Backgrounder: Tabling the proposed Accessible Canada Act – Engagement
A key principle of the proposed legislation is respecting the philosophy of the disability community of “nothing about us, without us.” For years, persons with disabilities have underlined that full participation and equality of opportunity can only be realized when people with disabilities are meaningfully involved in the planning, development, and implementation of legislation, policies, and strategies that affect their lives.
Accessible Canada Consultations
This principle was embraced for the Accessible Canada Consultations – which asked all Canadians to think about what accessibility means to them and what it could mean for their communities. The consultations were the most inclusive and accessible ones with Canadians with disabilities and the disability community in our country’s history.
- More than 6,000 Canadians participated, through various channels: 18 public engagement sessions; nine roundtables; a National Youth Forum; and an online questionnaire.
- Additionally, since 2016, over $2.3 million has been provided to disability and Indigenous organizations to engage their members and communities.
The consultations were also historic in that they set a new standard for accessibility.
- In-person meetings were made accessible for a range of persons with disabilities and included English and French real-time captioning, American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language, and intervenor services for participants who are deaf-blind. In Northern Canada, Inuit sign language was also provided.
- The online consultation questions were available in Braille, large print, e-text, audio and sign language.
- Participants were invited to share their ideas by email, phone or TTY or by sending audio or video recordings.
Proposed Accessible Canada Act
Stemming from this landmark process, the proposed accessible Canada act is the cornerstone of the Government of Canada’s plan for the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. To accomplish this, the Act would put in place key mechanisms and processes to remove barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction, including:
- Establishing proactive compliance and enforcement measures;
- Providing accessibility standards for regulated parties to achieve and maintain; and
- Creating a system for ongoing monitoring to ensure Canadians see results.
A crucial foundation for success in the journey towards realizing a barrier-free Canada will be the continued and meaningful participation of Canadians with disabilities in the implementation of the proposed act.
Key provisions of the legislative approach will reflect the perspectives of people with disabilities:
- Multi-Year Accessibility Plans (MYAPs) will be required to detail the actions that regulated entities would take to identify, remove barriers and prevent new barriers for persons with disabilities in the following areas: employment; built environment; information and communication technologies; the procurement of goods and services; the delivery of programs and services; and transportation (as applicable). In developing their MYAPS, entities would be required to consult persons with disabilities. In addition to plans, entities would be required to establish and publish a process for receiving and responding to feedback on the accessibility of their operations. Entities would also be required to prepare and publish regular progress reports, which would consider the feedback they received.
- The Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO) will be Canada’s first standards development organization exclusively dedicated to accessibility issues. New standards to eliminate and prevent accessibility barriers would benefit all Canadians, especially those with disabilities. Standards would be developed by technical committees comprised of experts, persons with disabilities and representatives from sectors or organizations that would have to meet the standards. In addition, CASDO would be led by persons with disabilities – e.g., the Board would have a majority representation of Canadians with disabilities; and it would consult widely with persons with disabilities and other stakeholders in developing standards.
- In keeping with the objectives of the bill and respecting the Government’s approach to historic and modern treaties, we will support the work of First Nations leaders and communities to improve accessibility on reserve.
Now and looking forward, the vision is that people with disabilities will be at the helm – providing their direction, interpretation and expertise – as we proceed on the journey to take proactive measures to remove barriers and be an accessible Canada.
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