What is a Business Community's Role in Accessibility?
We all have an obligation to make our businesses as welcoming as possible, and this includes eliminating what barriers we can to enable a positive shopping, dining and entertainment experience on our 'main' street (Queen St. E. in Leslieville).
In May of 2015, we created a volunteer Accessibility Committee, the timing of which coincided with the August, 2015 PanAm ParaPanAm Games in Toronto. Around that time, we also partnered with the neighbouring Riverside Business Improvement Area (BIA) in a fundraising launch for StopGap, a customized storefront ramp designer and builder. The Leslieville BIA encouraged all businesses to consider having a ramp built, and offered a financial incentive to do so. As you travel up and down Queen St. E. today, keep an eye out for the brightly coloured ramps with the StopGap.ca stencil. You'll see that many of our businesses use these.
The challenge for many BIAs is that the current landscape/structure/systems in this city simply cannot accommodate all the physical changes we would like. Like so many municipalities in Ontario, so many of our premises are smaller, have front steps, front onto narrow sidewalks, and/or narrow streets. There is much work to be done to re-plan this. But in the meantime, we have to try and we can't do this alone.
OBIAA Accessibility Committee
In May 2018, the Leslieville BIA learned that we were one of 10 BIAs whose application was accepted as a member of the OBIAA (Ontario BIA Association) Accessibility Committee. Representing over 230 BIAs in Ontario comprised of over 60,000 independent business owners and landlords, the Committee's job is to educate, inform, and enact change for the better.
This fall, the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA) is hosting community conversations around the province to identify main street and public space accessibility barriers and solutions. Leslieville hosted one such get together at Chartwell Avondale Retirement Residence, on Thursday, September 20, 2018. These forums are designed to inform the development of a new handbook that aims to assist BIAs, businesses, property owners and local governments to tackle built environment accessibility barriers together. Leslieville was the first forum held, and we welcomed business owners, residents with lived experience, advocates for accessibility, and legislators. We will be sharing highlights and updates on this page, so we invite you to check back often. If you live in Leslieville and you'd like to join any one of our committees, including our Accessibility Committee, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you.