Barrier Free Canada’s speaking notes for October 18 2018

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières is a grass roots non-partisan organization. We were founded in late 2014 and we were instrumental in kick starting the campaign for the Canadian Government to pass Legislation to enact a Canadians with disabilities Act for a Barrier free Canada.

At the present time, we are supported by over 25 National organizations across Canada, we have been endorsed by the cities of Toronto and Halifax,  and individual support continues to grow steadily with a present base of about two thousand persons.

We continue to advocate for legislation to make Canada a barrier free country and as part of our initiative, we have developed 14 principles which we believe can help to form the foundation of said legislation.

http://barrierfreecanada.org/home/

Appendix A contains a comparison of our Principles vs. the Accessible Canada Act Draft Legislation.  However, for brevity I will highlight what the proposed legislation does not include in each of our principles.

Barrier Free Canada is grateful for having been given this opportunity to have our voice heard.

We believe that when this Act is passed it will go down in history as one of the most important pieces of Legislation as it pertains to the rights of Canadians with disabilities, to their friends and to their families and we look forward to continued collaboration with the Government on this very important piece of Legislation.

Points to be covered

Barrier Free Canada principle 1

  • Principle not endorsed
  • No meaningful deadlines or time horizons are specified by the legislation.
  • Even if a deadline were established in a regulation, there is nothing in the legislation that prescribes a penalty for failing to meet such a deadline.

Barrier free Canada principle 2

  • Principle partly endorsed
  • The legislation does appear to cover all persons with disabilities
  • The legislation does appear to address the range of barriers anticipated in this principle
  • The legislation does appear to apply to the federal government and regulated entities and organizations
  • The legislation does not appear to extend requirements to organizations that receive federal grants, subsidies, loans or other funds
  • The legislation does not appear to extend requirements to organizations which provide goods and services to the federal government.

Barrier free Canada principle 3

  • In principle, the legislation as drafted is not intended to override or displace any existing protections or mechanisms for enforcement that are available to people with disabilities
  • Given that the regulations have not yet been developed, it is not possible to assess at this time whether the Act is stronger or weaker than existing provisions

Barrier free Canada principle 4

  • The Act does not really aim for full accessibility or inclusion. It strives to achieve “through the progressive realization … of a Canada without barriers”.  Progressive realization does not imply any particular deadline or meter stick against which progress is to be measured.

Barrier Free Canada principle 5

  • To the extent that regulated entities provide goods and services in this manner, the legislation does require that implementation plans be made to identify and remove barriers
  • It is not clear that the legislation could drive product development accessibility requirements (e.g. Shared Services information technology services)

Barrier free Canada principle 6

  • There are currently no prescribed timelines, but this is otherwise included in the Act

Barrier free Canada principle 7

  • The legislation does not clearly demonstrate how Canada will take a ‘lead role’ in implementation
  • Taking that ‘lead role’ could begin today: Canada should not wait for the legislation or regulations to be finalized before taking proactive steps toward implementation within its own departments. Canada should be seen as leading the charge.

Barrier free Canada principle 8

  • The Act does provide for another complaint resolution process outside of the traditional court venues
  • The Act does not appear to include any mandatory enforcement provisions. The accessibility commissioner has broad enforcement powers, but those powers “may” be used – not “shall”. 

Barrier free Canada principle 9

  • The Act does provide some sector-by-sector separations (at least in respect of a few designated sectors)
  • It is not clear how input from affected groups and organizations will be gathered or consolidated. There is a suggestion in the Act (but not a hard rule) that a majority of the board of directors of the standards-setting body will be people with disabilities, but absolutely no requirement that persons with disabilities will dominate on the technical and advisory committees

Barrier free Canada principle 10

  • These issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all.

Barrier free Canada principle 11

  • These issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all.
  • Certainly, there is no mention in the legislation of applying a disability lens to policy and legislative development.

Barrier free Canada principle 12

  • These issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all.

Barrier free Canada principle 13

  • This may be happening at a policy level, but there is no direct reflection of it in the federal legislation.

Barrier free Canada principle 14

  • The degree to which the act is ‘permissive’ but not ‘mandatory’ undermines its potential to have ‘real force, effect and teeth’.

Government Must Lead By Example

Government of Canada Digital services for public and internal websites, systems, tools and services must:

  • Meet Government of Canada standards: Currently level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) as a minimum
  • Strive to meet current level AAA of the WCAG: Currently 1
  • Monitor and review Departments and Agencies for accessibility compliance
  • Send annual compliance Report to Parliament
  • Include people with disabilities in user research and user testing
  • Ensure funding is available to ensure these standards are in place in the shortest time line for all Departments and Agencies

Appendix A

PRINCIPLES FOR THE CANADIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

1. The Canadians with Disabilities Act’s purpose is to achieve a barrier-free Canada for persons with disabilities by a deadline that the Act will set, and that will be within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation, to effectively ensure to all persons with disabilities in Canada the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Canada based on their individual merit.

Principle not endorsed

  • No meaningful deadlines or time horizons are specified by the legislation.
  • Even if a deadline were established in a regulation, there is nothing in the legislation that prescribes a penalty for failing to meet such a deadline.

2. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should apply to all persons with disabilities whether they have a physical, mental sensory, learning and/or intellectual disability or mental health condition, or are regarded as having one, whether their condition is episodic or permanent, and whether their disability is visible or invisible to others. It should apply to all accessibility barriers, for example physical, legal, bureaucratic, information, communication, attitudinal, technological, policy or other barriers. It should apply to the Parliament of Canada as well as to all federal government entities, federally-owned public premises and facilities, federally-regulated companies and organizations, recipients of federal grants, subsidies, loans or other funds, and any other persons or organizations to whom the Government of Canada can apply it.

Principle partly endorsed

  • The legislation does appear to cover all persons with disabilities
  • The legislation does appear to address the range of barriers anticipated in this principle
  • The legislation does appear to apply to the federal government and regulated entities and organizations
  • The legislation does not appear to extend requirements to organizations that receive federal grants, subsidies, loans or other funds
  • The legislation does not appear to extend requirements to organizations which provide goods and services to the federal government.

3. The Canadians with Disabilities Act’s requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities. The Act and regulations made under it should not take away any rights that Canadians with disabilities now enjoy;

  • In principle, the legislation as drafted is not intended to override or displace any existing protections or mechanisms for enforcement that are available to people with disabilities
  • Given that the regulations have not yet been developed, it is not possible to assess at this time whether the Act is stronger or weaker than existing provisions

4. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require Canada, including organizations to whom it applies, to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;

  • The Act does not really aim for full accessibility or inclusion. It strives to achieve “through the progressive realization … of a Canada without barriers”.  Progressive realization does not imply any particular deadline or meter stick against which progress is to be measured.

5. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require providers of goods, services and facilities to whom the Act applies to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed based on principles of universal design, to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers and to prevent new barriers within legislated timetables;

  • To the extent that regulated entities provide goods and services in this manner, the legislation does require that implementation plans be made to identify and remove barriers
  • It is not clear that the legislation could drive product development accessibility requirements (e.g. Shared Services information technology services)

6. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require organizations to whom it applies to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces and employment within prescribed time limits. Among other things, those employers should be required to identify existing employment and workplace barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new workplace and employment barriers;

  • There are currently no prescribed timelines, but this is otherwise included in the Act

7. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require the Government of Canada to lead Canada to achieving the Act’s goals. It should specify actions the Government of Canada must take to fulfil this mandate. Among other things, it should require the Government of Canada to provide education and other information resources to organizations, individuals and groups who need to comply with the Act. It should also require the Government of Canada to appoint an independent person to periodically review and publicly report on progress towards full accessibility, and to make recommendations on any actions needed to achieve the Act’s goals;

  • The legislation does not clearly demonstrate how Canada will take a ‘lead role’ in implementation
  • Taking that ‘lead role’ could begin today: Canada should not wait for the legislation or regulations to be finalized before taking proactive steps toward implementation within its own departments. Canada should be seen as leading the charge.

8. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt, independent and effective process for enforcement, and should require that the Act be effectively enforced. This should include, among other things, an effective avenue for persons with disabilities to raise with enforcement officials violations of the Act that they have encountered. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and can yield inadequate remedies;

  • The Act does provide for another complaint resolution process outside of the traditional court venues
  • The Act does not appear to include any mandatory enforcement provisions. The accessibility commissioner has broad enforcement powers, but those powers “may” be used – not “shall”. 

9. As part of its requirement that the Government of Canada lead Canada to the goal of full accessibility for Canadians with disabilities, the Act should require the Government of Canada to make regulations needed to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Canadians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities and obligated organizations, before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy to which the Act can apply. The Act should require the Government of Canada to make all the accessibility standards regulations needed to ensure that its goals are achieved, and that these regulations be independently reviewed for sufficiency every four years after they were enacted;

  • The Act does provide some sector-by-sector separations (at least in respect of a few designated sectors)
  • It is not at all clear how input from affected groups and organizations will be gathered or consolidated. There is a suggestion in the Act (but not a hard rule) that a majority of the board of directors of the standards-setting body will be people with disabilities, but absolutely no requirement that persons with disabilities will dominate on the technical and advisory committees

10. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require that the Government of Canada ensure that no public money is used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. For example, all federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations should be required to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or any capital or other infrastructure project, or of any transfer payment, subsidy, loan, grant (such as research grants) or other payment of public funds, that no such funds may be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.  They should also be required to make it a condition of any procurement of any services, goods or facilities, that these be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant (including for example, research grant), loan, subsidy , contract or other such payment which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant-recipient or contractor with the department, agency, or crown corporation in question. The Government of Canada should be required to monitor and enforce these requirements and to periodically report to the public on compliance.

  • These issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all.

11. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require the Government of Canada to review all federal legislation and regulations to identify possible accessibility barriers that they may impose or permit, and to propose omnibus legislation within a specified time to address these barriers. It should require the Government of Canada to review all future proposed legislation and regulations, before they are enacted, to certify and ensure that they do not create, perpetuate or allow for accessibility barriers in them or in activity or programs operated under them. As an immediate priority under these activities, the Government of Canada should get input from voters with disabilities on accessibility barriers in election campaigns and the voting process, and should develop reforms to remove and prevent such barriers.

  • These issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all.
  • Certainly, there is no mention in the legislation of applying a disability lens to policy and legislative development.

12. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should set as a national policy the fostering of international trade aimed at better meeting the market of up to one billion persons with disabilities around the world.

  • These issues do not appear to be addressed by the legislation at all.

13. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require the Government of Canada to encourage all provincial governments to pass disability accessibility legislation to help ensure that barriers impeding persons with disabilities are removed and prevented throughout Canada and to convene a federal/provincial conference to that end, which will include representatives of persons with disabilities across Canada.

  • This may be happening at a policy level, but there is no direct reflection of it in the federal legislation.

14. The Canadians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Canada. It must have real force, effect and teeth.

  • The degree to which the act is ‘permissive’ but not ‘mandatory’ undermines its potential to have ‘real force, effect and teeth’.

http://barrierfreecanada.org/home/

Barrier Free Canada

For a list of our Yes Supporters, please click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *