Barrier-Free Canada/Canada Sans Barrières

A Non-Partisan Campaign for a Barrier-Free Canada for All Persons with Disabilities

Barrier-Free Canada 2015 Federal Election Action Kit

August 24, 2015

1. Introduction

Do you think Canadians with disabilities should be able to travel on airplanes or trains travelling between provinces? Do you think they should have equal access to services provided by the Government of Canada? Should they be able to enjoy whatever CBC posts on its public websites? Should they be assured that they can enter their neighbourhood polling station during an election, and independently mark their own ballot?

A great many of the over four million Canadians with disabilities still don’t enjoy all of these opportunities. They face too many accessibility barriers. They should not have to individually fight these barriers, one at a time, through endless human rights complaints. They need the Canadian Parliament to pass a new law – the Canadians with Disabilities Act – to ensure that the federal government does all it can to ensure that Canadians with disabilities can live in a Canada that is accessible and barrier-free.

Canada’s next federal election is on October 19, 2015. Canadians have a unique opportunity to move forward on the long, challenging road to a barrier-free Canada for more than 4 million Canadians with physical, mental, sensory or other disabilities.

Voters can influence the major parties, individual candidates and party platforms. Imagine if people with disabilities and their families and friends pressed candidates to support the passage of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Imagine if every voter with a disability and every voter who is the parent, relative or friend of a person with a disability, voted and also convinced two other people to vote, taking into account the needs of Canadians with disabilities. That adds up to real power.

This Action Kit tells you:

  • why Canada needs a Canadians with Disabilities Act.
  • what a Canadians with Disabilities Act could do.
  • where the major federal political parties stand on the call for a Canadians with Disabilities Act.
  • what you can do to help.

Barrier-Free Canada is a non-partisan, volunteer, grassroots movement established in 2014. It advocates for the enactment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act, to lead Canada to become fully accessible to all people with disabilities.

As a non-partisan community organization, Barrier-Free Canada neither endorses nor opposes any party or candidate. Barrier-Free Canada will seek to get all the parties to commit to support the enactment of a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act that incorporates all the principles for which we advocate. But we can’t do this without your help!

Helping our cause takes no more than a few minutes. All you need to know is in this Action Kit. We will update this Kit during the election campaign online in the case of new developments, e.g. if we receive any more commitments from any of the major political parties.

Be creative. Come up with your own ideas too. Share them with us. We can pass them on to others. Contact us at:

Visit our website at:

2. Why Does Canada Need a Canadians with Disabilities Act?

More than 4 million Canadians with disabilities face unfair accessibility barriers in areas that the federal government in Canada can regulate, like air travel, banking, telecommunications, broadcasting and Federal Government services. Disability accessibility barriers can be physical barriers – limiting access to buildings; technological barriers – preventing full use of federal government websites or electronic kiosks at an airport; legal barriers – like laws that unfairly limit people with disabilities from immigrating to Canada; or attitudinal barriers – unfair stereotypes about disabilities limiting access to employment opportunities in workplaces that the Government of Canada can regulate.

The number of Canadians with disabilities is expected to grow to over 9 million in the next 15 years. Our society is aging. Growing older is the biggest cause of disabilities.

Without a comprehensive legislated plan to remove existing disability barriers, and to prevent the creation of new barriers, millions of Canadians will be prevented from fully participating in their communities. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (part of Canada’s Constitution), and federal human rights laws, like the Canada Human Rights Act, make it illegal to discriminate against people with a physical or mental disability. However, those laws do not set specific and detailed standards for accessibility; instead, they require those who experience discrimination to individually bring their own private legal cases, to try to remove one barrier at a time.

A Canadians with Disabilities Act would build on, and not replace or weaken federal human rights protections, and provincial disability legislation already enacted in Ontario and Manitoba (and gradually spreading to other provinces).

A Canadians with Disabilities Act would apply to all people with disabilities – whether the disability is physical, sensory, learning and/or cognitive, or is related to a mental health condition. It would apply to any disability, regardless of whether the disability is visible to others or is invisible.

Barrier-Free Canada advocates for a set of 14 practical principles to guide the development of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. These principles ensure that a Canadians with Disabilities Act is strong, effective and comprehensive. You can read these principles by visiting our website at

3. What Could a Canadians with Disabilities Act Do?

A Canadians with Disabilities Act should:

  • set a goal of making Canada a fully accessible and barrier-free country for all people with disabilities by a designated date.
  • require the Government of Canada to lead Canada to this goal, as much as it can within its federal powers;
  • require the Government of Canada to create and enforce accessibility standards that will let the federal government and federally-regulated organizations (like banks, phone and cable TV companies, Canada Post and TV and radio stations) know what they must do to remove and prevent barriers against people with disabilities;
  • also create optional accessibility standards which provincial governments could adopt in areas of provincial concerns, and which provinces can opt into, if they wish, to help set consistent national standards across Canada;
  • ensure that the Government of Canada and federally-regulated organizations never use public money to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.
  • help ensure that Canadian businesses develop fully accessible goods and services for sale at home and to international markets, based on principles of universal design.

4. Where Do the Parties Stand?

On January 26, 2015, Barrier-Free Canada wrote the major federal party leaders. We asked for a commitment to enact strong and effective disability legislation. Here are the parties’ positions as of the date of this Action Kit:

Conservatives: The Conservative Party of Canada promised in its 2006 election platform to “introduce a National Disability Act to promote reasonable access to medical care, medical equipment, education, employment, transportation, and housing for Canadians with disabilities.”

During the last nine years in power, the Conservatives have yet to introduce such legislation. They have made no commitments on this issue during the current federal election.

New Democratic Party: In the NDP’s 2006 election platform, the party indicated that MP Peter Julian had drafted a Canadians with Disabilities Act and committed to introduce the legislation “at the earliest opportunity.” It appears the legislation was never introduced. The NDP has made no commitments on this issue during the current federal election.

Liberals: The Liberal Party has made no commitments on this issue during the current federal election, nor any prior commitments of which we are aware.

Greens: In the latest version of Vision Green – the comprehensive statement of Green Party policies and programs – the party committed to “work to create a Canada Disabilities Act (CDA) to express Canadians’ vision of a more equitable society rather than the current confusion resulting from the multiplicity of acts, standards, policies, and programs that prevail.”

The Green Party is the only party that has made a recent commitment to enact federal disability legislation. The Green Party has not specifically committed that it supports the 14 principles for a Canadians with Disabilities Act for which Barrier-Free Canada advocates.

5. What You Can Do to Help

Here are some ways you can make a huge difference.

Every contribution, no matter how brief, makes a difference.

Please let Barrier-Free Canada know when you’ve tried one of these ideas. If you ask, we can try to give you help. Please reach out to us at

  • Phone, email or even visit the candidates’ offices in your riding. Later in this Action Kit are ideas of what you might say to them.
  • Go to a local all-candidates’ debate in or near your riding. These are a great place for grassroots democracy. These usually are held at a school, church or community hall. You can find out when and where an all-candidates’ debate will be held by contacting any local candidate’s campaign office.
  • Meet the candidates. Ask a brief, punchy question about the Canadians with Disabilities Act during the debate. Ask each candidate to support the enactment of this legislation. Later in this Action Kit, we offer ideas of what you might ask.
  • Spread the word about the campaign for the Canadians with Disabilities Act on social media like Twitter and Facebook. These social media give you great new ways to reach candidates, voters and news organizations during election campaigns. Later in this Kit, we give you sample tweets you might wish to use on Twitter and/or Facebook.

We and others are tweeting about this issue on Twitter. Just search for the hashtag #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct and you will see all our tweets.

Follow Barrier-Free Canada on Twitter @barrierFreeCa Then you can quickly and easily retweet them to others. Every retweet helps.

You can “like” our Facebook page, which is at Share our posts on that page with your Facebook friends.

Once we have posted this Election Action Kit on our website at you can spread the word about this election Action Kit via Twitter and Facebook, by sharing the link to it.

Tweet candidates in your riding or elsewhere to ask where they stand on a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Just include their Twitter name in the tweet. Among our sample tweets later in this Action Kit are ones individually addressed to Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair.

On a smart phone or digital camera, take photos or videos of any accessibility barriers you find at candidates’ offices, forums, and other election events. Share those photos on social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Use a smart phone to make video or audio recordings of candidates when they answer questions about a Canadians with Disabilities Act, at all-candidates forums or other campaign events. Post these videos for free on YouTube. Then you can share the YouTube link to your video via social media like Facebook, and Twitter.

Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about the need for a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Tell them what the parties have said so far about this issue. Urge them to consider this issue when deciding on their vote.

Call your local radio or TV station, and your local newspaper. Tell them about disability accessibility barriers that impede you or others you know, especially in areas like air and train travel, banking, cable or telephone services, Canada Post, or dealing with the federal government. Call in to call-in shows. Write letters to the editor. If you are especially eager, write a guest column and urge your local newspaper to print it. Borrow as much as you want from this Action Kit and from our website. We are delighted when others make use of our resources. Teach the public through these routes about the need for a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

a) What You Might Say to Candidates, Media Reporters and the Public

It is best if you say it in your own words, not ours. However, if you don’t have time to re-phrase our suggestions, just use them as is!

Give examples of barriers that we need a Canadians with Disabilities Act to fix, such as accessibility problems you or others you know have faced at airports, or when taking flights within Canada or on flights that start or end in Canada; when trying to use services of the Government of Canada; with Canada Post services; using banks in Canada, or when trying to vote in a Canadian election.

Explain why you or others should not have to fight these accessibility barriers one at a time, by launching a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, or by suing in court under the Charter of Rights.

More accessibility is good for all Canadians. We all get a disability as we age. These barriers hurt our economy, are bad for business, and create an unnecessary burden on the public purse.

A Canadians with Disabilities Act is long overdue. The U.S. passed the Americans with Disabilities Act 25 years ago, in 1990. Canada is therefore a quarter of a century behind the U.S.

We need a Canadians with Disabilities Act to supplement provincial accessibility laws in provinces like Ontario and Manitoba. Those laws don’t fully regulate barriers in the federal sphere, like Government of Canada services.

Be brief – candidates and news reporters are extremely busy during election campaigns.

Be personal. People remember stories better than statistics. By sharing a bit about your own situation, you make this issue far more memorable and compelling.

b) Tips for Phoning or Visiting a Candidate’s Campaign Office:

Usually, a receptionist or campaign volunteer will take your call. The candidate is likely out knocking on doors to meet voters. Here is what you might say when they answer your call or meet you at their campaign office. You should try to get the receptionist or volunteer on our side, by getting them interested in a Canadians with Disabilities Act. We have found that often, campaign staff and volunteers have their own experience with disability accessibility barriers.

ME: Hello, my name is [insert name] and I’m a voter and constituent of [insert riding]. I’d like to speak with the candidate to introduce myself. Would he/she be available?

RECEPTIONIST: No, he/she is out at the moment. Can I take a message?

ME: Yes, please. My name is [insert name], and I’m a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability advocating for Parliament to enact a Canadians with Disabilities Act. I can be reached at [insert number].

I want to know your Party’s position on this issue, and to know what this candidate’s personal position is. I am eager to know if the candidate will support the call from Canadians with disabilities that the next Parliament pass a Canadians with Disabilities Act. We need this law to make Canada become fully accessible to all people with disabilities, as much as the Canadian Government can make this happen. It would be great if you can let the candidate know about this issue. It’s all available and easy to quickly read, if you visit

Note: It is helpful to try to convince a campaign staff member or volunteer. If they get really excited about this issue, they can call their party’s campaign headquarters and help turn up the heat on this issue.

When Talking to a Candidate Wherever You Meet Them

ME: My name is [insert name] and I am a voter in [insert riding]. I’m also a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability trying to get the federal government to pass a Canadians with Disabilities Act. [Describe your connection to disability.]

You may not realize this, but there are over 4 million Canadians with disabilities, and this number is expected to grow to 9 million in the next 15 years. Disability affects everyone. Everyone gets a disability as they grow older.

Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers in areas that the federal government can address, like air travel, federal government services, banking, Canada Post, phone and cable companies, and other telecommunications. A Canadians with Disabilities Act would set standards for accessibility so we can start removing these barriers without private individuals having to battle these barriers privately, one at a time.

We would like your Party to promise to enact a Canadians with Disabilities Act. A non-partisan grassroots organization called Barrier-Free Canada wrote all the party leaders for a commitment on this back in January of this year.

Will you contact your party leader and try to get them to make the pledge? Would you personally support this kind of law? Would you let others in your party know that this issue is important to your constituents.

Everyone either has a disability now or will get one as they age. So this issue affects all voters.

Emailing a candidate:

Email is a quick and easy way to get your message to candidates. However, candidates often have staff or volunteers monitor email accounts for them. If you want to be sure you’re reaching the candidate him/herself, it is best to email them, and then phone their campaign office.

Sample email:

Dear [insert name],

As an engaged citizen, I would like to congratulate you on your decision to run for public office. There will be plenty of issues being discussed over the next few weeks, and as a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability, I would like to raise a few points about the need for a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

[Feel free to insert a paragraph about your personal connection to disability.]

Today there are more than 4 million Canadians with disabilities, and this number is expected to grow to 9 million over the next 15 years. These citizens continue to face unnecessary barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction such as federal government services, air travel, cable TV and phone services, Canada Post, banking, and telecommunications. These barriers mean that Canadians with disabilities can’t fully participate in life.

Existing disability protections like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights legislation require citizens to fight to remove barriers one at a time. A Canadians with Disabilities Act would set out accessibility standards so that all barriers are systematically removed over time.

Will you support the passage of a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act? Will you urge your party leader to do the same? I would appreciate it if you would tell others in your party that this issue is important to your constituents.

If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to email Barrier-Free Canada at You can also contact me at [insert contact info].

Yours sincerely,

c) Tips for Attending a Local All-Candidates’ Debate/Forum:

Some all-candidates debates let you ask a question from the floor. Others require you to write it out and submit it. Either way, you should write it out in advance, to make sure it is short, punchy and to the point. If the event’s format presents accessibility challenges, let the organizers know. You may even wish to highlight the challenges as part of your question.

ME: My name is [insert name], and I live in this riding. More than 4 million Canadians have disabilities. This will grow to more than 9 million as the population ages. They face unfair accessibility barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction like federal government services, Canada Post, air travel, banking, phone and cable TV companies, and telecommunications.

My question for all the candidates is:

If elected, will your party support the enactment of a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act so that the federal government will do what it can to ensure that barriers facing people with disabilities are removed once and for all?

Will you personally support the enactment of the Canadians with Disabilities Act and ask your party leader to do the same?

d) Tweets You Might Wish to Send on Twitter or Facebook

Canada election is on! Join campaign 4 #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct #accessibility #AODA

Meet BarrierFreeCanada @barrierfreeca campaigning for #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct #accessibility

@PMHarper Do you support passing #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct? #accessibility #AODA

@JustinTrudeau Do you support passing #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct? #accessibility #AODA

@ThomasMulcair Do you support passing #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct? #accessibility #AODA

Ontario passed #accessibility law. Then Manitoba. NS working on 1! Maybe BC? #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct next?

Gr8 @GlobalNews story lnicolasGlobal: @BarrierFreeCa call4 #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct #accessibility

Meet BarrierFreeCanada @barrierfreeca campaigning for #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct #accessibility

Please visit Register support for passing #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct #accessibility

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