Technical briefing – Proposed Accessibility Legislation
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Technical briefing – Proposed Accessibility Legislation


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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