Summary of the proposed Accessible Canada Regulations

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

The following summary provides an overview of the proposed regulations for the Accessible Canada Act. This summary is not legal text and/or a tool for interpreting the regulations. The full text of the proposed Accessible Canada Regulations is also available on the Canada Gazette, Part I website.


Regulations are rules made by authorities, like the government. They control the way people and organisations do things. When made under the Accessible Canada Act, they provide details on how to follow that law.

What is the Accessible Canada Act

The Accessible Canada Act is a law passed in 2019 to make Canada barrier-free by January 1, 2040.

A barrier is anything that prevents people with disabilities from fully participating in Canadian society.

  • Some barriers are very visible, like a building without an access ramp
  • Others barriers are less visible, like instructions written in complex language

Who has to follow the Accessible Canada Act

Organisations under federal responsibility must follow the Accessible Canada Act. This includes:

  • federal government organisations, like Employment and Social Development Canada
  • certain businesses like banks, airlines, and grain elevators

You can read an accessible summary of the Accessible Canada Act on

What the Accessible Canada Act requires organisations to do

Accessibility plans

Organisations must:

  • prepare and publish plans demonstrating how they find and remove barriers
  • show how they will prevent barriers in the future
  • update and publish their plan every 3 years
  • consult people with disabilities in preparing their accessibility plans

Receiving feedback

Organisations must:

  • create a way to collect feedback about their plans
  • describe, on their website, how they receive and respond to that feedback

Progress reports

Organisations must:

  • prepare and publish reports on how they are carrying out their accessibility plans
  • show how they responded to the feedback they received
  • consult people with disabilities in preparing their progress reports

Why the Accessible Canada Act needs regulations

The Accessible Canada Act says organisations must do certain things like making and publishing accessibility plans. Regulations make rules about how and when they have to do these things.

Proposed regulations for accessibility plans, feedback and progress reports

The proposed Accessible Canada Regulations make rules about the following.

1. Deadlines for accessibility plans

  • The Federal government, Crown corporations, and the Canadian forces must publish their first plans by December 31, 2022
  • Large businesses with 100 or more employees must publish their first plans by June 1, 2023
  • Small businesses with 10 to 99 employees must publish their first plans by June 1, 2024


  • Businesses with less than 10 employees do not need to publish accessibility plans, progress reports, or feedback processes
  • The rules will not apply to First Nations Band Councils for 5 years
    • This gives us time to work with Indigenous partners and communities on a potential tailored approach to accessibility

2. What accessibility plans need to include

Organisations must include the following headers in their accessibility plans:

  • general: the organisation must include its contact information, like an address, phone number or email address
  • the organisation must include a header for the priority areas of the Accessible Canada Act, as required:
    • jobs and hiring
    • buildings and spaces
    • information and communication technology
    • getting goods and services
    • programs and services
    • communicating with employees and clients
    • transportation services
  • consultations: the organisation must show how it consulted persons with disabilities on the plan

3. Feedback

Organisations must accept feedback received from the platforms they use to communicate with the public.

People can give feedback to organisations without having to give their name or contact information. However, if people leave their name, organisations must acknowledge receipt of the feedback.

4. Progress reports

Organisations must publish progress reports on the first and second anniversary of each accessibility plan.

5. Publishing

  • Organisations have 48 hours to tell the Accessibility Commissioner after they publish any of these documents:
    • accessibility plans
    • feedback processes
    • progress reports
  • Organisations must publish their documents online if they have an online presence
    • They must follow the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), level AA available in French and English. This is a set of rules for designing websites so people with disabilities can use them more easily
  • Organisations that do not have an online presence must display paper copies at all of their business locations
    • They must keep these copies somewhere that is clearly visible and accessible to the public

6. Alternate formats

Types of formats accessible and usable by people with disabilities.

If someone requests it, organisations must provide their accessibility plans and progress reports in the following formats:

  • print
  • large print (extra large words)
  • braille (written language where people read by feeling raised dots with their fingertips)
  • audio (recording of someone reading the text out loud)
  • electronic (text that an electronic device designed for persons with disabilities can read)

7. Deadlines for alternate format requests

Organisations must provide alternate formats of accessibility plans and progress reports within a certain number of days:

  • for print, large print or electronic format:
    • the Federal government and larger organisations (100 or more employees) have 15 days
    • smaller organisations (10 to 99 employees) have 20 days
  • for braille and audio formats:
    • all organisations have 45 days

8. Keeping accessibility plans and progress reports

Organisations must:

  • keep accessibility plans, feedback processes, and progress reports online for 6 years
  • keep an archived copy for 1 extra year

Organisations who do not publish their plans and progress reports online have to keep paper copies for 7 years

Organisations must keep a copy of the feedback they receive for 7 years

The Accessibility Commissioner

The Accessible Canada Act created the Accessibility Commissioner to make sure that organisations follow the rules.

The Accessibility Commissioner is also a member of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Powers of the Accessibility Commissioner

Some examples of what the Accessibility Commissioner can do:

  • inspecting an organisation
  • demanding an organisation to give them information on their activities
  • ordering an organisation to follow the rules
  • notifying an organisation or individual that they are not following the rules
  • penalizing someone when they break the rules

Proposed Accessible Canada Regulations: Penalties

Types of violations and penalty amounts

The Accessibility Commissioner can use penalties to encourage organisations to follow the rules. However, the Act needs regulations to control how much money an organisation must pay.

The proposed regulations would say how serious it is to break the rules of the Act and the regulations. Violations of the rules can be either minor, serious, or very serious. Violations that are more serious have greater penalty amounts.

Minor violations

Some examples of minor violations include:

  • not publishing an accessibility plan
  • not having a feedback process
  • not publishing progress reports
  • not consulting persons with disabilities when preparing a plan or progress report

The penalty amount for minor violations could be as small as $250 and as big as $75,000.

Serious violations

Some examples of serious penalties include:

  • ignoring an order from the Accessibility Commissioner to stop breaking the rules
  • ignoring an order from the Accessibility Commissioner to hand over records and information

The penalty amount for serious violations could be as small as $2,500, and as big as $150,000.

Very serious violations

Some examples of very serious penalties include:

  • lying to the Accessibility Commissioner
  • preventing the Accessibility Commissioner from doing their job

The penalty amount for very serious violations could be as small as $6,250, and as big as $250,000.

Calculation of penalties

  • Penalty amounts are lower for small businesses and people
  • The Accessibility Commissioner would also use a list of factors to determine the right penalty amount. These include:
    • the number of times the organisation or person broke a rule in the past
    • if breaking the rule hurt anyone or could have hurt someone
    • if the organisation attempted to remove barriers and change their attitude towards accessibility
    • if the organisation or person broke the rule on purpose or by accident
    • if breaking the rule benefitted the organisation or person
    • if the organisation or person helped the Accessibility Commissioner with their investigation
  • Paying the penalty within 15 days would decrease the penalty amount by 10%

Benefits of the proposed Accessible Canada Regulations

Our research shows that the proposed Accessible Canada Regulations would benefit Canadian employers, employees and people with disabilities. For example:

  • people with disabilities would feel more comfortable shopping at a business they knew was removing barriers
  • the employees of that business would feel less worried knowing their organisation had a plan to remove barriers

Of course, some of the rules would have costs for organisations. For example, publishing reports every year would cost some money. However, organisations that remove barriers can better attract and keep talented employees. Their employees will also be more productive.

Our research suggests that the benefits to people and businesses will be more than the costs of following the rules.

Have your say on the proposed Accessible Canada Regulations

Canada Gazette, Part I published the proposed Accessible Canada Regulations on February 13, 2021. Canadians have until April 19, 2021 to give their feedback.

Please contact us if you want to share your thoughts on the proposed regulations.

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