Accessibility and Inclusion in British Columbia
According to a recent report from the Government of British Columbia, almost 1 million British Columbians over the age of 15 have some form of disability, representing approximately 25% of the population. In September, the province announced that it is seeking input on legislation that will focus on the important issue of accessibility and inclusion. I think we can all agree that every individual should have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of life. Creating effective accessibility and inclusion legislation is essential versus continuing with the status quo of simply providing basic accommodations.
“Integrating accessibility into every area of life is central to creating livable communities including workplaces, buildings, neighbourhoods and businesses. I look forward to this consultation, which will guide our efforts to develop legislation that will make a difference for British Columbians living with a disability.” – Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
British Columbians are being invited to read the Accessibility Framework document and join in the discussion by filling out an online survey, filing written submissions, and attending a meeting on the matter. Organizations and other interested parties can also apply for up to $2,000 to host discussions in their communities, and provide consensus feedback from participants. The window to provide feedback closes on November 29, 2019.
Click the link to learn more: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019SDPR0059-001780
General Principles of Accessibility:
Respect for dignity
The dignity of the individual with a disability should be respected throughout the accessibility process. All individuals, and the process of determining and implementing the accessibility, should respect:
- Privacy and confidentiality – individual with a disability is only required to provide information regarding functional limitations. They are not required to provide diagnosis or other medical information.
- The comfort and self esteem of the individual with a disability.
- Access will be provided in a timely manner
- Each person is unique and therefore requires an individual assessment to determine appropriate accessibility – examine requests on an individual basis.
- We cannot assume that two people with the same disability require the same accessibility
- For example, some hearing impaired people use sign language (and therefore may require an interpreter for interviews), while others may speech read.
- Ask the individual with a disability what he/she feels would be an appropriate accessibility
- Proportionality is about balancing competing interests (eg – the interests of the organization, and the individual with a disability)
- Critical in the accessibility process because the access has a potential impact on whether the individual with a disability can participate in the service (ie – whether the individual with a disability is provided with equal opportunity to access goods and services). Therefore, the organization is expected to expend greater resources, incur more inconvenience and inefficiency with implementing the accessibility.
Provide most appropriate accessibility
Characteristics of most appropriate accessibility:
- Promotes individual with a disability’s integration and full participation in the community
- Provides equal opportunity to access goods and services
- Respects dignity of the individual with a disability
- Provides an opportunity to enjoy the same level of benefits and privileges experienced by others
What does this mean – the organization cannot unilaterally select and implement accessibility initiatives based solely on business efficiency or cost effectiveness.
Integration and full participation
The accessibility should promote integration and full participation for people with disabilities. For example, (i) the individual with a disability should be able to access lunch and retail areas, (ii) the accessible building entrance should not be through the garbage storage room. The accessibility initiative should be communicated with the individual with a disability to ensure that he/she fully understands the expectations in the accessibility initiative.
How to Prepare for Accessibility:
As a federally regulated employer it is important to look at ways to improve your accessibility. Accessible customer service can be simple and may involve less than you think to support access to persons with disabilities.
- Consider education of your employees.
- Consider engaging a consultant that specializes in accessibility to assist with considering how your business will be impacted.
- When considering accessibility for your employees contact an Occupational Therapist to assist with the strategies to make your work, work tools and workplace accessible.
- Realize that the regulations will have a reasonable time-frame to get to accessibility so don’t panic but contact an expert to assist you in determining your next steps to accessibility.
How can Gowan Consulting Help?
- Gowan can provide you with support to update your Accessibility policies and procedures.
- Gowan can provide accommodation assessments to support accurate and manageable accommodations on return to work or work adjustments for those who stay at work when dealing with medical issues.
- Gowan can support the provision of accessibility assessments of your workplace to provide accessible customer service and access to employees with disabilities
- Check out our workshops and webinars, including our Accessible Customer Service Training Program
Inclusion and Accessibility, https://youth.gov/youth-topics/inclusion-and-accessibility
Join the conversation on accessibility and inclusion, https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019SDPR0059-001780
Accessibility through legislation, https://www.engage.gov.bc.ca/accessibility/
Canada Bill C-81 to Regulate Accessibility, By Nancy Gowan, https://gowanhealth.com/canada-bill-c-81-to-regulate-accessibility/