Why your community should invest in accessibility

First impressions can be tough! When getting ready for an interview, you could spend hours preparing for questions, choosing the perfect outfit and researching the organization! But what about communities? How can communities prepare to ensure that tourists, investors and potential residents have a positive impression upon their initial visit?

This two-part blog series will discuss why community accessibility is an important component that economic development professionals should consider when evaluating how their community fares for first-time-visitors.


Why invest in accessibility?

People living with disabilities can be empowered or hindered by community services, or lack thereof. Investing in community accessibility will help improve social engagement and economic activity in the future.

A recent study from The Conference Board of Canada found that as the population ages, the amount of people who have disabilities will increase. Subsequently, the consumer market of people with disabilities is anticipated to grow from 14 per cent to 21 per cent by 2030, “with Canadians with a physical disability spending $316 billion annually.”Two graphs: Rapid growth expected for population of Canadians with physical disabilities that impair mobility, vision, or hearing; spending growth by consumers with a physical disability that impairs mobility, vision, or hearing to outpace overall Canadian market

Creating more accessible communities could also play a roll in helping to address skill and labour shortages. When communities and businesses invest in accessibility, they are enabling more people to actively participate in the labour force, leading to deepened labour pools and increased incomes.

Three simple ways to make spaces more accessible

The Conference Board of Canada report, The Business Case to Build Physically Accessible Environments, offers three simple and low-cost accommodations that can be applied in community and work spaces:

  • Clutter: Removing clutter makes it easier for everyone to move around. This is a low-cost upgrade that many organizations can implement quickly.
  • Open spaces: Many organizations are already moving toward more open work environments. More open office space allows employees with physical disabilities to move around with comfort. With a little more thought, organizations can ensure revamped spaces are both collaborative and accessible without incurring additional costs.
  • Low-cost technologies: Ergonomically designed keyboards and mice, and software such as voice recognition typing can make technology accessible for employees with physical disabilities. These technologies also help employees with repetitive strain injuries, wrist injuries, or other injuries.Workplace modifications that would improve workforce participation

Assessing accessibility in your community

Think about the streetscapes, stores, community centres, and workplaces in your community. Are they equipped with the resources and services required to effectively accommodate a visitor with a disability? This post has mainly addressed improving spaces for people with physical disabilities, however, it’s important to recognize that the needs of individuals with mental and developmental disabilities should also be incorporated into workplace and community design. Stay tuned for part-two of this blog series to learn about rural communities who are benefiting from investing in accessibility.

Learn more about creating an accessible Ontario here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/people-disabilities  

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