Sask. Rivers thinking ahead on new accessibility legislation

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

The provincial government is still finalizing new accessibility legislation, but trustees at the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division are already thinking about what that means for local schools.

The province introduced The Accessible Saskatchewan Act on Nov. 15. It still has to pass second and third readings.

If passed, the bill will help make Saskatchewan a more accessible province for persons with disabilities. Director of education Robert Bratvold said the division will be ready for any changes the new legislation makes necessary.

“We do some really strong work with inclusion and accessibility, but this will build a framework that will, I think, stretch us a little bit in terms of implementation and ideas,” he said.

Bratvold said the division’s physical buildings are already accessible under current building codes. However, there could be challenges with older infrastructure.

“Our limitations for our really historic buildings,” Bratvold explained. “These things are not an integral part of construction. Those limitations are clear so we know how we can manage that most of the time.”

The purposes of this Act are to improve accessibility within Saskatchewan by preventing and removing barriers that disable people with respect to the built environment, information and communications, employment, transportation, service animals, procurement service delivery and(any other prescribed activities or undertakings.
The Act would also require more opportunities for persons with disabilities to be involved in developing, implementing, monitoring, and reviewing accessibility standards.

For Sask Rivers, accessibility means more than removing barriers to make it easier to get from point A to B. It’s also focusing on things like hearing barriers, which create a different set of challenges

“Some of the other things will be interesting like the accessibility Saskatchewan Act talks about removing barriers to information communications, related to employment. We think about our HR practices: are they thoroughly inclusive? Have we addressed the barriers for employment for people with disabilities? There will be some interesting work and … we want to get ahead of it so we are prepared when the legislation (passes).”

Bratvold added that Superintendent of Facilities Mike Hurd and the board’s facilities committee have done a good job keeping an eye on that aspect. He also noted the work of Superintendent of Schools Tom Michaud on accessibility work in the curriculum.