The District of Invermere now officially has an accessibility policy, after Invermere council adopted one at its most recent meeting.

The topic has cropped up on and off again as subject of discussion among council members for almost six years, but it wasn’t until the Tuesday, August 23rd council meeting that the measure was formally set in place.

“It’s a really simple policy that articulates some of the concepts the District of Invermere has toward accessibility,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, speaking after the meeting. “It sets out guiding principles and, among other things, it encourages different user groups to look at things through an accessibility lens when they are planning an event.”

Taft pointed out that forming an official accessibility policy has “for the last year and a half been on the agenda for theStrategic Priority sessions, partly because we as a council have been grappling with whether to make the policy detailed and prescriptive or to make it broad and general. We’ve chosen to go broad and general.”

Former Invermere councillor and accessibility champion Spring Hawes said she’s truly happy that the district now has an accessibility policy, but she has two qualms.

“There are a lot of good statements of intent,” she said. “I just wish I saw more action in the policy, which really is quite open-ended. But maybe that’s to come. The other thing is, I’m a bit disappointed that the policy was adopted with no consultation or communication with the people who have advocated strongly for this policy.”

Hawes pointed out that she and a group of like-minded citizens had met twice with council members last year about the accessibility policy, but that none of them knew one was ready to be adopted this year.

“It would have been nice to have it done in a more collaborative way,” she said. “But it’s great to have it, and I look forward to working with the district to see this to fruition.

The policy reads that the district “recognizes that people with disabilities have the same rights and responsibilities as other community members to access services and facilities and to participate in the life of the community. The District of Invermere is committed to ensuring that the community is accessible and inclusive of all its members.”

It further outlines that the district will achieve this by “assisting local groups in promoting awareness of the needs of people with disabilities; ensuring events and services provided by the district are as accessible as possible; and prioritizing local infrastructure improvements to reduce barriers and increase accessibility.”

The policy mentions that the district has committed to being a Measuring Up community (Measuring Up is a program that helps municipalities improve their accessibility). The district had earlier completed a Measuring Up inventory that identified gaps or weaknesses in the overall accessibility of the community, and the ensuing Measuring Up data formed the basis of the new policy.

The policy lists six desired outcomes, including that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as others people to access the district’s services and events and buildings and facilities; receive information from the district in a format enabling them to access the information as readily as others; receive the same level and quality of service from district staff;have the same opportunities to make complaints to the district; and have the same opportunities to participate in publicc onsultation.