A major milestone in the history of disability rights was marked last week.
The Accessible Canada Act was finally adopted by the federal government marking the completion of nearly three years of consultation and government debate.
Leading the charge was Carla Qualtrough, Delta MP and Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Minister of Accessibility.
“This important achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and engagement of the disability community and I thank them for their hard work,” said Qualtrough. “We now have a piece of law, whose aim is to proactively identify barriers to inclusion for 25 per cent of our population and creates this system that government has to enforce and government has to remove the barriers.”
The Accessible Canada Act provides for the development of accessibility standards and gives the Government of Canada the authority to work with stakeholders and persons with disabilities to create new accessibility regulations that will apply to sectors within the federal jurisdiction, such as banking, telecommunications, transportation industries and the Government of Canada itself. These new regulations will set out requirements for organizations to follow in order to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. The Accessible Canada Act will also put in place compliance and enforcement measures, as well as an accessibility complaints mechanism.
In developing the framework for the Accessible Canada Act, the feds consulted with Canadians, from July 2016 to February 2017, to find out what an accessible Canada means to them.
During the consultations, Canadians identified the following key areas where the Government of Canada should focus its efforts under the legislation: programs and service delivery, employment, the built environment, information and communications technology, procurement and transportation. During the parliamentary process, the disability community identified communications as another key priority area and it was added to the list.
“In Canada this is the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter, so since 1982 there hasn’t been a piece of law more meaningful for our citizens with disabilities than this one,” she said. “This sends a really strong message to our citizens that everybody has a right to be included.”