Bill C-81, The Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada Introduced Today.

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Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada - Kirsty Duncan - speaks at a news conference on June 20, 2018 about Bill C-81 - the Accessible Canada Act. (photo via Accessible Canada on twitter)

“Today, our government tabled our Accessible Canada Act legislation.” shared Canada’s Employment and Social Development Minister, Minister Kirsty Duncan earlier today in the nation’s capital. “With it, we are taking the first step of many to ensuring a barrier-free Canada, where everyone can fully participate in their communities and workplaces.”

At a live streamed news conference, Minister Duncan said, “Accessibility in Canada is about creating communities, workplaces and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers.”

“Today, almost 3.8 million Canadians, almost 14 percent of Canadians, identify as having a disability. However, the actual numbers are likely higher. Persons with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed, to live in poverty and to earn less than people without a disability. But we are talking about more than just numbers – these are our family members, our friends, our neighbours, and our colleagues. Only 49 percent of Canadians with disabilities, aged 25 to 64, are employed, compared to 79 percent of Canadians without disabilities. Canadians with disabilities earn 44 percent less than Canadians without disabilities; and are more likely to live in poverty.”

The advocacy of disability stakeholders and organizations in Canada has been critical to promote the rights of people with disabilities, according to the Government of Canada.

“I’m proud to say more than 6,000 Canadians participated in person and online. Throughout the consultation, I held 18 in-person public meetings across the country that were supported by local leaders from the disability community. These meetings were made fully accessible for a range of disabilities and included English and French real-time captioning, American Sign Language and Langue des signes québécoise, and intervenor services for participants who are deaf-blind. In northern Canada, Inuit sign language was also provided.” Minister Duncan stated.

“The online consultation set equally high standards of accessibility. Consultation questions were available in Braille, large print, e-text, audio and sign language. Participants were also invited to share their ideas by email, phone or TTY or by sending audio or video recordings.”

By working together with provinces and territories and the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, the Government of Canada will work to ensure equality, inclusion and full participation in society for all Canadians.

Minister Duncan further stated that the Accessible Canada Act will include funding of more than $290 million over 6 years to further its accessibility objectives.

Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada, would benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, by helping create a barrier-free Canada.

To support the development of Bill C-81, the Government of Canada consulted with Canadians, starting in July 2016, to find out what an accessible Canada means to them. The report “Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned from Canadians,” was released in May 2017, and shares the key findings of these consultations.

During the consultations,  Canadians were asked through a variety of ways, to find out about their priorities for accessibility. The key areas identified include: programs and service delivery, employment, the built environment, information and communications technology, procurement, and transportation.

Once passed, Bill C-81 would give the Government of Canada the authority to work with stakeholders and Canadians with disabilities to create new accessibility standards and regulations that would apply to sectors in the federal jurisdiction, such as banking, telecommunications, transportation industries like air and rail, and the Government of Canada itself. These new regulated standards would set out requirements for organizations to follow in order to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility.

If passed, Bill C-81 will help to change the way that the Government of Canada and organizations in the federal jurisdiction interact with Canadians. It defines a proposal for standards development, regulations, compliance and enforcement measures, the complaints process, and roles and responsibilities for implementation.