New Federal Accessibility Legislation on the Horizon

Posted
June 8, 2018

Information from ARCH Disability Law Centre: New legislation intended to increase accessibility and remove barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from participating in society is expected to be introduced in the House of Commons this month. The legislation is likely to create new accessibility requirements for federally-regulated employers and service providers, such as banks, interprovincial transportation, telecommunications, and Government of Canada services. It is also expected to impact federal lands and First Nations reserves.

Background 

In 2016 the Government of Canada announced its intention to create federal accessibility legislation. The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, then Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, stated that the new legislation was intended to create "…an inclusive society where all Canadians have an equal opportunity to succeed, and are equal participants."

Canada already has strong legal protections that promote equality and prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. These protections are set out in the Charter, our provincial and territorial human rights statutes, and international human rights treaties which Canada has ratified. Despite these legal protections, persons with disabilities in Canada continue to experience discrimination on the basis of disability in employment and virtually all aspects of social life. 

The new federal accessibility legislation is expected to set standards for accessibility and barrier removal in the following federally-regulated areas: employment, access to buildings and other public spaces, transportation, program and service delivery, information and communications, procurement of goods and services, federal lands and First Nations reserves. It is anticipated that the legislation will have broad legal implications for federally-regulated employers, service providers, and First Nations reserves.

In addition, the legislation may create new legal options for persons with disabilities who encounter barriers as a result of federally-regulated employers or service providers failing to comply with their accessibility requirements. It is not yet known what enforcement and monitoring mechanisms will be built into the new legislation to ensure that obligated employers and organizations comply with the new accessibility requirements. Mechanisms under consideration include the availability of individual complaint processes as well as auditing and review processes.

Read more: New Federal Accessibility Legislation on the Horizon