C-81, the Accessible Canada Act has passed Royal Assent!
"This enactment enacts the Accessible Canada Act in order to enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons with disabilities, in society. This is to be achieved through the progressive realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers, particularly by the identification, removal and prevention of barriers"--Summary, p. ii.
Jun 21, 2019, Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act passed Royal Assent. 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. To do this, the Government of Canada will create new standards to identify, eliminate and prevent accessibility barriers.
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Taken from Government of Canada Website
Barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation. (obstacle)
Disability means any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment — or a functional limitation — whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society. (handicap)
Accessibility Standards Canada creates and reviews standards that apply to:
- the federal government; and
- federally regulated entities.
These standards will identify, eliminate and prevent barriers to accessibility.
During the Accessible Canada Act consultations, the government learned which areas are most important to Canadians for improving accessibility.
Under the Act, Accessibility Standards Canada needs to work with:
- persons with disabilities and other experts;
- industry representatives; and
- other stakeholders impacted by the standards.
The following 7 priorities, as identified in the Accessible Canada Act, guide their work:
- the built environment
- information and communication technologies
- communication (other than information and communication technologies)
- the procurement of goods, services and facilities
- the design and delivery of programs and services
Accessibility in Canada is about creating communities, workplaces and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers.
According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, more than 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over (22% of the population) identify as having a disability, and it is expected actual numbers are likely higher. Only 59% of Canadians with disabilities aged 25 to 64 are employed compared to 80% of Canadians without disabilities. Persons with disabilities earn less than Canadians without disabilities (12% less for those with milder disabilities and 51% less for those with more severe disabilities) and are more likely to live in poverty.
The advocacy of disability stakeholders and organizations in Canada has been critical to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Government of Canada is building on this legacy to improve accessibility and promote inclusion for everyone in Canada.
The Accessible Canada Act
With the adoption of An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada (Accessible Canada Act), the Government of Canada is fulfilling its mandate promise to introduce new accessibility legislation. The Government of Canada will continue to work with persons with disabilities and the disability community, as well as with provinces and territories, towards the realization of an accessible Canada.
This legislation will benefit everyone in Canada, especially persons with disabilities, by helping to create a barrier-free Canada through the proactive identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility wherever Canadians interact with areas under federal jurisdiction. The Accessible Canada Act provides for the development of accessibility standards and gives the Government of Canada the authority to work with stakeholders and persons with disabilities to create new accessibility regulations that will apply to sectors within the federal jurisdiction, such as banking, telecommunications, transportation industries and the Government of Canada itself. These new regulations will set out requirements for organizations to follow in order to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. The Accessible Canada Act will also put in place compliance and enforcement measures, as well as an accessibility complaints mechanism.
What the Accessible Canada Act requires organisations to do
- prepare and publish plans demonstrating how they find and remove barriers
- show how they will prevent barriers in the future
- update and publish their plan every 3 years
- consult people with disabilities in preparing their accessibility plans
- create a way to collect feedback about their plans
- describe, on their website, how they receive and respond to that feedback
- prepare and publish reports on how they are carrying out their accessibility plans
- show how they responded to the feedback they received
- consult people with disabilities in preparing their progress reports
Why the Accessible Canada Act needs regulations
The Accessible Canada Act says organisations must do certain things like making and publishing accessibility plans. Regulations make rules about how and when they have to do these things.
Deadlines for accessibility plans
- The Federal government, Crown corporations, and the Canadian forces must publish their first plans by December 31, 2022
- Large businesses with 100 or more employees must publish their first plans by June 1, 2023
- Small businesses with 10 to 99 employees must publish their first plans by June 1, 2024
- Businesses with less than 10 employees do not need to publish accessibility plans, progress reports, or feedback processes
- The rules will not apply to First Nations Band Councils for 5 years
- This gives us time to work with Indigenous partners and communities on a potential tailored approach to accessibility
2. What accessibility plans need to include
Organisations must include the following headers in their accessibility plans:
- general: the organisation must include its contact information, like an address, phone number or email address
- the organisation must include a header for each of the priority areas of the Accessible Canada Act, currently:
- jobs and hiring
- buildings and spaces
- information and communication technology
- getting goods and services
- programs and services
- communicating with employees and clients
- transportation services
- consultations: the organisation must show how it consulted persons with disabilities on the plan
Organisations must accept feedback received from the platforms they use to communicate with the public.
People can give feedback to organisations without having to give their name or contact information. However, if people leave their name, organisations must acknowledge receipt of the feedback.
4. Progress reports
Organisations must publish progress reports on the first and second anniversary of each accessibility plan.
- Organisations have 48 hours to tell the Accessibility Commissioner after they publish any of these documents:
- accessibility plans
- feedback processes
- progress reports
- Organisations must publish their documents online if they have an online presence
- They must follow the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), level AA available in French and English. This is a set of rules for designing websites so people with disabilities can use them more easily
- Organisations that do not have an online presence must display paper copies at all of their business locations
- They must keep these copies somewhere that is clearly visible and accessible to the public
6. Alternate formats
Types of formats accessible and usable by people with disabilities.
If someone requests it, organisations must provide their accessibility plans and progress reports in the following formats:
- large print (extra large words)
- braille (written language where people read by feeling raised dots with their fingertips)
- audio (recording of someone reading the text out loud)
- electronic (text that an electronic device designed for persons with disabilities can read)
7. Deadlines for alternate format requests
Organisations must provide alternate formats of accessibility plans and progress reports within a certain number of days:
- for print, large print or electronic format:
- the Federal government and larger organisations (100 or more employees) have 15 days
- smaller organisations (10 to 99 employees) have 20 days
- for braille and audio formats:
- all organisations have 45 days
8. Keeping accessibility plans and progress reports
- keep accessibility plans, feedback processes, and progress reports online for 6 years
- keep an archived copy for 1 extra year
Organisations who do not publish their plans and progress reports online have to keep paper copies for 7 years
Organisations must keep a copy of the feedback they receive for 7 years
Info on Legislation
Accessible Canada Act
- Proactively eliminate and prevent barriers and ensure greater opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Service Design and Delivery
- Receive services that are accessible to all.
- Move freely around buildings and public spaces.
- Access to employment opportunities and accessible workplaces.
Information and Communication Technologies
- Accessible digital content and technologies.
- Barrier-free services and spaces for persons with communication disabilities.
- Barrier-free federal transportation network.
- Ensure purchases of accessible goods, services and facilities.
Goals of the Accessible Canada Act
- Realization of a barrier-free Canada
- Culture change
- Standards development
- Proactive compliance and enforcement measures
- Monitoring and oversight
Where does it apply?
- Government of Canada
- Federally-regulated private sector
“Nothing without us”: the Accessible Canada Act will be implemented in partnership with persons with disabilities and the disability community.