Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
As 2023 Comes to an End, What’s Happening with the Accessible Canada Act and the Canada Disability Benefit Act?
December 21, 2023
In an effort to cover all the bases before year’s end, let’s take a moment to see what’s happening on the federal front.
First, the Federal Government’s implementation of the 2019 Accessible Canada Act slowly drags on. Not a single mandatory enforceable accessibility standard has been enacted in the four and a half years since Parliament passed the Accessible Canada Act. The voluntary accessibility standards that have been created are not enforceable.
It is especially harmful for people with disabilities that the Federal Government opposed an amendment to the Accessible Canada Act, that we and others called for, that would have imposed timelines for the Government to enact the much-needed enforceable federal accessibility standards. See an excellent report in the Canadian Affairs publication, set out below.
The federal rate of progress is even slower in this regard than the sluggish Ontario effort at initially enacting accessibility standards once the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed. That provincial legislation was enacted in 2005. The first enforceable accessibility standard under it was enacted in 2007, the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
This all gives us even more reason to strongly disagree with the recommendation in the Final Report of the Rich Donovan Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ford Government quietly made public last week, that Ontario should transfer its legislative jurisdiction over regulating accessibility in the private sector to the Federal Government. Ontarians with disabilities don’t need to suffer any more consequences of Federal foot-dragging in this area. You can learn more by checking out the AODA Alliance’s December 18, 2023 news release on the Rich Donovan Final Report.
Second, people with disabilities across Canada who live in poverty are still waiting for the promised Canada Disability Benefit. The Federal Government repeatedly pledged that no people with disabilities in Canada should ever live in poverty. Yet many still do, and they still don’t know when they will start receiving the Canada Disability Benefit, how much it will be, or who will be eligible for it. The Federal Government is still consulting on this, a half a year after Bill C-22 was passed, and over three years since it promised the Canada Disability Benefit.
Want to learn more?
Visit the AODA Alliance website’s Canada page to learn more about the fight for a strong Accessible Canada Act.
Visit the AODA Alliance website’s Bill C-22 page to learn about the fight to get the Canada Disability Benefit to people with disabilities living in poverty.
CANADIAN AFFAIRS October 14, 2023
News for Canadian Professionals and Families
Accessibility standards failing to remove barriers for people with disabilities
Since the Accessible Canada Act passed, Ottawa has completed three voluntary accessibility standards and recommended none be made into law
By Meagan Gillmore
Young disabled man in front of stairs. (Photo credit: Dreasmtime)
David Lepofsky has been trying to use his personal video recorder (PVR) at home, by himself, since 2019.
It doesn’t have screen readers that would allow Lepofsky, who is blind, to use it independently. He complained to his cable provider. The company acknowledged the problem but did not say when it would be fixed.
So Lepofsky, chairperson of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, a disability consumer advocacy group, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2021. This summer, the commission told him it will not hear his complaint.
The ordeal has lasted longer than the run of some television shows. And if Lepofsky takes his complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, it will take even longer.
And meanwhile, he still can’t use his PVR independently.
Lepofsky says it’s a good example of how Canadians with disabilities are left to fight barriers on their own, despite laws and regulations that are supposed to remove the barriers.
Cable companies are federally regulated, and Canada has federal accessibility legislation, but there are no rules that require the companies to provide accessible PVRs, he said.
When the government passed the Accessible Canada Act in 2019, Ottawa promised it would mean disabled Canadians would not have to fight barriers one at a time. But without enforceable standards, “in reality, we do,” he says.
Federal standards “are not binding on anyone; they’re suggestions,” he said.
And yet, they keep being made.
A federal consultation is gathering feedback on increasing workplace accessibility for people with disabilities. The public can comment on a draft standard on employment at Accessibility Standards Canada until October 31.
Mind you, there’s no guarantee the process will lead to improvements.
The document describes how federally regulated industries, such as banks, broadcasters and airlines, and the federal government can remove barriers for workers with disabilities. The recommendations apply to all parts of a job, from job postings to exit interviews. For example, the document suggests that employers let job-seekers bring support people to interviews.
But ultimately, no workplace is required to actually put these recommendations into practice.
Canadians with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed than Canadians without disabilities. In 2022, the employment rate for 16 to 64-year-olds with disabilities was 65 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. The rate for the able-bodied was 80 per cent.
Since the Accessible Canada Act passed, Accessibility Standards Canada has completed three voluntary standards and recommended none be made into regulation, a spokesperson for Accessibility Standards Canada said in an email.
The situation is a little different in the provinces.
Most provinces in Canada have — or are considering having — accessibility legislation. Saskatchewan passed its accessibility law in May.
Like federal laws, these provincial laws list priorities and say that advisory committees can suggest how these areas can be made accessible. After these committees submit their recommended standards to the government, the provinces decide whether to make the standards into regulations.
Manitoba, which passed accessibility legislation in 2013, has set a goal of making the province more accessible by 2023.
“We’re nowhere near that timeline,” says Melissa Graham, executive director of Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities. “Having a written standard is just the starting point.”
During the recent Manitoba election, Disability Matters Vote, a coalition of several disability advocacy groups, asked the parties to strengthen the province’s accessibility legislation. All major parties claimed to be committed to strengthening enforcement or enacting new regulations.
Much of Graham’s work involves educating businesses about their legal accessibility requirements. There’s no standard for outdoor spaces and the transportation standard is still being developed, according to the province’s accessibility office’s website.
“Accessible transit is so crucial for people’s lives,” said Graham, who uses an electric wheelchair and relies on public transit. In Winnipeg, she can get around fairly easily. But there’s nothing to guarantee accessible transit in rural areas, she said.
Ontario, which passed accessibility legislation in 2005, has made regulations for five areas. But some regulations are outdated, said Lepofsky. The government has not responded to recommendations for standards in education and health-care.
Canadian Affairs emailed Raymond Cho, provincial minister for seniors and accessibility, for comment three times since Tuesday, but did not receive a response.
Despite the frustrations, Lepofsky said he thinks accessibility standards can help.
“The important conclusion is not that the model is wrong. It’s that the government’s failure in their leadership was wrong,” he said.
Just good practice
Some companies are making changes, without being forced to by the government.
Some Accessibility Standards Canada recommendations are just good practice, says Amy Lonsberry, policy, privacy and project officer at the Sinneave Family Foundation in Calgary.
The foundation helps autistic youth and adults find employment, education and housing. A couple of years ago, the foundation changed its job postings by listing which skills were required and which ones were not.
Often job seekers who have autism won’t apply if they don’t have all the listed qualifications, Lonsberry said. Saying what was essential made it easier for applicants, a practice recommended by Accessibility Standards Canada.
“How tremendous would it be if accessibility was so baked into organizations’ cultures, that we reach a point where we really don’t have to think about it?” Lonsberry said.
Meagan Gillmore Reporter
Meagan Gillmore is an Ottawa-based reporter with a decade of journalism experience. Meagan got her start as a general assignment reporter at The Yukon News. She has freelanced for the CBC, The Toronto