Summary of the Accessible Canada Regulations

The following summary provides an overview of the Accessible Canada Regulations. This summary is not legal text, nor is it a tool for interpreting the Accessible Canada Regulations. The full text of the Accessible Canada Regulations is available on the Canada Gazette, Part II, website

Introduction

Regulations are rules made by the government. They control the way people and organizations do things. Regulations made under the Accessible Canada Act 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 persons with disabilities from fully and equally 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 complicated language

Who has to follow the Accessible Canada Act

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

  • federal government organizations, like Employment and Social Development Canada
  • the Canadian Forces
  • the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • certain Parliamentary entities, like the House of Commons or the Senate
  • certain businesses like banks, airlines, and grain elevators

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

What the Accessible Canada Act requires organisations to do

Accessibility plans

Organisations must:

  • prepare and publish accessibility plans showing how they identify, remove, and prevent barriers
  • update and publish their accessibility plan every 3 years
  • consult persons with disabilities in preparing and updating their accessibility plans
  • provide alternate formats of their accessibility plan to people who request it

Receiving feedback

Organisations must:

  • create a way to collect feedback about their accessibility plans and the barriers that people who deal with the organizations face
  • describe, on their website, how they receive that feedback

Progress reports

Organisations must:

  • prepare and publish progress reports on how they are carrying out their accessibility plans
  • show in their progress reports how the feedback which they received was considered
  • consult persons with disabilities in preparing their progress reports
  • describe how they consulted persons with disabilities in preparing their progress reports

Why the Accessible Canada Act needs regulations

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

Regulations for accessibility plans, feedback process and progress reports

The Accessible Canada Regulations make rules about the following:

1. Deadlines for accessibility plans

  • The federal government, Crown corporations, Parliamentary entities, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Canadian Forces must prepare and publish their first accessibility plans by December 31, 2022
  • Large businesses with 100 or more employees must prepare and publish their first accessibility plans by June 1, 2023
  • Small businesses with 10 to 99 employees must prepare and publish their first accessibility plans by June 1, 2024

Exceptions

  • Businesses with 9 or less employees do not need to prepare and publish accessibility plans, progress reports, or descriptions of feedback process
  • The accessibility planning and reporting rules will not apply to First Nations Band Councils for the first 5 years
    • This gives the Government of Canada time to work with First Nations communities on a potential tailored approach to accessibility

2. What accessibility plans need to include

Organizations must include the following headings and information in their accessibility plans:

  • general: the organization must provide its contact information, including a mailing address, phone number, email address, and the job position of the person who will receive feedback. This will allow people to:
    • ask for accessibility plans in alternate formats
    • ask for descriptions of feedback process in alternate formats, and
    • give feedback
  • the organization must include a heading for the areas of the Accessible Canada Act, as needed:
    • Employment
    • The Built Environment
    • Information and Communication Technologies
    • Communication, other than ICT
    • The Procurement of Goods, Services and Facilities
    • The Design and Delivery of Programs and Services
    • Transportation
  • consultations: the organization must show how it consulted persons with disabilities in preparing its accessibility plan

3. Feedback

Organizations must set up a process for accepting feedback by mail, telephone, email, and all other ways they communicate with the public.

Organizations must choose a person who is responsible for receiving feedback. They must include the job position of this person in the “General” heading of their accessibility plan.

Organizations must acknowledge that the feedback was received in the same way that the feedback was sent to them.

Organizations do not need to acknowledge feedback that was sent to them anonymously.

4. Progress reports

Organizations must publish progress reports by the first and second anniversary of the deadline to publish each accessibility plan.

Organizations must include the following headings and information in their progress reports:

  • general: the organization must provide its contact information, including a mailing address, phone number, email address, and the job position of the person who will receive feedback for people to use to:
    • ask for progress reports in alternate formats
    • ask for descriptions of feedback process in alternate formats
    • give feedback
  • the organization must include a heading for the priority areas of the Accessible Canada Act, as required:
    • Employment
    • The Built Environment
    • Information and Communication Technologies
    • Communication, other than ICT
    • The Procurement of Goods, Services and Facilities
    • The Design and Delivery of Programs and Services
    • Transportation
  • consultations: the organization must show how it consulted persons with disabilities in preparing its progress reports
  • feedback: the organization must describe the feedback it received and how it considered that feedback

5. Publishing

  • Organizations have 48 hours to tell the Accessibility Commissioner after they publish any of these documents:
    • accessibility plans
    • descriptions of their feedback process
    • progress reports
  • Organizations must publish these documents online if they have an online presence
    • These documents must be available on the home page of the organization’s website or through a hyperlink on the organization’s website
    • They must follow the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), level AA available in French and English. The WCAG is a set of rules for designing websites so persons with disabilities can use them more easily
  • Organizations that do not have an online presence must keep paper copies of these documents at all of their business locations
    • They must keep these copies somewhere that is clearly visible and accessible to the public in the reception area or entrance of each place of business

6. Alternate formats

Alternate formats are types of formats that are accessible and usable by persons with disabilities.

If someone asks for it, organizations must provide their accessibility plans, the description of their feedback process, 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 to respond to alternate format requests

Organizations must provide alternate formats of accessibility plans, progress reports, and descriptions of feedback process within a certain number of days of receiving a request:

  • for print, large print or electronic format:
    • the federal government and large organizations (100 or more employees) have 15 days
    • small organizations (99 employees or less) have 20 days
  • for Braille and audio formats:
    • all organizations have 45 days

8. Keeping accessibility plans, descriptions of feedback process, and progress reports

Organisations must:

  • keep accessibility plans and progress reports online for 7 years after the day they were required to be published
  • keep the most recent version of the description of their feedback process for 7 years after it was published or, if it is longer, until a new description is published

Organizations who do not publish their accessibility plans, descriptions of their feedback process or progress reports online have to keep paper or electronic copies for 7 years.

Organizations must keep a copy of any 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 a member of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Powers of the Accessibility Commissioner

Some examples of what the Accessibility Commissioner can do:

  • enter and search an organization
  • order an organization to give them information
  • notify an organization or individual that they are not following the Accessible Canada Act or the regulations
  • impose a penalty on an organization or individual when they are not following the Accessible Canada Act or the regulations
  • investigate complaints from people who have been negatively affected by organizations that do not follow the Accessible Canada Act or the regulations

Accessible Canada Regulations: Penalties

Types of violations and penalty amounts

The Accessibility Commissioner can use penalties to encourage organizations to follow the rules. However, the Accessible Canada Act needs regulations to determine how much money an organization must pay.

The Accessible Canada Regulations say whether the violation of the rules is 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 an accessibility plan or a 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 violations include:

  • not following an order from the Accessibility Commissioner to stop breaking the rules
  • not following 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 violations 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 individuals than for large businesses and organizations
  • The Accessibility Commissioner would also use a list of factors to determine the penalty amount. Some of these factors include:
    • the number of times the organization or person broke a rule in the past 5 years
    • if breaking the rule harmed anyone or could have harmed someone
    • if the organization attempted to remove barriers and change their attitude towards accessibility
    • how careless the organization was
    • if breaking the rule benefitted the organization or person
    • if the organization 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 Accessible Canada Regulations

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

  • persons with disabilities would feel more comfortable using the services of a business they knew was removing barriers, and
  • the employees of that business would feel less worried knowing their organization had a plan to remove barriers

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

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

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