Sault Ste. Marie in Canada’s Ontario province became the first city in the world to have an official municipal autism strategy. This initiative was devised with the aim of making it easier for families and caregivers of people with autism to access and avail of the services available for them.
The municipal autism strategy which was announced earlier this week focuses on three key aspects – creating an autism services inventory, creating an autism roadmap to guide caregivers about what services to avail at what age, and formulating design guidelines that will ensure the creation of sensory spaces keeping in mind the need of individuals with autism. The strategy was built with the help and inputs of several non-governmental organizations as well as healthcare professionals working with autistic people.
“It is important for us to recognize that the City of Sault Ste. Marie is a trailblazer on this matter,” said Councillor Lisa Vezeau-Allen, Chair of the Autism Strategy Subcommittee. “Caring for an individual with an autism diagnosis can be challenging. Changes to the Ontario Autism program to create an independent intake organization to manage program delivery are anticipated in the near future. In the meantime, the autism strategy we have created is a great first step. I want to thank City staff, stakeholders, and community organizations that worked collaboratively on this important initiative,” she said.
The creation of the municipal autism strategy is in keeping with the Corporation’s commitment to accessibility, informed Don McConnell, Director of Planning and Enterprise Services. “The City of Sault Ste. Marie is committed to prevent, identify and remove barriers to persons with disabilities, and is guided by the four core principles of dignity, independence, integration, and equal opportunities,” he asserted.