OTTAWA – Barrier Free Canada/Canada sans barrières (BFC/CSB) is celebrating the introduction on June 20th of the long-awaited federal accessibility legislation, the Accessible Canada Act. It is hoped that the legislation will help to make accessibility and inclusion a priority for all federally-regulated and federally-funded organizations.
Over the past several years, BFC/CSB and a myriad of other charitable and not-for-profit organizations have worked tirelessly holding consultations, conducting research, and preparing recommendations and advisory reports to inform the content of this federal legislation.
“Wednesday was a momentous day,” said Donna Jodhan, President and founder of BFC/CSB. “Canadians with disabilities have long dreamt of the day when accessibility and inclusion in government services would be clearly mandated, and we are now one step closer to that full inclusion.”
In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), pledging to address the exclusion and accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in Canada. The introduction of this legislation is a tangible step toward making this a lived reality for Canadians with disabilities.
Legislation exists to protect the rights of Canadians with disabilities within the federal sector, such as the Canadian Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the UNCRPD itself. But as Anthony Tibbs, Treasurer of BFC/CSB and a lawyer with Merchant Law Group explained, “These tools are reactive and provide remediation for people whose rights have been denied – but only if the person is willing or able to fight through a court process. What Canada needs, and what we hope this legislation will offer, are proactive standards (and meaningful oversight) to prevent the discrimination from happening and take the enforcement obligation off the backs of the people who are meant to be protected.”
Jodhan added, “A few years ago I was forced to take the federal government to Court because government web sites and online services were needlessly inaccessible to me as a person who is blind. I hope that federal legislation mandating accessibility will avoid anyone else having to repeat that adventure in the future.”
BFC/CSB will be reviewing the proposed law in detail in preparation for hearings anticipated to be held after parliament returns by the committees tasked with reviewing the legislation.
BFC/CSB is a non-partisan not-for-profit organization that has been advocating for legislation to ensure accessibility and inclusion for Canadians with disabilities at both the federal and provincial levels for more than five years.