Canada Bill C-81 to Regulate Accessibility

Accessible Canada Act Bill C-81

The federal government has introduced accessibility legislation. Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada (Accessible Canada Act) received First Reading on June 20, 2018.

To accomplish this important goal, Bill C-81 requires certain federally regulated organizations to identify, remove and prevent accessibility barriers in six broad areas: employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, the procurement of goods and services, the delivery of programs and services, and transportation. The scope of Bill C-81 is largely consistent with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).

General Principles of Accessibility

There are five general principles that are important for organizations to understand and incorporate into the accessibility analysis.

Respect for dignity

  1. 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

Individualization

  1. Each person is unique and therefore requires an individual assessment to determine appropriate accessibility – examine requests on an individual basis.
  2. We cannot assume that two people with the same disability require the same accessibility
  3. For example, some hearing impaired people use sign language (and therefore may require an interpreter for interviews), while others may speech read.
  4. Ask the individual with a disability what he/she feels would be an appropriate accessibility

Proportionality

  1. Proportionality is about balancing competing interests (eg – the interests of the organization, and the individual with a disability)
  2. 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:

  1. Promotes individual with a disability’s integration and full participation in the community
  2. Provides equal opportunity to access goods and services
  3. Respects dignity of the individual with a disability
  4. 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.

What is Required for Accessibility?

The new Bill will cover many broad areas but here are three to consider today:

Accessibility Plan:  Covered organizations will need to prepare and publish an accessibility plan respecting their policies, programs, practices and services for identifying, removing and preventing barriers in the six areas referenced above. An updated version of the plan will be required at least every 3 years or as prescribed.

Feedback: Covered organizations also need to establish and publish a process for receiving feedback concerning the fulfillment of the accessibility plan and any barriers encountered by employees or other persons.

Reporting:  Covered organizations need to prepare and publish a progress report concerning fulfillment of the accessibility plan. Persons with disabilities must be consulted in the course of preparing the progress report and the report must describe the manner of consultation.

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

  1. The regulations will set out in Bill C-81 will be familiar to those in Ontario so look to resources that have been prepared in the provinces such as AccessON to be able to understand the resources available and already prepared.
  2. Consider education of your employees.  AccessForward provides free training on AODA
  3. Consider engaging a consultant that specializes in accessibility to assist with considering how your business will be impacted.
  4. Determine how you can get input from persons with disabilities on your plan.  One of the most important components of the Act will be ensuring that the organization is getting input.  Start to consider how you will obtain that feedback and input.
  5. When considering accessibility for your employees contact an Occupational Therapist to assist with the strategies to make your work, work tools and work place accessible.
  6. Realize that the regulations will have a reasonable timeframe to get to accessibility so don’t panic but contact an expert to assist you in determining your next steps to accessibility.

Check out our webinar on the Highlights of the AODA Integrated Standards to learn more!

 

Works Cited:
Images retrieved from google.ca/images/accessibility

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