcoe.
Compliance with the Customer Service Standards
- The County of Simcoe maintained its compliance with the Customer Service Standards, including the legislative requirements for use of service animals, support persons, and assistive devices. The County notified the public when there was a service disruption to facilities, programs and services that are used by persons with disabilities. Training on accessible customer service is provided to all new employees, as noted earlier, as part of the County's “Creating an Accessible Simcoe County" training program on the Learning Management System.
Response and tracking of resident feedback and accommodation requests
- Service Simcoe continued to track and respond to all feedback, concerns and requests from residents. Responses were provided in a timely manner that took into account each person's needs and the County's ability to meet those needs and requests. During the period of this annual status report, just one accessibility-related feedback/inquiry was logged by the Service Simcoe Team. The request for information was regarding accessibility grants for small businesses.
Information and Communication
Accessible formats and communication supports
- The County of Simcoe continued to incorporate accessibility features into both internal and external documents created by its many departments. Considerations include font size and style, colour contrast, spacing, use of white space, and use of formatting techniques such as bold, italics, underlining and use of capital letters. In addition, the County provided documents in alternative format and/or with communication support, upon request.
- The Legislative Coordinator reviewed and provided advice on Economic Development's COVID-19 Business Impact Survey 2.0 following an inquiry regarding the font and readability of the survey.
- The Legislative Coordinator reviewed Senior Service's family and resident satisfaction surveys for circulation in the County owned Long-Term Care Facilities and Retirement Residences. These surveys are used for future program planning and service delivery.
- The County of Simcoe continued to live stream all Council and Committee of the Whole meetings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the County also began live streaming all sub-committee and advisory committee meetings to the County's YouTube channel.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, staff received regular email updates from the CAO's office regarding new policies, resources, information and reminders. This information included videos, links to outside resources and to the County's Wellness Resources page for employees.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, a Wellness Resources page was regularly updated to provide staff with EAP information, podcasts, various mental health supports, App suggestions to help cope with stress and anxiety, as well as family resources.
- The County of Simcoe continued to utilize a cloud base platform called Siteimprove to regularly check the accessibility compliance of the County's public website, based on criteria set out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). The County of Simcoe's Information Technology Department and web content contributors receive regular reports on the accessibility compliance of their department's webpages including PDF documents. Siteimprove identifies any formatting or style errors on your webpages as well as in correct HTML code on your website and highlights those errors so they can be fixed. It has been recognized that due to staff turnover, a greater effort to train employees on how to produce accessible web content needs to be a future priority.
Accessible employment policies and procedures
- The County of Simcoe maintained its compliance with the employment standard by monitoring and documenting employment policies and procedures, where required, to provide accommodations in all stages of employment, accessible formats and communications supports to employees, workplace emergency response information, and return to work and related accommodation plans.
- The County continued to focus on employee wellness and made a number of changes to the non-union benefits package that saw increases in coverage such as psychology, physiotherapy, massage therapy, naturopathic coverage and vision care. The definition of psychology was also expanded to include approved psychotherapists and social workers.
Use and inspection of accessible vehicles at long term care facilities
- The County continued to operate para-transit vehicles at the long term care facilities for resident transport. Inspection occurred regularly to ensure accessible and safe transport and to meet requirements of applicable legislation such as the Highway Traffic Act. Equivalent services are available upon request should the long term care vehicles not be accessible to all residents.
Simcoe County LINX and LINX Plus Transit Service
- The County continued to operate and expand the conventional and specialized public transit system that links major urban hubs and local transit services in the County of Simcoe.
- Ridership numbers saw a decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Service hours were adjusted at that time and staff continue to monitor ridership numbers and increase service hours as needed.
- 2019 Conventional Ridership Numbers – 90, 939
- 2020 Conventional Ridership to the end of September - 103, 578
- 2019 Specialized Ridership Numbers - 275
- 2020 Specialized Ridership to the end of September - 285
- August 4, 2020, route 5 from Alliston to Bradford launched as part of the Simcoe County LINX transit system.
- Route 6 from Midland to Orillia is planned to begin by fall of 2020.
- In order to facilitate the new routes, the County purchased an additional 8 conventional transit buses and 3 specialized transit buses. All transit buses purchased meet the technical requirements under the Transportation Standards Regulation.
The County has continued to ensure its compliance with the Transportation Standards Regulation. This includes:
- Making sure up-to-date information regarding specialized transit, conventional transit, routes and services available is posted for the public's information on the County's website.
- Through a competitive bid process, the County awarded a contract to First Student who employs the transit operators. First Student is responsible for training all operators on the general accessibility training requirements as well as job specific training with respect to:
- The safe use of accessibility equipment and features,
- Acceptable modifications to procedures in situation where temporary barriers exist or accessibility equipment on a vehicle fails, and
- Emergency preparedness and response procedures that provide for the safety of persons with disabilities.
- Ensure mobility aids and mobility assistive devices are stored safely within reach of the person with the disability who uses the aid, at no charge.
- The County has utilized existing bus stops when taking over already established routes. A process for identifying priority stops for future enhancements and improvements (poured concrete pads or shelters) is being developed.
- An application process for visitors to the County of Simcoe who wish to utilize specialized transportation services (LINX Plus) was established and implemented in February 2020 as outlined in the Transportation Standards Regulation.
- An application process for a support person for convention transit was established and implemented in March 2020. Once granted, a card is issued to the person with a disability so that a support person can accompany them on conventional transit, free of charge.
- From September 2019 to September 2020, 36 applications have been received for specialized transit. Any application that was refused was deemed to be incomplete or outside of the service area.
- As of September 30, 2020, there were a total of 79 registered riders of specialized transit.
- On February 11, 2020, County Council approved a one-year pilot project to enhance specialized transit service in Simcoe County. The pilot project enhances the specialized services for customers in the rural areas allowing the specialized transit to operate a few kilometers from the conventional fixed route.
- The Transit and Information Technology Department have begun work on an automated transit scheduling and online booking system for LINX Plus ridership. This system will allow for customers to book their trips online as well as still having the ability to call in to Service Simcoe. The system will allow for same-day bookings, last-minute bookings, pre-payment for trips and will send updated information to the bus driver as well as confirmations and real-time notifications to the customer. Customers will be able to book, view, cancel or request a modification through online access or an integrated voice recognition system during business and non-business hours. The customer database will enable County staff and the bus drivers to view the customers travel needs and tailor the service to the client's ability.
Barrier-free design features in County facilities
The County continued to incorporate accessible features in renovations and upgrades to facilities. Ontario Building Code requirements are followed and consideration is given to barrier-free design feature that improve accessibility for persons with disabilities.
- At it's January 16, 2020 meeting, the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee approved the Site Plan Review Guidelines. As per Section 29 (4) (4) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, the Committee shall review site plans and drawings described in Section 41 of the Planning Act that the Committee selects . These guidelines will help County and Township staff identify which site plans would be deemed to be selected by the committee and clearly defines what projects should be reviewed by the Committee.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the facility reviews scheduled for summer 2020 for the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee were cancelled.
This Accessibility Annual Status Report for 2020 will be available on the County of Simcoe's website and internal Intranet. Printed copies can be requested.
This document will be available in alternate format or with communication support, upon request.
The County of Simcoe welcomes all questions and comments on the 2020 Annual Status Report and accessibility matters in general. Please contact the County in person, by mail, telephone, email or fax.
County of Simcoe
1110 Highway 26
Midhurst, ON L9X 1N6
Telephone: 705-726-9300 Extension 1246
Toll Free: 1-866-896-9300
Customer Service: 705-735-6901