Return to site

You Are Still Not Welcome Here

· advocacy,playground,inclusion,accessibility

Last month I shared my ongoing conversations with the City Councillor and the City of Markham regarding our local park, specifically the accessibility of the playground. You can read my post here.

Over the past few weeks I was able to talk with the City Councillor along with City of Markham representatives, but felt like no one wanted to take the ownership of the hanging sign on the outdated playground that read,

“You Are Not Welcome Here.”

Everyone seemed to be reciting, repeating, and reflecting the same answers to me:

“I know how you feel.”

“The playground has to pass it’s life cycle.”

“The current playground doesn’t need to abide to AODA standards.”

“In the future, we can review how we can make public spaces more accessible.”

“Let me look into it.”

Thank you to my #MomBehindTheLabel readers who have reached out to me through social media to share your ongoing frustrations with the physical barriers in your own communities. I hope this will shed light on how important it is for cities to work with residents to create more inclusive spaces.

Without further adieu, I’d like to share the thread of conversations with the Commissioner of Community & Fire Services and the City of Markham.

* To respect the community members that I continue to work with, I am currently choosing to keep their identities private.

ANDREA,

My name is (*bleep), Commissioner of Community and Fire Services and one of the staff in our Development Services Commission has referred your concerns with the playground to me for response. I understand you were inquiring about the replacement of the playground with accessible features which is an important component that we undertake when we replace our playground equipment. In the case of this park, a committee of residents proposed a plan for this park based on extensive consultation and they focused adding new features not replacing equipment. In this park, the playground equipment is not up for lifecycle replacement at this time but when it does meet the cycle for replacement we will definitely address the accessibility of the equipment and the surfaces. The City does plan for accessibility when creating new parks and neighbourhoods. Our older parks are addressed when replacements for major retrofits are due to occur based on a lifecycle planning model or if we are fortunate to receive grants or donations. An example of this is the John Daniel’s Gateway at Markham & Steeles which received federal funding to retrofit public spaces and this one had a sitting area under a shade structure with a fountain that was not accessible. The new entrance and passive sitting area used by all abilities and ages is fully accessible including the fountain /splash pad. Further to your concerns – I have asked staff to review how we can advance accessible playgrounds across the City and what funding options could be explored to ensure we could reach all of neighbourhoods.

Thanks for bringing your concerns to our attention – happy to discuss further.

COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY & FIRE SERVICES

HELLO COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY & FIRE SERVICES,

Thank you for your follow up. I value your response to my inquiry regarding the accessibility to the public space at the park.

I've spoken with a member on the executive at our Area Residents Association and a few other residents in the community. From my understanding this proposed plan was done years ago. Please let me know if this is incorrect. Can you be more specific in letting me know what the 'extensive consultation' entailed? When was this consultation done and with whom? And if new features are being added, can you let me know who is making these decisions?

As for the lifecycle of the park, can you share how old the playground is? From my knowledge it is definitely over 10 years old. I've been asking City of Markham to be more specific in regards to when the life cycle of this playground will be due, and I have not received any firm answers.

I am appreciative that you are sharing my concerns with the accessibility of this specific playground, however I am still looking for my questions in my original email to the Councillor and the Manager of Parks and Open Space Development to be answered. As for now, there seems to be nothing accessible for my daughter at this playground.

1. How will the discussion of just an accessible seat at the playground create an accessible space for my daughter, family, and other community members living with disabilities?

2. Whether the playground has reached its life cycle or not, how has the city ensured that this public space complies with the AODA so that it holds the same accessibility standards as the new components that will be added at the community park this fall?

3. What role has the Markham Accessibility Advisory Committee played in the development of the renovated physical space?

4. Can you provide the public documents including the physical map of the upcoming renovations to this space, as I understand the city will be building a splash pad, bandshell, and skateboard park?

5. How has the city ensured that all members of the community have shared their voice and feedback to the upcoming renovated physical space?

I am in meetings for the rest of the day. Please feel free to email/call me.

ANDREA

ANDREA,

I will need to obtain the park information from the Manager of Parks and Open Space Development and will speak to parks staff on the lifecycle for the playground and get back to you.

Just have a question on the accessible seat –not sure if you are asking for that or someone indicated that the playground has an accessible seat? Sorry -- I can inquiry internally but want to understand your context. Thanks so much.

I will ensure that we get back to you early next week.

COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY & FIRE SERVICES

COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY & FIRE SERVICES,

My main concern is regarding the consultation process that was done in regards to this playground. From my understanding there was a meeting a while ago, and there was only a small representation to share the community's voice with the renovations that would be happening. There was also no vote held to ensure that there was a shared understanding with what is going to be built/added to the park. I have shared my voice in a community survey that was done online this past winter, but no one has followed up with me. I've also inquired with a member who sits on the Area Residents Association, and there are no notes in regards to the consultation/discussion on the accessibility of this playground.

Currently there is nothing at the playground that any child with a physical disability can access (and there is no accessible seat/swing there either). The Manager of Parks and Open Space Development has told me that the seat is only up for conversation.

I'm going to be honest here as a mother who has a child with severe special needs and an advocate for inclusion, what is the city of Markham going to do to support my daughter and our family to ensure that we can access this community playground?

Thanks for being so responsive with my inquiries. I look forward to hearing from you next week,

ANDREA

HELLO COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY & FIRE SERVICES AND CITY OF MARKHAM REPRESENTATIVES,

I am just following up with your email from a week ago. Has there been any information that can be provided to me with the questions that I have asked in my previous email?

Please let me know, and thank you in advance.

 

ANDREA

HELLO COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY & FIRE SERVICES AND CITY OF MARKHAM REPRESENTATIVES,

I am following up on your email, on July 23rd. I look forward to your reply for my questions.

Thank you,

ANDREA

ANDREA,

Further to your request for answers to specific questions posed of the Councillor and the Manager of Parks and Open Space Development. I have contacted several departments for the information and can provide the following at this time:

1. How will the discussion of just an accessible seat at the playground create an accessible space for my daughter, family, and other community members living with disabilities?

For this particular park, the playground equipment is not being changed. Therefore, the AODA doesn’t require the City to change the playground to add accessible features -- When it is gets changed through our lifecycle program it will be upgraded for accessibility per AODA. My understanding is that the park designer – Manager of Parks and Open Space Development, offered to add a new feature – an accessible seat as a result of your inquiry. I believe this feature is being pursued. The splash pad is accessible as well as overall pathways, and the outdoor stage.

2. Whether the playground has reached its life cycle or not, how has the city ensured that this public space complies with the AODA so that it holds the same accessibility standards as the new components that will be added at the community park this fall?

The City will be in compliance with the AODA and its own Accessibility guidelines. According to the AODA – see attached. The playground will require to meet the AODA when it is replaced.

3. What role has the Markham Accessibility Advisory Committee played in the development of the renovated physical space?

The City’s Accessibility Advisory Committee does not review every capital project that the City undertakes due to the capacity to undertake such work. The City has hundreds of project each year. The Committee did create the City’s Accessibility Guidelines. Major projects such as a new Community Centre, subdivisions, major trails are reviewed by Accessibility Committee. See attached terms of reference. This project as such did not go to the Accessibility Committee. The Local Councillor is very much an advocate for accessibility and the protection of the natural environment and has ensured the park project meets the City’s Accessibility Guidelines. Staff are well versed in the accessibility guidelines and AODA and are required to be in compliance.

4. Can you provide the public documents including the physical map of the upcoming renovations to this space, as I understand the city will be building a splash pad, bandshell, and skateboard park?

I have not received electronic version of the site plan. I have asked that they be shared by the project manager.

5. How has the city ensured that all members of the community have shared their voice and feedback to the upcoming renovated physical space?

This project has a long history with much consultation and review by Council including the Sub-Committee (comprises City Councillors who address land use & local related matters).

* Names and meeting dates have been omitted to respect the community members, I am currently choosing to keep their identities private.

If I may reiterate -- we plan to prepare a long term strategy for our playgrounds to advance accessibility opportunities in all neighbourhoods. This would be undertaken in 2019. Your input will be sought. In the interim, I continue to be available to have further discussions on short term opportunities within the community to provide additional amenities for children that have accessibility needs.

I have attempted to obtain the information requested kindly advise if I have missed anything.

THANKS,

COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY & FIRE SERVICES

HELLO COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY & FIRE SERVICES, COUNCILLOR, MANAGER OF PARKS & OPEN SPACE DEVELOPMENT, AND CITY OF MARKHAM REPRESENTATIVES,

Thank you for taking the time to compile the information that I have requested last month.

I have lived in this neighbourhood for 4 years and have constantly shared my opinion about the renovations to the park. I have also done my own research, and have spoken with community residents regarding the accessibility and additions. I am learning that the final decisions did not go through a comprehensive consultation with all community members. In the November 2015 meeting, the plans for this park were not transparent to the community and a vote was never given out to ensure that all residents had an opportunity to share how the funding would be dispersed for the additions/renovations to the park.

I am saddened to find out that an accessible seat is the only outcome for my inquiry about the playground's accessibility. It seems like the City of Markham and the Park Improvement Committee have chosen which public space will and will not be accessible for people with disabilities. You mentioned that the AODA standard doesn't require the city to change the playground to add accessible features. You also mentioned that this park renovation did not go to the city of Markham's Accessibility Advisory Committee. So who was ensuring that the residents in this community have full and equal access to all of the facilities, specifically to the playground? The AODA is the minimum standards, and if the City of Markham cannot even meet these standards for the playground, please tell me what am I left with?

As a mother, I am constantly fighting for the appropriate accommodations to ensure that my daughter and our family can meaningfully contribute and participate in the community. Inclusion is more than your tolerance. Inclusion is more than just a choice. Inclusion should have been the first thought, rather than an afterthought.

I look forward to the site plan of this park, as renovations will soon begin this fall. I want to ensure that an accessible pathway for our wheelchair will be built to this swing you are promising.

To you and the City of Markham representatives, please understand that supporting families with disabilities is more than abiding to minimum accessibility standards in Ontario. Our family will never have equal access and opportunity unless we are included in the conversations, because these community decisions impact our daily lives and our future outlook.

SINCERELY,

ANDREA

I will accept what comes out of this. I will continue to strive to be grateful no matter what happens. Who knows, maybe there will be unexpected joy around the corner…

To my loyal #MomBehindTheLabel readers, stay tuned as I will share if anything more comes out of this. In the meantime, I’ll be digging my own pathway to this swing hung under the new sign,

“You are STILL not welcome here.”

All Posts
×

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly