Canada’s First Federal Accessibility Legislation Comes Into Force
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Accessibility in Canada is about creating communities, workplaces and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers. The Government of Canada believes that all Canadians deserve the same opportunities and chances at success and is pleased to announce the coming into force of the Accessible Canada Act. Reaching this milestone demonstrates the Government’s commitment to implement this transformational legislation in a timely manner, creating more opportunities for persons with disabilities and ensuring greater access for all Canadians.
The coming into force of the Accessible Canada Act establishes a framework to create a barrier-free Canada through the proactive identification, removal and prevention of accessibility barriers. It will also ensure that persons with disabilities are no longer required to fight barriers to accessibility on an individual basis. With this legislation in place, millions of Canadians with disabilities can rely on the Government of Canada to remove the barriers that hinder their full participation in society.
The Accessible Canada Act applies to the federally regulated private sector, which includes the banking, transportation and telecommunications sectors, as well as the Government of Canada, Crown corporations and Parliament. Under the Act, these organizations will be required to develop and publish accessibility plans that describe how they will identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. They will also be required to establish a mechanism for receiving and addressing feedback on accessibility from anyone who interacts with their organization. Finally, they will have to develop regular progress reports on the implementation of their plan and addressing any feedback they receive.
The Accessible Canada Act also establishes new structures and positions, including:
- the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO), led by a board of directors comprised of a majority of persons with disabilities that will develop accessibility standards in collaboration with the disability community and industry;
- a Chief Accessibility Officer, who will advise the Minister of Accessibility and monitor systemic and emerging accessibility issues; and
- an Accessibility Commissioner, who will spearhead compliance and enforcement activities under the legislation.
The next phase of implementation will include the development of standards and regulations that will provide clear guidance on accessibility requirements.
The new legislation is built on a whole-of-government approach to accessibility. Existing regulators and complaints bodies—such as the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board—are required to collaborate to put in place a mechanism for the efficient and expeditious referral of accessibility-related complaints and to foster complementary accessibility policies and practices.
The coming into force of the Accessible Canada Act also legislates National AccessAbility Week as beginning each year on the last Sunday in May, with the objective of promoting accessibility and celebrating the contributions of persons with disabilities across the country.
“Today marks a major milestone in the history of disability rights. I am so proud that the Accessible Canada Act has now come into force and is a reality. This important achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and engagement of the disability community and I thank them for their hard work. With this legislation now in place, we can begin a journey that will lead us to a society that treats all people with the dignity they deserve. Now more than ever, we can say: Nothing without us!”
– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility
- Approximately one in five Canadians, or about 6.2 million people aged 15 and over, report having a disability that limits them in their daily activities.
- The Accessible Canada Act was developed following the most inclusive and accessible consultations with the disability community in our country’s history. More than 6,000 Canadians and 100 accessibility organizations shared their views and ideas about an accessible Canada.
- Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, was tabled in Parliament on June 20, 2018, and passed by the Senate with amendments on May 13, 2019. The House of Commons concurred with all amendments on May 29, 2019, and the Act received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.