Neepawa working on its accessibility plan


Eoin Devereux 
Neepawa Banner & Press

The Town of Neepawa is examining ways to broaden accessibility. On Monday, Nov. 20, representatives with the Town administration sat down with the public to talk about the implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA).

Passed by the provincial government in 2013, the AMA is a guideline for communities to upgrade their accessibility standards in five key areas—customer service, employment, information/communication, built environment (structures) and transportation. The mandate for this is to be phased in across the province by 2023.

As part of the process, a public forum was required. Neepawa’s chief administrative officer Colleen Synchyshyn explained the details of the AMA to those in attendance and helped to guide the dialog. Once the meeting was over, Synchyshyn noted to the Banner & Press, that the evening’s discussions were very informative, both for the general public and for the Town’s representatives.

“[Municipalities] have to comply with the legislation and have an accessibility plan in place by Dec. 31, 2017. But more importantly, we need to hear from the public and consult with them on the legislation and implementation,” noted Synchyshyn. “We ourselves have done an evaluation of all municipally owned and operated facilities and operations and have a concept of what meets the AMA criteria and what needs to be reviewed or revised. But we’re also trying to get feedback from the community. During the discussions, the majority of the examples cited by the public for improving accessibility were more geared towards local businesses, as opposed to the municipality itself.

Synchyshyn said that helping local businesses to align with the AMA is also part of the process.

“This meeting was set up to find out what we’re doing right as a municipality and what we need to address with public facilities, such as parks, the campground or the swimming pool, for example. But the gamut of what I heard tonight is that it’s a little more far reaching, focused more on the business end of things. Where maybe we need to have some communication with the [Neepawa Chamber of Commerce] and, at least get the information out there, so that [businesses] understand that this isn’t just about the Town Office building. It’s about all the buildings in town.” Synchyshyn indicated. “The idea is to evolve your community. Get them to understand what’s happening out there. The first phase is government entities being the forerunners and stepping up first. Then, helping guide businesses towards following this as well, as best they can, but not policing them. Nobody is being forced to spend money on constructing a lift or anything like that. It’s just providing information to help them equalize the service availability across our community.”

With the required consultation now completed, a draft plan was presented to Town council on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The passage of that plan, through resolution of council, will likely occur during the first council meeting of December. After that, with guidance from the province, Neepawa will move forward on implementing the requirements of accessibility heading into 2023.