Photo: The R-PATH anniversary banner, hand-painted by a Toronto Community Housing resident
In July, the Responsible Personal Accessibility in Toronto Housing (R-PATH) committee celebrated its second anniversary of advocating for the needs of Toronto Community Housing residents living with physical disabilities. This resident-led committee is made up of residents with physical disabilities who work with Toronto Community Housing to help remove housing design barriers in all of our communities.
Since R-PATH was started in 2013, the committee has provided recommendations to Toronto Community Housing to improve the quality of life of residents with physical disabilities. Their passion and hard work has championed resident needs and brought more awareness about accessibility to the organization. Working with R-PATH has led Toronto Community Housing to make strong decisions around accessibility and to strive to be a leader in accessible housing.
"As Chair of the R-PATH committee, I am proud of the work R-PATH has provided to Toronto Community Housing so that better decisions and a higher quality of accessibility is being achieved to meet the needs of residents and employees with physical disabilities," said Cathy Birch, chair of R-PATH. "It has been a pleasure to work collaboratively with the Toronto Community Housing executive team and staff to move accessibility forward with more commitment than ever before."
Photo: R-PATH committee members: front row, left to right: Cathy Birch, R-PATH Chair; Joe Knapper; Lene Andersen. Back row, left to right: Arfan Shahriyar; Jane Donahue.
Notable accomplishments so far
R-PATH has had a busy first two years. Here's a list of some of their many notable accomplishments:
- Worked with Toronto Community Housing on the development and Board approval of a new
Accessibility Policy which represents a strengthening of Toronto Community Housing's long-standing commitment to accessibility.
- Developed auditing tools that assist with an accurate inventory of accessible units.
- Helped develop standards for new construction to accommodate commonly used mobility devices.
- Conducted more than 20 site visits to Toronto Community Housing buildings, resulting in several formal reports to management with recommendations.
- Provided assistance to help Toronto Community Housing become compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and provide practical advice for long-term planning.
- Made budget recommendations that have resulted in the accessibility budget being increased from $1.5 million in 2013 to $6.5 million in 2015.
- Participated in the People in Motion Show, Canada's largest disability exhibition.
- Participated in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood Canada Day Parade.
"We really value our working relationship with R-PATH," said Sheila Penny, Vice President of Facilities Management. "Through their unique perspective, they help to keep Toronto Community Housing focused on accessibility for residents. They tell us what we need to know so that we can make sure we've done the right work in our units."
Plans for the future
The R-PATH committee has been a significant advocate for the needs of residents living with physical disabilities over the past two years and they will continue to bring awareness to Toronto Community Housing for legislative compliance and resident needs.
Plans for the next year include:
- A recommendation for an increase to the 2016 Accessibility Budget, to allow for the development of more accessible units for larger families with medical needs, in-suite modifications, and common-space modifications including laundry rooms.
- Continuing to work with the Development team at Toronto Community Housing to provide input on new construction and revitalization projects during the design phase.
- Co-hosting resident feedback sessions for the new Accessibility in the Built Environment policy.
"We have built a strong team of residents and staff who respect the views each bring to issues. While we are not where we need to be yet, and we still have a lot of residents to help, we are miles from where we were just two short years ago," Cathy Birch said. "We will continue to collaborate with Toronto Community Housing and strive for responsible high quality accessibility in our communities."Photo: Committee members and Toronto Community Housing staff joined together to mark R-PATH's second anniversary with a lively barbecue. Pictured here: Sheila Penny, Vice President of Facilities Management, and Lene Andersen, R-PATH committee member, cut the R-PATH anniversary cake.
R-PATh meets with residents in Toronto Community Housing by request. If you would like to join R-PATH or need help meeting an accessibility need,visit the R-PATH Facebook page
or call the chair, Cathy Birch, at 647-201-7941.