With the intent to support the rights of individuals with disabilities and achieve a barrier-free Canada by 2040, the Government of Canada introduced the Accessibility Canada Act (ACA) in 2019. On June 17, 2021, the Province of British Columbia adopted the Accessibility British Columbia Act (ABCC), with a mandate to support a policy framework that will proactively identify, address, and remove barriers that prevent equal participation of disabled individuals while interacting with organizations under provincial jurisdiction. The provincial legislation stipulated various categories of public institutions under the provincial jurisdictions to comply with specific requirements aimed to support creating an inclusive delivery of services and better meet the accessibility needs of their employees.
As of October 11, 2023, the Town of Smithers fulfilled the following three legislative requirements established by the provincial accessibility legislation:
- Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC): On March 14, 2023, the Smithers Town Council established the Joint-Accessibility Advisory Committee for the Town of Smithers and Public Library. Currently, the Committee has 10 members from the public, with the majority either with disability(disabilities) or are working closely with disabled individual(s) either at a personal or professional level. The AAC will meet quarterly to discuss items that are within its mandate, including identifying opportunities for accessibility improvements.
- Organizational Accessibility Plan: The Town Council adopted the Smithers Accessibility Plan – jointly prepared for the Town of Smithers and Smithers Public Library -- on October 11, 2023. The Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) was consulted at various points of the Plan development process. As part of the Project, the Project team had conducted two community surveys – one each at the beginning phase of the project and at the draft Plan review phase -- and had contacted stakeholders to obtain feedback in the issue identification and plan development process. Additional surveys were conducted for staff, elected officials/Board members of the Town and the Public Library, to gain insights on the work-related accessibility issues and to identify opportunities for improvement. All inputs received from the engagement process contributed to the development of the final Plan.
The adopted Accessibility Plan will serve as a guide for the Town towards establishing an accessible service delivery framework and work environment, for over the next three years, until replaced by an updated Accessibility Plan in October 2026.
Although not a legislated requirement, as part of the larger Accessibility Plan development process, the Town also updated the Accessibility Assessment Report for all the Town facilities and parks; the Assessment report was originally completed in 2016, in conjunction with the Age-Friendly Assessment and Action Plan Project. The Assessment report will serve as an additional resource that will assist the Town and the Accessibility Committee, in shaping the future accessibility-related improvements and in conducting periodic evaluation of the improvements made in various focus areas.
- Feedback Mechanism: At the October 10th Regular meeting, Council established ‘Request for Service’ form and the ‘Report an Issue’ webpage as the Town’s official mechanisms to receive public feedback both on the Accessibility Plan and on the barriers to individuals interacting with the Town. To this end, the forms were modified to include an ‘accessibility’ option the list of issues / topics. Printed copies of the ‘Request for Service’ forms can also be obtained from the Front Desk of the Town Hall building at 1027 Aldous Street, Smithers, BC.
Resolving Accessibility Issues Reported:
Comments received from public on accessibility issues will be forwarded to the Development Services Department for further action. A Town staff will respond to your feedback within a week or sooner, depending on the nature of the concern raised and the possible solutions available. The Town will maintain a register of the accessibility-related complaints received from public, enabling Town departments to identify frequently raised concerns and focus areas for future action. A summary of the public feedback will also be presented to the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) at the quarterly meetings, creating further opportunities for detailed discussions on key issues and obtaining AAC’s feedback on next steps.