Langley's Gold Star Program Shines
Before the Gold Star Program, accessibility was not one of the top priorities for business operators in Langley. Providing information, creating awareness, persistent and constant communication with stakeholders was imperative for the success of the program.
In 2006, the provincial government challenged communities to increase the number of people with disabilities working in BC communities by 10 percent by 2010 (i.e. the 10 by 10 Challenge). With the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics approaching there was also an opportunity for the municipality to be a leader in “accessible tourism”. Langley took on the challenge, and prioritized creating an accessible and inclusive community for people with mobility challenges.
The City of Langley conducted an Accessibility and Inclusiveness Study in 2007. Results of this study led to the development of the Gold Star Program for Accessible Businesses. People with a physical disability, families using strollers, people that need a wheelchair, walker, or scooter, or those facing a temporary injury that impairs mobility are all part of the target population for this project. The program was recognized as a local success, and received the 2009 provincial Community Excellence Award.
Partnerships and Stakeholders
- The City of Langley
- A Steering Committee that included members from the Downtown Langley Merchants Association (DLMA) business community, people with a disability, and community agencies that serve people with a disability
- Local businesses
- Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia (SPARC BC)
- Service Canada
Summary of the Process
An Accessibility and Inclusiveness Study was led by SPARC BC in 2007. Community stakeholder workshops and accessibility audits were conducted as part of the study. A total of 6 motels/hotels, 26 restaurants, and 9 other retail businesses were included in this study. The research highlighted strengths and barriers within the built environment, opportunities for improvement, and a plan for implementing a strategy as it related to promoting an accessible inclusive community.
Based on the SPARC BC recommendations, the DLMA formulated the “Gold Star Program”. Using a grant received from Service Canada, the DLMA hired a summer student to fulfill the role of the Accessibility and Inclusiveness Program Coordinator (A&I Coordinator). The A&I Coordinator underwent three weeks of training under the mentorship of SPARC BC staff, to carry out the program activities. Previously audited businesses were visited by the A&I Coordinator between June and September, 2008, to follow up with the SPARC BC recommendations they had received and to answer any questions.
To encourage participation in the program, 300 Accessibility and Inclusiveness Brochures and 80 information packages were distributed to businesses in Langley. The package included an overview of the goals and objectives of the Program, funding opportunities, and tips on how to improve accessibility.
The goal was to recruit 25 new businesses, in addition to those who initially committed to the program. Within four months, a total of 44 new businesses signed up for the free accessibility audit, and 36 of these committed to partaking in the “Gold Star Program”. Participating businesses consented to releasing their contact information, their accessibility rating, and a short description of their accessibility. This information is updated and provided on the Langley social planning website, and Gold Star Program brochures. Constant communication with stakeholders was one of the keys to success.
Key Outcomes and Impacts
- Improved accessibility to individuals with mobility aids, scooters, baby strollers, mental disability, or physical impairment
- Raised awareness about how to create a more inclusive, accessible establishment
- A list of participating businesses was provided to the public, which is updated on an annual basis
- The City continues to improve the built environment by creating accessible parks and public facilities, adjusting curb heights and repairing sidewalks, maintaining hedges and trees, and designating disabled parking
- The Gold Star Program received positive publicity from local newspapers and events which generated awareness about the program and the issue