A give and take of ideas in Colorado Springs happened Thursday to improve accessibility in America and Manitoba, Canada, for millions of disabled people. The Rocky Mountain ADA Center hosted its Manitoba counterpart, Nicole Gareau-Wilson, a policy analyst with the Manitoba Disabilities Issues Office.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is more than 25 years old. Manitoba's version is the Accessibilities for Manitoba Act, which was approved in December 2013.
Gareau-Wilson says learning from her American counterparts has been fascinating, "For example, it's really interesting the ADA centers have people who go out in the field to do an environmental scan of a building to help an organization to know how it can comply and where there is non-compliance. The ADA Centers have staff who do workshops, site visits and public education. Manitoba only has six people doing all this work."
Gareau-Wilson is taking a lot of resources, pamphlets and other ADA Center materials home to see how it could be integrated into Manitoba's office to improve accessibility.
Rocky Mountain ADA Center Project Director Rachael Stafford says Manitoba's first standard for pushing accessibility is customer service. "It's about interacting with people of disability and covers state and local government, private businesses and corporations," she said. "We have a fancy term called 'disability etiquette.' It includes looking a person in the eyes, talking directly to them, things we take for granted as people with disabilities. It's amazing we have to have those conversations and do that education for a lot of folks."
Canada is pursuing an Accessibilities act. Further meetings between the Rocky Mountain ADA Center and its counterpart in Manitoba will help to drive the conversation forward to better educate those who aren't disabled to help the millions who are.