Making an accessible Canada for people with disabilities

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Accessibility in Canada is about creating communities, workplaces and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers.

Today, 3.8 million Canadians over the age of 15 (almost 14% of Canadians), identify as having a disability. However, the actual numbers are likely higher. Persons with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed, to live in poverty and to earn less than people without a disability. But we are talking about more than just numbers - these are our family members, our friends, our neighbours, and our colleagues. Only 49% of Canadians with disabilities, aged 25 to 64, are employed, compared to 79% of Canadians without disabilities. Canadians with disabilities earn 44% less than Canadians without disabilities; and are more likely to live in poverty.

The advocacy of disability stakeholders and organizations in Canada has been critical to promote the rights of people with disabilities. The Government of Canada is building on their legacies to improve accessibility and promote inclusion for all Canadians.

By working together with provinces and territories and the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, the Government of Canada can work to ensure equality, inclusion and full participation in society for all Canadians.

With Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada, the Government of Canada is fulfilling its mandate promise to introduce new accessibility legislation. The Government of Canada will continue to work with Canadians with disabilities across the country towards an accessible Canada.

Bill C-81: The Accessible Canada Act

The Government of Canada is introducing Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada. If passed, Bill C-81 would benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, by helping create a barrier-free Canada.

This would be achieved through the proactive identification, removal, and prevention of barriers to accessibility wherever Canadians interact with areas under federal jurisdiction. Building on the significant consultations that have already taken place involving provinces, territories, municipalities, various organizations, and thousands of Canadians, Bill C-81 would work to ensure more consistent experiences of accessibility across Canada.

To support the development of Bill C-81, the Government of Canada consulted with Canadians, starting in July 2016, to find out what an accessible Canada means to them. The report "Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned from Canadians," released in May 2017, shares the key findings of these consultations.

During the consultations, we listened to Canadians to find out about their priorities for accessibility. The key areas identified include: programs and service delivery, employment, the built environment, information and communications technology, procurement, and transportation.

Once passed, Bill C-81 would give the Government of Canada the authority to work with stakeholders and Canadians with disabilities to create new accessibility standards and regulations that would apply to sectors in the federal jurisdiction, such as banking, telecommunications, transportation industries like air and rail, and the Government of Canada itself. These new regulated standards would set out requirements for organizations to follow in order to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility.

If passed, Bill C-81 will help to change the way that the Government of Canada and organizations in the federal jurisdiction interact with Canadians. It defines a proposal for standards development, regulations, compliance and enforcement measures, the complaints process, and roles and responsibilities for implementation. For an accessible summary of Bill C-81 as tabled on June 20, 2018, please select the format that works best for you here:

Summary of the legislation

Technical briefing - Proposed Accessibility Legislation

Technical briefing - Proposed Accessibility Legislation (ASL)

Transcript – Proposed Accessible Canada Act Overview

With the introduction in the House of Commons on June 20, 2018 of Bill C-81: An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, the Government of Canada has followed through on its commitment to introduce accessibility legislation to bring about real change for Canadians with disabilities in all areas of federal jurisdiction.

If passed, the Accessible Canada Act will lead to more consistent experiences of accessibility across Canada. With the Act, the Government of Canada would eliminate and prevent barriers to accessibility in federal jurisdiction.

This would benefit all Canadians, especially those with disabilities. The Bill proposes a framework for developing, implementing, and enforcing accessibility standards in priority areas, and monitoring implementation. To do this, the Government of Canada would create new standards to identify, eliminate and prevent accessibility barriers.

Once adopted into regulations, these standards would promote accessibility in the priority areas we heard about in a public consultation on disability issues: employment; the built environment; information and communication technologies; the procurement of goods and services; the delivery of programs and services; and transportation.

If passed, the Bill would create a new organization to develop these standards. The Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization would be the first of its kind in Canada; exclusively dedicated to developing accessibility standards. It would be led by a Board of Directors with the majority of members being persons with a disability.

To develop accessibility standards, the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization would form technical committees that include experts, persons with disabilities and representatives from sectors or organizations that would be required to meet the standards.

Standards would be published and the Government may decide to make them mandatory through regulation. Organizations in the federal jurisdiction - departments, agencies, crown corporations - would be required to prepare an accessibility plan.

These plans would describe the organization's strategies for improving accessibility. Organizations would have to publish the plans, respond to feedback from their employees and customers and publish annual progress reports. The plans would be created in consultation with persons with disabilities as per the principle of "nothing about us, without us".

Responsibility for implementation of the Act would not rest solely with one Minister. The Act would build on the Government's existing expertise and experience in relation to accessibility in the federal passenger transportation network and broadcasting and telecommunications services.

The Minister of Transport and the Canadian Transportation Agency would continue to be responsible for ensuring accessibility for passengers in the federal transportation network, with enhanced mandate responsibilities and powers.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission would continue to be responsible for accessibility in the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors, with new responsibilities for overseeing accessibility plans and progress reports.

The Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility would be accountable for the implementation of the Act in all other sectors, and would be accountable for accessibility of employment and the built environment across all sectors, including transportation, broadcasting and telecommunications, with the exception of passenger vessels and passenger terminals - which will remain the responsibility of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Given that several ministers would have responsibilities under this Act, a new Chief Accessibility Officer would be appointed by the Governor in Council to advise the Minister and monitor the implementation of the Act across all sectors.

The Chief Accessibility Officer would advise the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility on any emerging or systemic accessibility issues and how to address them.

A new Accessibility Commissioner would be appointed directly by the Governor in Council. This Accessibility Commissioner would be part of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and would be supported by a dedicated Accessibility Unit. The Accessibility Commissioner would perform compliance activities under the Act and related regulations, in sectors other than transportation, broadcasting and telecommunications.

The Act would authorize the Accessibility Commissioner to undertake a number of proactive compliance activities, including inspections, compliance audits, compliance orders, notices of violation, and administrative monetary penalties.

Any individuals who believe they have been harmed as a result of an organization not complying with a requirement of the law would be able to make a complaint to the Accessibility Commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency, or the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission - or, in the case of federal public servants, to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Employment Board - to seek remedy for the harm they experienced.

Remedies could include reimbursement of expenses and lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering for complaints that are founded. If, for example, a company is non-compliant with a regulation, and a person encounters a barrier on a train as a result, that person would have the opportunity to seek compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering.

The existing complaints process under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which authorizes the Canadian Human Rights Commission to deal with complaints related to discrimination, would not change.

Finally, to demonstrate results for Canadians, all of the organizations involved in implementing the Act would have to report publicly on their activities. And to ensure the Act is achieving its intended purpose, a parliamentary review would be conducted within five years after the first regulation came into force. Five years after the day the parliamentary review is completed, and every tenth anniversary thereafter, the Minister would ensure that an independent review of the Act is conducted.

To coordinate efforts on accessibility, the Government of Canada would collaborate with provinces, territories, municipalities, industry and people with disabilities. This act would complement and build on existing legal protections and rights for people with disabilities such as the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and accessibility Acts in place in several provinces.

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