Towards a Barrier-Free Canada for all persons with disabilities…
PRINCIPLES FOR THE CANADIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
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.
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.
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;
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 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;
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;
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 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;
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 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 pament, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.