| Jan 17, 2008

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Feature Article - January 17 2008 Land o’ Lakes region taking steps to meet Ontario accessibility regulations

As of January 1, 2008 the Ontarians with Disabilities Act will require businesses and organizations in Ontario to make their services accessible to customers with disabilities. Approximately 1.5 million people in Ontario have disabilities, meaning a large segment of the population is as yet unable to fully enjoy the advantages the Frontenacs have to offer.

With the changes to Ontarians with Disabilities Act in mind, the members of the Land o’ Lakes Tourist Association have begun to take a closer look at the availability of accessible resorts and businesses in the region, and the steps the community is prepared take to offer services to tourists with disabilities. A recent survey by Terry Shea and Claire Walker of the Land o’ Lakes Tourist Association found that the majority of the businesses in the region are not fully prepared for these changes. For Terry Shea the findings came as a surprise. “A number of businesses we contacted were uncomfortable with the questions, and worried that they were being found out for not accommodating all their customers,” Shea says. Yet as he adds, “To my mind complying with accessibility standards is opportunity to open the Land o’ Lakes tourist district to a broader range of tourists, and as I see it, it is a positive development for the area.”

The reasons for the low-level of preparedness to meet accessibility regulations are due in part to the unique challenges facing businesses in the Land o’ Lakes area. In particular, the difficult nature of making outdoor facilities such as beaches, docks, and boats fully accessible was cited as a predominant reason why many of those surveyed could not classify their business as in compliance with the new standards. Other factors contributing to local area businesses falling short of accessibility standards included the economic strain of rebuilding facilities, or simple lack of awareness about the accessibility standards.

Despite these obstacles, several businesses in the area have begun to consider ways to accommodate all their potential customers. Claire and Jim Walker of Kirk’s Cove Cottages have taken steps to make their cabins accessible to all visitors, and have already seen encouraging results. Jim says, “With simple changes to our facilities, we were able to provide the Land o’ Lakes vacation experience to a wider range of clients.” While Claire and Jim agree they still have a long way to go to make the resort fully accessible, the steps they have taken have already led to an encouraging increase in visitation.

Funding for accessibility projects is available through several agencies, including Revenue Canada, Industry Canada’s Eastern Ontario Development Program, the Government of Ontario’s Culture Attractions Fund, and Charity Village. More information on these programs can be found on the organizations’ websites.

For more information on how to make your business accessible, contact the following organizations:

Canada-Ontario Business Service CentreTelephone - 1-800-567-2345 http://www.canadabusiness.ca/ontarioEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ontario AccessibilityTelephone - 1-866-515-2025http://www.accesson.ca/ado/english/Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.y for Accessibility Telephone - 416-326-0207 or 1-888-520-5828http://www.accessibilitydirectory.caEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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