Accessibility Advisory Committee
The City of Westmount values all people and their needs equally and strives to be an inclusive city. In December 2017, the Mayor named a Commissioner of Sustainability and Accessibility to Council, underlying the importance of improving access to City services and civic life in Westmount by persons with disabilities.
City Council established the Accessibility Advisory Committee in 2020 with to get feedback from residents living with disabilities or caring for persons with disabilities to help identify obstacles or issues that the City can address and act upon.
The Committee’s mandate is to report to City Council in September 2021 and make recommendations to help each administrative department further enhance access and reduce barriers for persons with disabilities, ensure equal access to services and encourage the full participation of all in local civic life.
The term of the mandate is September 2020 to July 2021. The committee meets monthly with various department heads to discuss services and accessibility issues related to that service.
Final report of the Committee
As mandated, the Accessibility Advisory Committee submitted its recommendations to City Council in August 2021. The Final Report was unanimously adopted by Council at its public meeting on September 20th, 2021.
The committee includes five members of the public, two from the City administration, and three City Council members, including the Mayor as de facto member. Following the announcement of the WAAC in late summer 2020, a nominating committee selected five residents from a number of outstanding applications. The current WAAC members are:
- Mayor Christina M. Smith
- Councillor Marina Brzeski, Commissioner of Sustainability and Accessibility
- Councillor Anitra Bostock, Commissioner of Public Security and Traffic
- Andrew Laplante, Engineering
- Chris Rogers, Urban Planning
- Krista Leitham, resident
- Sheldon Lewis, resident
- Aren Prupas, resident
- Christophe Sepulchre, resident
- Paul Vinet, resident
Biographies of resident members
Krista has both a personal connection to persons with special needs/disabilities, ranging from palliative care, Alzheimer’s and dementia to autism, and a professional connection through her work at Autism Speaks Canada. As a parent of four and the daughter-in-law of former city councillor Barbara Moore — one of the founders of Westmount’s Healthy City Project — Krista demonstrates and promotes community-building values and is intimately connected with many of Westmount`s not-for-profit organizations that offer special programming.
Krista offers this committee useful knowledge of various grant programmes for accessibility-related infrastructure projects, inspiring action-oriented ideas about intergenerational activities, and her strong networking and advocacy skills.
Sheldon brings valuable insight as a Westmount resident who is visually impaired since some 30 years and as a businessman in the field of reducing energy consumption via technological innovations with knowledge of digital accessibility for Websites and some related laws, as well as evolving smart technologies.
Sheldon is a member of the former Montreal Association for the Blind (now MAB-Mackay) and a Board member at a Canadian research foundation focused on curing Choroideremia (a retinal degenerative eye condition). Active in the community, Sheldon has helped organize some community events and has a basic understanding of construction. As a business leader who strives to have an inclusive and diverse work force, Sheldon brings to the fore a unique sensitivity towards inclusiveness and team-building.
Aren is a lifelong Westmount resident and a young parent of four sons, including twins, one of whom has cerebral palsy. His motivation for joining this community is twofold: his commitment to his child and other children with disabilities in seeing them successfully navigate their local communities and day-to-day life, and his commitment to seeing Westmount become a leader among Montreal municipalities in terms of accessibility. Aren has already contributed valuable input into the creation of accessible play structures at Westmount’s parks. He will continue to contribute helpful insight through his and his son’s experience, both in the past and in the future, regarding accessibility in Westmount.
Aren brings to the committee numerous other strengths: A lawyer by profession, he has a keen eye for detail, as well as natural leadership and team building skills, which he developed in part through Westmount’s sports programs, and through his current experience as a board member and committee chair of the Canadian Media Producers’ Association and his former experience in student leadership in university and during high school at Lower Canada College.
Christophe is a long time Westmount resident who has fully benefited from the City’s services, as a former active tennis player and swimmer, among others, and is interested in giving back to the community he loves in an area where he could provide helpful input to render the community more accessible. Christophe’s professional expertise lies in the area of pedestrian and vehicular accessibility controls and adapted physical security materials.
He brings excellent knowledge of accessibility-related laws and regulations to the committee. Personally, Christophe has an in-law in her 90s living alone and is intimately aware of the obstacles and opportunities faced by the elderly. In addition to his technical expertise and advocacy for seniors, Christophe will provide insight as a person living with a physical disability developed in his young adult years which has left him with a number of artificial limbs.
Paul has aspired to joining such a committee for a long time, seeing great potential for improvement when there is more awareness of disabilities by those who don’t have a disability nor are in a position to relate. Paul has multiple sclerosis (MS) and as his disease progressed, he moved from getting around the community freely, then with a cane and now with a wheelchair, becoming more and more aware of opportunities to render our environment and infrastructure more accessible.
Professionally, Paul operates a business in the production of digital signage and electronic customer-facing kiosks in hospitals. Through his work, he is very familiar with ADA compliance. Active in the community, Paul is a former Board member of the Study and was instrumental in the creation of a new theatre. With personal, professional, and community-driven interests, Paul will bring a very strong advisory role to this committee.