‘Childish’: Creemore man describes efforts to get Clearview to produce accessible documents
By Ian Adams Wasaga Sun
A Creemore man has taken his request for Clearview Township to provide copies of municipal documents in an accessible format to the province.
It’s the latest chapter in a saga between Peter Lomath and the municipality that includes a decision by council to apply the township’s unreasonable customer service policy.
Since April 2017, Lomath has been limited in his inquiries of staff, included being permitted to only ask one question a month of the chief administrative officer — and the question can be no more than 20 words.
His most recent request in the spring was for the municipality to provide current bylaws and policies used by the township into formats that are compliant with the Accessibility for Ontario with Disabilities Act (AODA). Municipal staff have stated that could include documents going back to the formation of the four municipalities that were amalgamated into Clearview Township.
The AODA received assent in 2005, and in Lomath’s opinion, the municipality has “done nothing” to put any documents produced by the municipality into an accessible format.
Lomath said the two pieces of software used by the municipality to generate documents have the ability to check if a document is accessible when it comes to font, size and colour.
His initial request was spurred by a review of the township’s comprehensive zoning bylaw that turned up numerous errors.
“I couldn’t figure out how anyone could be expected to read it,” he said. “If the bylaws for the non-disabled are in that state, we have a real problem, a huge problem.”
In a report to council on June 25, staff stated fulfilling Lomath’s request could necessitate hiring someone to carry out the task.
Lomath said that’s nonsense.
“This is not millions of dollars that you have to spend,” he said. “But they’re using it as an excuse to bloat the bloody staff … the staff is out of control.”
Lomath said he was concerned municipal staff weren’t representing his request to council appropriately when it was initially presented to them. The issue was deferred from the June 25 meeting to July 16, when council decided it couldn’t facilitate the request as it had been submitted, directing staff to convert documents into an accessible format and provide them to Lomath as time and resources permitted.
Lomath has since withdrawn his request, and taken the issue to the Raymond Cho, the provincial minister responsible for seniors and accessibility.
In a motion approved at its July 30 meeting, council directed staff to carry on identifying commonly-used public documents and converting them into AODA-compliant documents as time permits.
Those documents would then be made available on the municipal website.
Mayor Chris Vanderkruys said he couldn’t speak directly to Lomath’s issues, citing privacy. However, he said, council expects staff to bring “a fulsome report to us, because we don’t see all the documentation … in that retrospect, staff best represented what they had in front of them, and if there were holes, I’m sure they will review that and ensure we did understand fully all of the request.”
Continuing the work, regardless of Lomath withdrawing his request, “is a good practice.”
“I think anything we produce today is certainly AODA-compliant … and I think if we take a crack at (earlier documents) a little bit (at a time) and get up-to-date,” Vanderkruys said.
He added he was unsure some documents — such as the schematics for sewer and water projects — could be made compliant, “because they are huge, but everything that can (be made compliant), we should whittle away at and get it done.”
As to the constraints placed against Lomath and his interactions with the municipality, Vanderkruys could only speak in general terms.
“It falls within the policy. There’s always a review of it, and it’s on an individual basis depending on what’s happening with the file,” he said.
He said it is a council decision to apply the policy to an individual, and that discussion takes place behind closed doors.
Lomath said he only asked for bylaws in current use, and did not expect to receive copies of documents that might date back to the formation of the original municipalities.
Lomath freely admits to being a burr in the side of municipal officials, and frequently uses the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to obtain information from the township.
“I could care less if they give me these documents. The reason I asked for them is not because I needed them,” he said. “However, (a neighbour) who is blind, is reliant on me to get the information he needs and put it into a form he can use. That was the reason for attempting this.”
He called the township’s restraints on his interactions with staff childish.
“It’s like dealing with a bunch of two-year-olds,” he said.