ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

The Federal Government Releases Report of Its Public Consultation on What the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act Should Include Lots of Good Content But Some Areas Where The Federal Report Falls Short

June 13, 2017

Summary

On May 29, 2017, the Federal Government released a detailed 63-page report on what its promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include, according to the feedback the Federal Government received during its public consultation. It held public forums and roundtables across Canada, and an online survey, from the 2016 summer through the 2017 winter. According to this report, the Federal Government heard from many people and organizations, including from many people with disabilities.

Much of the Report's content is quite helpful and encouraging. It commendably found that people with disabilities across Canada face too many accessibility barriers. These require concerted new Federal Government action, including new federal accessibility legislation. The Federal Government recognizes in this report that it has a unique role to play in leading Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities, and that federal legislation has a key role to play.

According to the public feedback that this report documents, federal accessibility legislation should address all of the areas and organizations the Federal Government can regulate. It should address all disabilities and all kinds of accessibility barriers. The feedback which the Federal Government reported receiving overwhelmingly parallels the message we have received and echoed over the past two decades, which drove the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It similarly parallels the messages from people with disabilities in Manitoba as they successfully campaigned for the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013, and the message from people with disabilities in Nova Scotia who successfully campaigned for Nova Scotia's Accessibility Act 2017. It also parallels the message from people with disabilities in other provinces like British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, as they press their provincial governments for strong accessibility laws.

In several places, the report directly or indirectly acknowledges the need for federal accessibility standards. It acknowledges a strong message that federal accessibility requires effective proactive federal enforcement. Its enforcement should not be left to individual people with disabilities to individually battle accessibility barriers, one barrier at a time, and one organization at a time. This is a refreshing change from the troubling contrary message that Ontarians with disabilities have too often heard from the Ontario Government regarding the AODA's enforcement, despite earlier and repeated Ontario Government promises to effectively enforce the AODA.
The Federal Government's report commendably identifies the need for the Federal Government to make technical assistance available to obligated organizations. This would help obligated organizations know what they need to do to become accessible.

The report recognizes feedback emphasizing that federal accessibility legislation must have teeth. It must make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

The report found that federal legislation cannot address it all, due to the limited reach of the Federal Government under Canada's Constitution. The report's clear implication is that each province also needs to enact strong accessibility legislation to address recurring disability accessibility barriers that are within provincial jurisdiction. Provinces like British Columbia (whose Liberal Government was sitting back and waiting to decide whether to develop a BC Disabilities Act until the Federal Government acted) should sit back no longer. From the report, it appears that the Federal Government commendably intends to share the feedback it received with the provinces. We will all benefit if the Federal Government adds its voice to that of people with disabilities to call for each province to promptly pass strong provincial accessibility legislation.

The report recognized, as does our August 2016 Discussion Paper, that the Federal Government has room to help at the provincial level, by creating national model accessibility standards that provinces could choose to adopt for their jurisdiction. The report states:

"The new legislation should lead to more consistent experiences of accessibility across Canada:

Participants want to see all levels of government work together to improve accessibility in all areas.

New legislation should lead to the development of accessibility standards that other governments in Canada could adopt."

However, as our detailed analysis of the report below shows, the Report has some important deficiencies. In summary:

a) The report misses some key requirements for strong and effective national accessibility legislation, for which people with disabilities pressed during the consultation. Below, at the end of our analysis, we set out a summary of key ingredients that strong federal accessibility legislation needs to include, as detailed in our August 2016 Discussion Paper.

b) Some of the report's conclusions fly in the face of any feedback we have received, and are impossible to square with the needs of people with disabilities.

c) In this regard, some of the report's conclusions about which we are concerned seem in key ways to parallel the prior conclusions and directions that the Federal Government embedded in its pre-consultation Discussion Guide. This may lead some to wonder whether some of the conclusions are repetitions of where the Federal Government was thinking of going, before it started this consultation.

In this Update, we set out:

* Our detailed analysis of the Federal Government's report's contents that concern us;

* a summary of our August 2016 Discussion Paper on what the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include, and

* the Federal Government's May 29, 2017 news release about its Consultation Report.

To read the Federal Government's report on its public consultation on promised federal accessibility legislation.

To read the Federal Government's summer 2016 Discussion Guide for this consultation, released last summer.
 
To read the Discussion Paper on what the Canadians with Disabilities Act should include, which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky made public in August, 2016.

We encourage you to forward this Update to your Member of Parliament in Ottawa. Urge them to ensure that the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act will address the issues in this analysis, and not just those conclusions in the Federal Government's consultation report.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Have you taken part in our "Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our "Picture Our Barriers" campaign.

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We encourage you to use the Government's toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

MORE DETAILS

AODA Alliance Analysis of Points of Concern in the Federal Government's Otherwise Commendable May 2017 Report on Its Public Consultation on the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act

This is an analysis of those parts of the Federal Government's May 29, 2017 Consultation Report about which we have concerns. It would be easy for the Federal Government to design an effective Canadians with Disabilities Act in accordance with the majority of the report, which is commendable, while avoiding the parts of the report which we critique below.

* As in the case of some earlier statements by the Federal Government, the Report uses unnecessarily weak language to describe the aim of national accessibility legislation, as

"new legislation that would help remove barriers and prevent new barriers from being created".

At the end, the Report similarly dilutes the Federal Government's objectives, as follows:

"The ideas and recommendations provided through this historic consultation process have laid the foundation for the legislation and have set us on the path to improve accessibility for all Canadians.

Together, we will make Canada more accessible!"

Our Response:

People with disabilities raised concerns about similar weak language in the Federal Government's summer 2016 Discussion Guide for this public consultation. We have emphasized that the goal of this legislation must be to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities, in so far as the Federal Government can. helping remove and prevent accessibility barriers, or making Canada more accessible or improving accessibility, are far weaker goals. As our August 2016 Discussion Paper emphasizes, Canadians with disabilities need and deserve much more from this new federal legislation. Our August 2016 Discussion Paper states:

"The CDA's purpose clause must avoid terms that are too weak. It is not good enough to aim to "improve accessibility." Unfortunately, the Federal Government's Discussion Guide on the CDA uses the extremely narrow and inadequate phrase "improve accessibility and remove barriers" in describing the CDA's purpose. It states:

"The overall goal of the legislation is to increase the inclusion and participation of Canadians in society and promote equality of opportunity by improving accessibility and removing barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction."

Just one new ramp, installed somewhere in Canada, or just one retrofitted website, entirely fulfils that feeble goal. Moreover, achievement of accessibility requires both removing existing barriers and preventing new barriers.

It is grossly insufficient for the CDA to aim just to make Canada the most accessible country in the world. That only requires Canada to be slightly better than other countries, no matter how inaccessible they are. It would leave people with disabilities forever frozen out of much of society's mainstream. Canada's Charter and human rights laws require much more.

The only relevant question is how long Parliament should give Canada to reach full accessibility. Thus, the CDA's purpose clause should set the deadline by which Canada should become fully accessible to people with disabilities, insofar as Parliament can advance this goal. If it sets no deadline, then full accessibility is relegated to the indefinite future. Human nature dictates that government and private organizations achieve the most when facing deadlines.

In 2005, Ontario's AODA commendably set 2025 as the full accessibility deadline. That is pivotal to the AODA's implementation and to assessing its effectiveness.

The Ontario Government, obligated organizations, people with disabilities, the public and the media can ask if Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. They can ask whether a proposed AODA accessibility standard ensures that full accessibility in the area it regulates will be achieved by 2025. If it doesn't, it is clear that more is needed.

The deadline must give obligated organizations enough time to reach full accessibility. It should not be so distant to encourage procrastination. It should necessitate immediate action on readily achievable barrier-removable and prevention. It should counteract large organizations' tendency to bog down in delay and bureaucracy."

* Two of the Report's statements about feedback received clash with and don't acknowledge what our August 2016 Discussion Paper on the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act proposed. The Federal Government's report includes:

"Finally, participants talked about how the Canadian Transportation Agency, the organization responsible for transportation standards, could be given more authority in certain areas, such as looking into issues proactively."

The Federal Government's report also states:

"Most participants recommended that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission be given additional powers to ensure that the accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting products and services continues to improve over time."

Our Response:

Giving the CTA and CRTC a further mandate on accessibility is a formula for failure. Each federal agency has had mandates in this area. Neither has deployed those powers as effectively as they should have done. Both agencies have processes that are not conducive to ensuring success for people with disabilities, especially when running up against huge corporate giants such as Air Canada, a national TV network, or Bell Canada. Our Discussion Paper on the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act said the following, which the Federal Government's Report should have echoed:

"There should be one federal agency for all CDA relief. People with disabilities shouldn't have to chase around the Federal Government, to find out which agency or combination of agencies will enforce accessibility. Now if people with disabilities file a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, they can find that all or part of it gets punted to another regulatory agency, like the CRTC or the Canada Transportation Agency. This is an unfair gift to organizations that seek to avoid timely justice, by dragging out proceedings, throwing barriers in the way, and wearing down victims of barriers.

The proposed new Canada Accessibility Commissioner should have lead responsibility for all accessibility standards development and all CDA enforcement. The Federal Government's CDA Discussion guide implies that this may not be the case. Accessibility jurisdiction might be left in part with some federal agencies such as the Canada Transportation Agency. It states:

"It is envisioned that, by taking a proactive and systemic approach to improving accessibility and removing barriers, legislation would complement the laws that already exist in Canada to protect the human rights of Canadians with disabilities and build on existing federal accessibility standards and regulations."

Before hearing from the public on this issue during its CDA consultations, the Federal Government shouldn't pre-decide that transportation accessibility will be left with the Canada Transportation Agency, or that accessibility of telecommunication services will be left to the CRTC. If despite the foregoing, Parliament leaves any accessibility jurisdiction with those other regulatory agencies, then it should ensure that:

a) All those regulatory agencies have the fullest range of remedial powers, at least as broad as the Canada Human Rights Tribunal's.

b) Those agencies must have an explicit duty to create and effectively enforce accessibility standards within their mandates, along time lines the CDA sets, similarly securing people with disabilities' input into the standards.

c) Those agencies should be required to give strong weight to accessibility when discharging any discretionary powers.

d) A stronger accessibility standard made under the CDA and enforceable by the Canada Accessibility Commissioner should take precedence over any weaker accessibility rules or standards made by any other federal agency, such as the Canada Transportation Agency."

We question the Federal Government report's claim that most participants recommended expanding CTA and CRTC powers on this issue. We know of no disability organizations or individuals with disabilities who preferred giving more power to the CTA and CRTC, rather than giving this power to the new Canada Disability Commissioner that we propose be established. We know of no people with disabilities who would prefer to have to run around the Federal Government from one agency to another, trying to find out which can enforce their accessibility rights in a particular case. No one has given us such feedback. We held an open online consultation for months on our Discussion Paper before we finalized it. No one opposed the recommendation on point in our Discussion Paper, quoted above, either before or after we finalized that Discussion Paper in August 2016. No member of the disability community voiced a preference for giving more power on accessibility to the CTA and CRTC, rather than providing people with disabilities with one-stop-shopping at one independent federal agency, the Canada Disability Commissioner we recommend.

We were present during public consultations on federal accessibility legislation held in Toronto and in St. John's Newfoundland, and more recently in Charlottetown PEI, the latter publicly-funded public forum which was organized by the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada

It may be that the Federal Government received feedback that more regulatory powers are needed to ensure full accessibility in public transportation and in radio, television and telecommunication services. One could express this without expressing an overt choice between empowering a new Canada Accessibility Commissioner to address these, rather than the existing CTA and CRTC. We find it hard to imagine that there was broad preference in the disability community for splintered federal implementation and enforcement, rather than one-stop-shopping, in circumstances where we never heard a word about it, directly or indirectly.

In addition, we are concerned that federal regulatory agencies like the CTA and CRTC may be too close to the industries they regulate, and not close enough to the concerns of people with disabilities for whom they have had a mandate for years. They also lack proven expertise in disability accessibility.

* The Report states:

"Making sure the legislation is improving accessibility

Overall, participants recommended that the Government of Canada should regularly report to Canadians how well the legislation is working and what needs to be improved. They want this work to be done by experts, Canadians with disabilities, and disability stakeholders. The results should be made public.

Participants also told us that reporting should take place regularly, possibly on an annual basis.

Some participants noted that reporting could happen more often during the first years of the legislation, and less frequently after it has been in place for several years."

The report also states:

"Participants also shared their ideas about what should be included in the Government of Canada report. For example, the report could:

look at how the legislation is improving the lives of Canadians with disabilities;

report on which organizations are following the legislation;

report on complaints about the legislation and what actions the Government of Canada has taken to make sure organizations follow the legislation; and

compare how Canada is doing on accessibility to other countries.
 
"It should be comprehensive but focus on the outcomes and results. Should also be easy to understand."
 
– Anonymous"

Our Response:

These measures can be helpful. But many years of experience in Ontario shows that no matter how detailed be the Government's reporting requirements, the government of the day tends to issue self-congratulatory reports. These do not give an independent, fair and balanced perspective. Ontario experience amply shows that by far, the most useful reports are those rendered by the periodic Independent Reviews, mandated by the legislation.

* The Report states:

"CONCLUSION

The time to create new legislation to improve accessibility for all Canadians with disabilities is now.

The Government of Canada is in a unique position to bring about real change to the lives of Canadians with disabilities. While new legislation alone cannot remove all barriers, there is recognition that complementary supports and programs will be necessary to create new opportunities of full citizenship and participation for persons with disabilities and to help change the way people think about accessibility.

Coming out of the consultations, there is emerging consensus about what the new legislation should look like and the role of the Government of Canada. The legislation should both develop detailed policies for organizations on how to improve accessibility, while also supporting them in removing all barriers for their employees and customers. The Government of Canada should be a leader, both in practice and in supporting organizations to be successful. The Government of Canada should also set ambitious goals with clear and measurable targets.
 
As covered in this report, we heard what Canadians want in the legislation. We heard the call for the Government of Canada to be a leader. We heard the desire for a principled approach and widespread systemic change. We heard the need for complementary programming and supports. We can get there, but it will take time, hard work and proper support."

Our Response:

It is great that in its report, the Federal Government again acknowledges its unique position to make significant change for the better in the lives of people with disabilities in Canada, and recognizes that federal legislation is a key way to do so. However, this summary does not emphasize the central role that must be played by strong, effective, detailed and comprehensive federal accessibility standards. The report makes several references to accessibility standards, but seems to place more emphasis on requiring obligated organizations to announce accessibility policies and plans, and for the Federal Government to enforce these. There is still time for the Federal Government to ensure that the creation and enforcement of strong federal accessibility standards is central to this legislation. Our August 2016 Discussion Guide included:

"As a core, indispensable ingredient, the CDA should require the Federal Government to develop, enact and enforce all the mandatory, enforceable accessibility standards needed to ensure that as far as it can, the Federal Government leads Canada to become fully accessible to all people with disabilities by the Act's deadline. Barrier-Free Canada's 14 Principles include:

"4. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require Canada, including organizations to whom it applies, to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations…

…9. As part of its requirement that the Government of Canada lead Canada to the goal of full accessibility for Canadians with disabilities, the Act should require the Government of Canada to make regulations needed to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Canadians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities and obligated organizations, before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy to which the Act can apply. The Act should require the Government of Canada to make all the accessibility standards regulations needed to ensure that its goals are achieved, and that these regulations be independently reviewed for sufficiency every four years after they were enacted."

Accessibility standards are mandatory, enforceable regulations that the Federal Government would enact to specify in detail exactly what an organization must do, and by when, to become fully accessible. Good accessibility standards dramatically reduce the need for people with disabilities to battle foreseeable, recurring accessibility barriers one at a time, one obligated organization at a time, through innumerable human rights/Charter challenges. They make it easier for obligated organizations to know what they must do, and to undertake orderly accessibility planning. They can save obligated organizations time and money. Instead of each organization reinventing the accessibility wheel, hiring accessibility consultants and seeking legal advice, a good accessibility standard shows them the way.

The Ontario Government's duty to create accessibility standards is a core AODA responsibility. Section 6(a) of the AODA provides that an accessibility standard shall "set out measures, policies, practices or other requirements for the identification and removal of barriers with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures, premises or such other things as may be prescribed, and for the prevention of the erection of such barriers" along timelines the standard sets.

The CDA should require that an accessibility standard must identify barriers that must be removed or prevented, and must specify what action an obligated organization must take. It is not enough for an accessibility standard to say that an obligated organization should "have regard to accessibility" or "consider accessibility" or "plan for accessibility".

The Federal Government's CDA consultation Discussion Guide proposes that two options for this legislation, which aren't mutually exclusive, include:

a) enacting specific accessibility requirements that set out what steps organizations must take to become accessible, and/or

b) setting accessibility results organizations must achieve, leaving it to each organization to plan on how to achieve those goals.

Ontario's extensive experience shows that the dominant requirement should be setting detailed requirements for specific accessibility action. From 2001 to 2015, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which preceded the stronger AODA, principally required public sector organizations to make annual accessibility plans. This accomplished little. Obligated organizations understandably get frustrated. Each must waste money, duplicating effort to figure out what to do.

This problem recurs under some AODA accessibility standards. For example, Ontario accessibility standards require the goal of accessible electronic kiosks, accessible counter heights in public service areas for getting customer service, and accessible playground equipment (all when new kiosks, counters or playgrounds are created). However, the accessibility standards don't spell out what accessibility features should be incorporated in new electronic kiosks, or how high to make a new public service counter, or what accessibility features to include in new playground equipment. Each organization must wastefully hire consultants, and hope they get it right. The 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report concluded:

"One of the most common pieces of feedback received by the Review focussed on the difficulty of interpreting the meaning of the standards under the AODA. Both the public and private sectors said they had problems understanding their obligations because the standards are often not clear enough or specific enough about what is required. Public sector organizations, while doing their best to comply, are often uncertain about what exactly compliance with the standards requires. The fact that the standards have been framed very generally means that it is hard to know when they have been met. For example, the standards do not offer reference points for several general obligations, such as what it means to provide accessible formats or incorporate accessibility features into procurement. This leaves organizations to depend on guesswork or expensive consultants and lawyers to determine what compliance entails."

Some Ontario accessibility standards provide needed and helpful specificity. For example one specifies the rule for website accessibility. Others lack this. For example, Ontario's 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard tells obligated organizations to develop a policy on accessible Customer Service, to train staff on it, and to have a customer feedback mechanism. With few exceptions it doesn't list the barriers to Customer Service that need to be addressed, nor does it say what to do about them.

CDA accessibility standards should impose requirements that are at least as stringent as the Canada Human Rights Act, the Charter of Rights, or both. Otherwise, obligated organizations will be frustrated to find that they did what the CDA required, only to learn that they have further Charter and/or human rights accessibility duties. It would frustrate the CDA's goal of relieving people with disabilities of the burden to battle barriers, one at a time, if an accessibility standard directs obligated organizations to do less, or take longer, than the Charter and human rights laws permit.

Regrettably, neither Ontario's nor Manitoba's accessibility law requires accessibility standards to meet a human rights yardstick. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, some Ontario's accessibility standards counterproductively fall short of Ontario Human Rights Code requirements. They too often direct organizations to do less than the Ontario Human Rights Code requires. Stronger legal medicine is needed to controvert this, than the AODA's commendable s. 3, which requires that the AODA doesn't diminish accessibility duties under other laws.

The CDA should require the Federal Government to make all the accessibility standards needed to achieve the CDA's purposes. Section 7 of the AODA commendably has a similar requirement.

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, the AODA's weak precursor, permitted the Ontario Government to create accessibility standards, but didn't require it to do so. None were created over the four years before the AODA superseded it.

The CDA should establish an independent safeguard to ensure that the Federal government acts in a timely way to direct development of needed accessibility standards.

Ontario experience illustrates this need. The AODA includes no such safeguard. Ontarians with disabilities pressed the Ontario government for at least five years to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard needed by 334,000 students with special education needs. Over a decade ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission amply documented many widely-known education accessibility barriers. Yet in mid-2016, Ontarians with disabilities had no recourse from the Ontario government's five-year long refusal to decide whether to create an Education Accessibility Standard."

Summary of Recommendations in Our August 2016 Discussion Paper on What the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act Should Include

a) The CDA's purpose should be to ensure that, as far as Parliament can promote this, the Federal Government will lead Canada to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by a deadline that the law sets. It should effectively implement disability equality rights in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act, and the CRPD, without individuals having to battle barriers one at a time, one organization at a time, via human rights/Charter claims. A goal of merely "improving accessibility" is far too weak.

b) The CDA should ensure that all federally-regulated organizations, including all recipients of federal funds, provide accessible goods, services, facilities and employment. It should establish clear, broad, inclusive definitions of "disability" and "barrier".

c) The CDA should put the Government of Canada in charge of leading Canada to full accessibility. It should create an independent Canada Accessibility Commissioner, reporting to Parliament, to lead the Act's implementation/enforcement, and to be Canada's national accessibility champion. The CDA should ensure its effective enforcement.
 
d) The CDA should require the Federal Government to create all the mandatory, enforceable accessibility standards needed to lead Canada to full accessibility. It should create a prompt, effective, open process for developing and reviewing accessibility standards.

e) The CDA should ensure strong centralized action on disability accessibility among Federal Regulatory Agencies.

f) The CDA should ensure that the strongest accessibility law always prevails, and that no Federal laws authorize or require disability barriers.

g) The CDA should ensure that public money is never used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate accessibility barriers.

h) The CDA should ensure a fully accessible Federal Government, accessibility of all courts within federal authority, and federal elections that are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities.

i) The CDA should mandate a national strategy for expanding international trade in Canadian accessible goods, services and facilities.

j) The CDA should require interim measures to promote accessibility pending development of CDA accessibility standards.

k) The CDA should ensure that efforts at educating the public on accessibility don't delay CDA implementation and enforcement.

l) The CDA should mandate the Federal Government to assist and encourage Provincial and Territorial Governments to enact comprehensive accessibility legislation. It should mandate the Federal Government to create national model Accessibility Standards which provinces, territories and other organizations can adopt.

m) The CDA should set timelines for Federal Government CDA implementation/enforcement, and require periodic Independent Reviews of progress.

Federal Government May 29, 2017 News Release

Originally posted at: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2017/05/government_of_canadashareswhatwelearnedbyaskingwhatdoesanaccessi.html

News Release From Employment and Social Development Canada

Canadians' answers will shape new planned federal accessibility legislation.

May 29, 2017 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada

Thanks to the participation of thousands of Canadians, we are one step closer to a truly accessible Canada.

Today, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, released a report entitled, "Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned from Canadians." The report summarizes the input received following Canada-wide consultations to inform the development of new planned federal accessibility legislation.

Over 6,000 people participated, both online and in-person, in the largest and most accessible consultation process on disability in Canada in the past 20 years. These consultations included 18 public meetings and 9 thematic roundtables where Canadians from across the country shared their personal stories and their challenges, successes, hopes and aspirations for a more inclusive society.

The report summarizes what the Government of Canada learned from consulting with Canadians, experts, stakeholders and community organizations, and provides valuable insight on the barriers that Canadians with disabilities face in their daily lives.

There is emerging consensus from participants in the consultation about what the new legislation should look like and the role of the Government of Canada, namely: 

The legislation should lead to the development of detailed standards for federal organizations on how to improve accessibility, while also supporting them in removing barriers for their employees and customers;

The legislation should include strong compliance and enforcement mechanisms;

It's understood that new legislation alone cannot remove all barriers and there is recognition that complementary supports and programs will be necessary to create new opportunities to ensure participation for persons with disabilities and to help change the way people think about accessibility; and

The Government of Canada should be a leader, both in its own practices and in supporting organizations to be successful, and also set ambitious goals with clear and measurable targets. 

The report is being released today as part of National AccessAbility Week, a week to celebrate, highlight and promote inclusion and accessibility in communities and workplaces across the country.

Quotes

"Canadians from across our country joined together to tell us about their vision of an accessible Canada. The time to create new legislation to improve accessibility for all Canadians with disabilities is now. The journey is far from over, but we are one step closer to ensuring all Canadians have the opportunity to succeed right from the start. I would like to thank all that have shared stories and helped us learn about daily challenges faced and the changes that will help us to build a more inclusive Canada."
            – The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Quick Facts

Between 2011 and 2015, disability-related complaints represented just over half of all the discrimination complaints received by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), approximately 14% of Canadians aged 15 years or older reported having a disability that limited them in their daily activities. There are approximately 411,600 working-aged Canadians with disabilities who are not working but whose disability does not prevent them from doing so; almost half of these potential workers are post-secondary graduates.

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Associated Links

Contacts

Ashley Michnowski
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
819-934-1122 / TTY: 1-866-702-6967
Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
819-994-5559
media@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca