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Canadian Council of the Blind/ Le Conseil Canadien Des Aveugles
Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills, and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities/ Comité perament des ressources humaines, du développement des compétences, du développement social et de la condition des personnes handicapées
Review of Bill C-81: An Act to Ensure a Barrier Free Canada
We congratulate the Federal Government for committing to pass national legislation and for introducing Bill C-81 in Parliament on June of 2018. This bill includes many of the important points presented by individuals and organizations over the two year period of consultation. It does appear to cover a range of barriers for persons with disabilities. Now that the Bill has made it to Committee, thank you for this Bill and the opportunity to participate in its future.
The title exemplifies the intent to create an ‘accessible and barrier free’ Canada.
It is believed that the legislation is not intended to override or displace existing protections for enforcement that are currently in place.
Also a positive point is the Act appears to provide another resolution process with easier access.
Some important positive new additions noted are an Accessibility Commissioner to enforce the bill, a Federal Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO), a Chief Accessibility Officer and a Minister to be responsible for key functions under the bill.
The bill allows for non-binding accessibility standards as guides regulated organizations and when enacted these would become enforceable.
While there are many great areas there is always room for improving such a bill.
A Disability Lens is an important factor to consider. This should begin with Government to ensure that current legislation is amended to remove barriers and future legislature is created without adding new ones to ensure that they are based on principles of inclusion and human rights.
While digital communications are developing rapidly the Act needs to ensure that Agencies such as CRPD include the added needs of persons, who are blind, partially sighted, or deaf-blind are available on equal access by having representatives involved in design of equipment and data plans.
It is important that this Act does not reduce in anyway rights that people with disabilities enjoy under current law.
It is important for the Federal Government to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for both candidates and voters.
The bill needs to be effectively enforced which will be a factor after passage.
American Sign Language (ALS) and Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) need to be recognized as official sign languages.
Government funding, grants or provision of goods and services need to fall under Bill C-81 so that they do not cause barriers. This should also cover research grants, agencies, crown corporations or other public funding, the accessibility components should be covered by the grants and be a requirement of the grant as a condition of funding.
A change of wording in some areas such as in the powers of the accessibility commissioner where “may” be changed to “shall” to tweak this section, and would strengthen the bill.
There are no time-lines stated – the time begins NOW and continues into the future. It is important to get this Act passed and for all federally run departments to become barrier-free and “no one is left behind”.
As this Act becomes law (very soon) with recommendations made by the varying organizations then all Canadians including those who are blind, partially-sighted or deaf-blind will have an improved quality of life.
In conclusion, CCB recommends that everyone work together as we support recommendations of the organizations who have presented briefs or other submissions in the hope that the Members of Parliament work to pass this momentous Bill C-81 early in 2019 so that Canadians will live in a barrier free country. And following the passage of legislation that persons with disabilities will be fully engaged in committees and any future amendments that will be required.
About the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB):
The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) is the largest membership-based not-for-profit organization that brings together Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or living with vision loss to share common interests and activities.
The CCB works to improve the quality of life for persons living with vision loss through proactive programs. CCB partners with a number of local, provincial, national, and international organizations all of whom are dedicated to similar mandates and principals that CCB adheres to. We have implemented programs such as Get Together with Technology (GTT) which helps people living with vision loss learn and explore accessibility through technology. Another program is aimed at the prevention and detection of blindness or diseases that may cause blindness and that is our Mobile Eye Clinic.
Activities that utilize the strengths and influence of the Council to promote increased accessibility, equality of opportunity and quality of life for people who are blind, deaf-blind or living with vision loss throughout society.
It is for these reasons that CCB would like to see passage of Bill C-81 prior to June 2019. Again thank you for the opportunity to provide input to this important bill.
Canadian Council of the Blind