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Burnaby School District launches new accessibility plan

Residents can provide feedback and participate in creating the plan

Burnaby School District announced its new accessibility plan on Dec. 19. The new plan, a working document, will be formulated and adjusted with community engagement and the involvement of a newly appointed Accessibility Advisory Committee. Half of the committee’s members have lived experience with disabilities or accessibility issues per the Accessible BC Act

The new plan aims to fulfill one of the Burnaby Board of Education’s core values in the 2019-2024 strategic plan, which states, “Our schools are for everyone. We recognize that barriers exist and seek to identify and remove them. We encourage our learners to speak honestly, and we uphold the rights of individuals, families, and organizations within our schools and our community. We value and respect everyone’s contributions.” 

“As this plan moves off the page and into action, feedback from the District’s school communities and employees is essential,” said Bill Brassington, chair of the education board in an official statement. “If the District is to truly be a place that is inclusive and accessible for all, we must learn from the lived experiences of people with disabilities as we work together to remove barriers that impact day-to-day lives.” 

As a work-in-progress, the new accessibility plan has three priorities. The first is to “increase awareness of our collective and individual responsibilities to create and maintain inclusive environments.” To achieve this, the district aims to remove attitudinal barriers, gather information from community members with lived experience, and provide training and awareness among school district staff members and leaders. This phase started in October 2023. 

The plan’s second priority is to “enhance the accessibility of information and communication for all individuals, including those with disabilities,” by removing information and communication barriers. This phase will begin in January 2024. 

Finally, the third priority will be the removal of all physical barriers. The objective stated in the plan is to “identify common physical barriers by engaging all stakeholders in an assessment of our district.” This phase will begin in April 2024 and involve community engagement through feedback surveys, focus groups, and an assessment of the physical environment. 

Burnaby school children. Photo: Burnaby School District

The 13-page draft accessibility plan is available online for all Burnaby residents who wish to read it and provide feedback. Burnaby School District is encouraging community members to participate in creating this new plan and provide information about any barriers they encounter daily in and around Burnaby schools and educational facilities. The barriers can be permanent or temporary, such as a construction site blocking an accessibility ramp. Parents, students, and teachers are especially encouraged to provide feedback. 

“It’s important to note that this plan is a living document and will continue to evolve as we further engage and learn from the lived experiences of people with disabilities. We welcome your feedback as we work toward our vision of an inclusive school environment where everyone is valued, there is no stigma related to disabilities, and everyone who interacts within the District can do so with dignity and independence,” the plan stated. 

Burnaby residents can provide feedback to the district in multiple ways. The first way to provide feedback is by filling out an online survey where residents can provide feedback on the accessibility plan and share their insights. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing and rely on American Sign Language (ASL), they can submit a video in which they provide their feedback in ASL. 

Other options to provide feedback include email, by phone, and by regular mail. Visit the website for more details.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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