Federal Government Passes Canada’s First National Accessibility Legislation


by Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
Posted May 30, 2019

Disabled Canadians declared a partial victory Thursday hours after the government voted to enact Canadas first national accessibility law, calling it a major step forward while cautioning that more work was still needed to ensure it achieves its goal.

The Accessible Canada Act, which aims to improve life for those with disabilities, received unanimous support in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening. It awaits only royal assent, expected in the coming weeks, before officially becoming law.

Advocates who fought for amendments to strengthen the legislation praised the governing Liberals for delivering on a promise to implement the bill and bring Canada more in line with other countries that have had such laws for years. But they also cautioned against complacency, saying more work lay ahead.

We applaud the government for its willingness to listen to Canadians with disabilities, Council of Canadians with Disabilities chair Jewelles Smith said in a statement.

CCD reminds the government that there are many serious ongoing barriers that will not be addressed by this act, and encourages the federal government to pursue policy solutions to these well-known concerns.

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, who spearheadded national consultations on the bill and shepherded it through Parliament, hailed its passage as a significant moment.

This is the most transformative piece of legislation since enacting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a true testament to the work, commitment and contributions of the Canadian disability community, she said in a statement. This historic act sends a clear signal to Canadians that persons with disabilities will no longer be treated as an afterthought.

The act passed by Parliament bears striking differences from the version initially tabled last June.

Its stated purpose to identify, remove and prevent accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction was greeted with enthusiasm and remains the same. Those areas include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

But disabled advocates almost immediately began raising concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation and lobbied for changes.

Last fall, a group of 95 disability groups signed an open letter outlining nine areas of perceived weakness, including the lack of a timeline for the bills implementation and failure to recognize various forms of sign language as official languages of the deaf.

The Senates committee on social affairs, science and technology, citing community concerns, amended the bill to include sign language recognition as well as a timeline for the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

Those amendments were reflected in the bill that garnered parliamentary approval.

Activists celebrated the passage of the act as genuine progress, but some continued to voice concerns about areas where they feel it still falls short.

The Arch Disability Law Centre indicated Thursday that it was particularly troubled by the language employed throughout the bill, which repeatedly uses may rather than shall or must when describing initiatives.

This language gives government power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers, Arch said in a statement.

An amendment before the Senate committee addressed that concern but was defeated.

Advocates also criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies, and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that dont comply with accessibility measures. Conservatives and New Democrats echoed those issues in Parliament.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, said the governments failure to address those areas leaves the law lacking compared to similar legislation in other countries. She said she questions whether the law will prove significant for all its meant to serve.

I and many like me will be at home with my broken wheelchair in my tiny box of an improperly adapted apartment living in poverty in a city with 8,000 corners where I cant cross the street, she said.

Nothing in the act will change that. But I am glad Canada finally has an Accessible Canada Act, however lacking I find it, and I want to recognize the work of those who actually worked on and for it.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Original at https://www.citynews1130.com/2019/05/30/federal-government-passes-canadas-first-national-accessibility-legislation/



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National AccessAbility Week: Workplace Inclusion


This week is National AccessAbility Week!

In Canada, we celebrate National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) every year starting on the last Sunday in May. The week raises awareness about accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces. In 2019, National Accessibility Week takes place from Sunday, May 26th until Saturday, June 1st.

Workplace Inclusion

National AccessAbility Week is about promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in work and community life. A key part of this inclusion is the willingness of employers to hire workers with disabilities. Workplace inclusion allows workers with disabilities, like all other workers, to use their skills, be part of communities of colleagues, and support themselves.

Inclusive Interviews

Workplaces interested in hiring candidates with disabilities can partner with organizations that connect workplaces with qualified job candidates who have disabilities. HR personnel and other staff responsible for hiring should also be prepared to interview job candidates who disclose that they have disabilities. This preparation is important, since many candidates choose not to disclose before interviews.

Interviews can be opportunities for employers to learn about how a person with a disability can perform job tasks and what accommodations they need. As a result, interviewers should know what they should and should not ask about when interviewing a candidate with a disability. For instance, they can ask how a candidate would perform the tasks involved in the job. However, they should not ask personal questions about the candidate’s disability, such as their diagnosis or how long they have been disabled.

Accommodations

Once they hire workers with disabilities, workplaces must provide any accommodations their new employees need. For instance, some accommodations may include:

  • Scheduling accommodations, such as shifts at certain times or short but frequent breaks
  • Information in accessible formats or with communication supports
  • Task-swapping with colleagues
  • Structural changes, such as automatic doors or accessible washrooms

Workplaces must also provide accommodations for current employees who become disabled. They must also accommodate employees who return to work after a leave of absence. There is national, provincial, and local funding available to cover the cost of renovations or equipment.

Finally, employers and colleagues should make sure workers with disabilities are included in any team building or social events. For instance, colleagues can choose places and activities that are accessible for a worker with a disability. To make sure they do so, they could:

  • Involve the worker in the planning stages
  • Invite the worker to be part of a workplace social committee
  • Ask the worker to recommend accessible locations or things to do

Workplace inclusion gives employers access to a pool of talented workers and gives people with disabilities the chance to make a difference in the world around them.



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Law Around Service Animals


Tuesday, May 28, 2019
By Amanda Lawrence-Patel

The recent increase in media reports regarding requests by individuals to access their service animals, or “therapy pets” or “compassion pets” in the course of their employment and in accessing services has caused various organizations to consider their responsibility to accommodate staff and clients who require the use of a guide dog or service animal. Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to provide some best practices to ensure that your organization knows how to respond when a request for access to a service animal is received.

Familiarize yourself with key terms

While the terms “service animal” and “guide dogs” are sometimes used interchangeably when speaking about the right of an individual to access a service animal or guide dog, the two terms are not synonymous for the purposes of all applicable legislation. Indeed, the legislation which provides individuals with a right to use a service animal may differ slightly depending on the animal and/or its purpose, although all are covered by the Human Rights Code.

Know applicable legislation

Organizations should be aware of three key pieces of legislation. First, the Blind Person Rights Act specifically pertains to guide dogs used for blind persons and defines a guide dog as a dog trained as a guide for a blind person and having the qualifications prescribed by the regulations. Under the Act, no person shall deny accommodation, services or facilities to a person accompanied by a guide dog or shall discriminate against any person for the reason that they are accompanied by a guide dog.

Second, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) states that where a person with a disability is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal, a provider of services shall ensure that the person is permitted to enter the premises with the animal and to keep the animal with him or her (unless otherwise excluded by law). Under the AODA, an animal is a service animal if the animal can be readily identified as one that is being used by a person for reasons relating to that person’s disability, including where the animal is confirmed as such by a letter from a qualified “regulated health professional.”

The third piece of legislation to be aware of is the Ontario Human Rights Code. “Disability” under the Code includes “physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal.” This captures guide dogs, but like the AODA, it is also much broader and includes all types of dogs as well as other animals used for support purposes. Failing to accommodate a guide dog or service animal where the animal is actually required for a disability related need to the point of undue hardship constitutes a failure to accommodate a disability.

Respond appropriately to request

First, regardless of whether a request to access a guide dog or service animal is in the context of employment or access to services, be sure that the organization responds promptly and takes the request seriously. To facilitate this, organizations should consider developing a policy for employees outlining how requests will be handled and the process for a response.

Second, the organization should look critically at whether the service animal or guide dog is actually required to address a disability-related need that is acting as a barrier to employment or accessing the service. In many cases, the first step of the inquiry is easy for example, in the case of a blind individual, the guide dog is clearly addressing a disability-related need as the “eyes” of the individual.

In other cases, the issue of whether a service animal is required to address a disability-related need is not as straightforward. In those circumstances, the organization should have a thoughtful and respectful discussion with the individual who has made the request, to discuss the type of support that the service animal provides to the individual and other relevant information, such as what care the animal needs.

There may be some circumstances, such as where the request is made in the context of employment or where the request involves ongoing access to an organization’s premises, which necessitates a request for medical documentation related to the individual’s disability-related needs. The information which is requested should, in almost all cases, be limited only to the individual’s limitations and restrictions and the need which the service animal will address.

Implement accommodation as appropriate

If it is determined that access to a service animal is a reasonable accommodation, the organization should consider how to integrate the animal into the workplace. For example, there may be circumstances where the organization should give notice of the animal’s presence to other employees, customers or third parties. Concerns raised by other employees, customers or clients about a fear of animals or allergies to animals must be addressed and a balancing of rights may need to be considered.

Finally, organizations may also want to re-evaluate the need for the service animal periodically where appropriate.

Amanda Lawrence-Patel is a labour and employment lawyer in the Toronto office of Hicks Morley LLP. She frequently provides workplace investigation training and accommodation training to clients at internal workplace sessions and she provides external training on issues such as the duty to accommodate and workplace harassment. You can reach her at 416-450-6022 or [email protected]

Original at https://www.thelawyersdaily.ca/articles/12612/law-around-service-animals



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National AccessAbility Week: Inclusion Benefits Everyone


This week is National AccessAbility Week!

In Canada, we celebrate National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) every year starting on the last Sunday in May. The week raises awareness about accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces. In 2019, National Accessibility Week takes place from Sunday, May 26th until Saturday, June 1st.

National AccessAbility Week: Inclusion Benefits Everyone

National AccessAbility Week is about recognizing that inclusion benefits everyone. This week, we celebrate the inclusion of people with disabilities in work and community. This inclusion is important not only for people with disabilities, but for every person in every community across the country.

The Curb Cut Effect

The curb cut effect happens when something is created to help one group of the population and ends up benefiting many more people. Its name comes from the concept of curb cuts, which allow people using mobility devices to cross streets. Curb cuts turned out to be helpful for many other people, including people:

  • With children in strollers
  • Wheeling carts or luggage
  • Using bicycles, skateboards, or roller blades

Many more social developments created to benefit people with disabilities also improve quality of life for non-disabled people. For instance, closed captioning displays the dialogue on a TV program or movie so that viewers who are Deaf can follow what is going on as they watch. Many other people also benefit from captions, including people trying to watch TV in noisy environments and newcomers learning English. Similarly, the first audio books were produced in the 1930s for readers who are blind. Today, sighted readers also enjoy audio books while they do other tasks, such as driving, exercising, housework, or simply relaxing.

The Business Case for Inclusion

The curb cut effect highlights the idea that an accessible world is a better place for all people. When people with disabilities are included as employees and as customers, they become fully involved in the world around them. They use their talents for the good of their workplaces, neighbourhoods, and other groups they involve themselves in. They find common ground with people who value them for their gifts.

At the same time, when more people with disabilities are working, they gain purchasing power and the economy improves. When businesses make sure that their spaces and staff are welcoming to customers with disabilities, their customer bases expand. Businesses and community spaces that are visibly committed to accessibility become known as groups or organizations that care about the well-being of their residents, clientele, and staff.

People may think of inclusion as important only to individuals with disabilities. However, the curb cut effect shows us that inclusion benefits everyone.



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NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre Calls On Ford to Implement Recommendations From AODA Third Review


QUEEN’S PARK The Ontario NDP critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), held a press conference today to introduce his private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from David Onley’s third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“The over 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities face constant barriers to their participation in areas including employment, education, health care and recreation,” Harden said. “As the population ages, the number of people living with a disability will grow.”

The AODA seeks to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025; every three years, an independent reviewer is appointed to assess the Act’s effectiveness.

“Former Lieutenant Governer David Onley’s third legislative review of the AODA, which was informed by consultations with the disability community and tabled in the Legislature on March 8, makes the disconcerting assertion that, ‘For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity, but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers,’” said Harden.

“The Liberals dragged their feet on meeting the AODA’s target, and now the Ford Conservatives are dragging Ontario further backwards, neglecting to lay out a plan of action to implement Onley’s recommendations. The recommendations include a commitment to implementing new standards for Ontario’s built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals such as architects and an assurance that public funds won’t be used to create new accessibility barriers.”

At the conference, Harden was joined by Shanthiya Baheerathan of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and Kate Chung of the Older Women’s Network, who both spoke about the need for a more accessible Ontario.

“I, myself, had to fight for years to have my disability recognized and accommodated by my university, and in that process I lost years of my life,” Baheerathan relayed. “Enforcing AODA would work towards ensuring that no other 18-year-old need to waste time overcoming barriers and advocating for an accessible space to learn. Instead, they could use that time and energy to actually learn.”

Chung said it won’t cost the government anything to change building code standards to ensure housing is built accessibly for the many Ontario seniors and people with disabilities who need it. “Yet, it will save millions in health care dollars for vast numbers of people, it will reduce the demand for long-term care beds, and end ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.”

“Ontarians with disabilities deserve to have a government that listens to their needs and takes concrete action to reduce the barriers that prevent them from enjoying a full life. The Ford government must act now and implement the Onley report’s key recommendations,” Harden said.

Harden’s motion will be debated in the Legislature on May 30.

Original at https://www.ontariondp.ca/news/ndp-mpp-ottawa-centre-calls-ford-implement-recommendations-aoda-third-review



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New Strategy for a More Accessible and Inclusive Public Service


May 27, 2019
Ottawa, Ontario Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Canadians expect innovative, efficient and productive programs and services from an inclusive federal public service that reflects the true diversity of Canada. On the occasion of National AccessAbility Week, the Government of Canada today launched its first ever accessibility strategy for the public service of Canada, setting the conditions to identify, prevent, and remove barriers in the workplace to persons with disabilities.

The strategy, Nothing Without Us, is focused on 5 key objectives:

  • improving recruitment, retention and promotion of persons with disabilities
  • enhancing the accessibility of the built environment
  • making communications technology usable by all
  • equipping public servants to design and deliver accessible programs and services
  • building public service that is confidently accessible

Guided by the principles in the proposed Accessible Canada Act and informed by extensive consultations, the strategy aims to prepare the public service to lead by example and become a model of accessibility, in Canada and abroad.

A number of promising initiatives are already underway. These include:

  • promoting persons with disabilities through the Employment Opportunity for Students with Disabilities led by the Public Service Commission
  • prioritizing accessibility in the renewal of the Parliamentary Precinct led by Public Services and Procurement Canada
  • supporting innovation, experimentation and research in the critical area of workplace accommodation through the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund led by the Treasury Board Secretariat

Successfully implementing of the strategy will result in more persons with disabilities employed by the Government of Canada in a barrier-free and inclusive workplace, where every employee has what they need to do their best work. The strategy will be reviewed in 2021 to assess progress.

“By developing Canada’s first accessibility strategy for the federal public service, our government is helping create the most inclusive public service in the world. This is an important step in enabling the Government of Canada to set and meet high standards of accessibility in its policies, programs and services to all Canadians. It’s a strategy that reflects the true diversity of the people it serves and one that will help us achieve our ultimate goal: a barrier-free Canada where everyone is fully included.”
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

“Diversity is Canada’s strength and we are fully embracing a public service that reflects everything this country has to offer. The strategy laid out in Nothing Without Us comes from listening to more than 7,000 federal employees and disability stakeholders. It will guide our efforts to build an inclusive federal public service that is more innovative, efficient, and productive.”
The Honourable Joyce Murray, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government

Original at https://www.miragenews.com/new-strategy-for-a-more-accessible-and-inclusive-public-service/



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Raising Awareness About Accessibility and Inclusion of People with Disabilities


This week is National AccessAbility Week!

In Canada, we celebrate National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) every year starting on the last Sunday in May. The week raises awareness about accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces. In 2019, National Accessibility Week takes place from Sunday, May 26th until Saturday, June 1st.

National AccessAbility Week

During NAAW, we recognize the ways in which people with disabilities are involved in their communities. For instance, some ways community members with disabilities participate in the world around them are:

  • Working
  • Volunteering
  • Raising families and supporting loved ones
  • Keeping up with current events, locally and internationally
  • Being involved with local organizations (neighbourhood, school, worship, local government)
  • Participating in leisure activities (sports, arts, entertainment)

Removing Accessibility Barriers

Citizens with disabilities are sometimes prevented from full involvement in their communities because of the accessibility barriers they encounter. Barriers limit the things people with disabilities can do, the places they can go, or the ways other community members interact with them. For instance, accessibility barriers can be:

  • Physical: features of buildings or spaces that limit people’s access
    • For example: no automatic doors or wide pathways
  • Communicational: information in formats people cannot access
  • Technological: technology that relies on senses or movements that not everyone can use or make
    • For example: website features that only work with a mouse
  • Organizational: policies, practices, or procedures that put people with disabilities at a disadvantage
    • For example: no-return policy (disadvantage for people using assistive devices when fitting rooms are too small)
  • Attitudinal: people lacking understanding about disability, or believing stereotypes
    • For example: belief that people with disabilities cannot work, socialize, raise families

National AccessAbility Week gives us the chance to honour people committed to removing these barriers. These activists may have disabilities, or they may be non-disabled allies who understand what their fellow community members are capable of. When we break down barriers, we make sure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as their fellow community members.

Happy National AccessAbility Week to all our readers!



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Charting the Landscape of Accessible Education for Post-secondary Students with Disabilities


Abstract

This article presents the results of research examining the impact of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) on educational accessibility at one university in Ontario, Canada.

A longitudinal, qualitative study was conducted to explore how students with and without disabilities, instructors, staff members and administrators perceived the relative accessibility of teaching and learning on campus before, during, and after the implementation of one portion of the AODA legislation.

In the first phase of this research, several factors affecting educational accessibility at the study university were noted, including knowledge, attitudes, pedagogical choices, disciplinary features, and institutional practices and characteristics.

Participants raised many of these issues in the later phases reported here, although some preliminary changes in awareness and institutional practices are also described.

Based on these minimal developments, and on participants’ expressed perceptions of the AODA, we conclude that the legislation has had limited impact on the accessibility of teaching and learning on campus to date.

Implications of the findings, potentially applicable in many contexts beyond the Ontario setting where the research was conducted, as well as next steps and recommendations for further research are discussed.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Marquis, Arts & Science Program and McMaster Institute for Innovation & Excellence in Teaching & Learning, McMaster University

Elizabeth Marquis is an assistant professor in the Arts & Science program and the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning at McMaster University. Her teaching and learning research interests include accessibility and inclusion in teaching and learning, the teaching of creativity across disciplines, and capacity building for the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).

Ann Fudge Schormans, School of Social Work, McMaster University

Ann Fudge Schormans is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at McMaster University. Her research interests centre on questions related to disability, particularly issues important to people labelled with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She engages in community-based research and partnerships, particularly participatory and inclusive research methodologies and arts-informed methodologies that facilitate more active participation of labelled persons.

Bonny Jung, School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University

Bonny Jung is an Associate Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science and Director of the Program for Interprofessional Practice, Education, and Research (PIPER) at McMaster University. Her research focuses on interprofessional and clinical education, problem-based learning and university-community partnerships, and inclusive education.

Christina Vietinghoff, Arts & Science Program and McMaster Institute for Innovation & Excellence in Teaching & Learning, McMaster University

Christina Vietinghoff recently graduated from the Arts and Science Program at McMaster University, where she worked as a student scholar for the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL).

Rob Wilton, School of Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University

Rob Wilton is a professor of social geography in the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University. His research focuses primarily on social inclusion and exclusion with particular emphasis on disability, mental health and addiction.

Sue Baptiste, School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University

Sue Baptiste is a Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University and a recent President of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. Her research interests include professional development, competence and self assessment, acculturation of internationally educated health professionals into Canadian professional practice, and faculty development and roles in problem-based, learner-centred curricula

Reports

Original at https://cjds.uwaterloo.ca/index.php/cjds/article/view/272



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How to Provide Accessible Library Service


Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Our last article outlined accessible features in libraries. In this article, we cover what staff can do to create an accessible library service experience for patrons. In particular, we look at how staff can find ways to make their premises welcoming to patrons who need accessible features that a library does not have yet.

How to Provide Accessible Library Service

When librarians plan to buy new books or subscribe to new publications, they should try to find alternate-format versions of the print or visual materials they are selecting. Moreover, when librarians are choosing online resources to subscribe to or partner with, they should look into whether these websites comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. They should try to develop relationships with online publications that share their commitments to service for all patrons.

Welcoming Patrons

Libraries must welcome all patrons who enter with assistive devices, service animals, or support persons.

Training Staff

Libraries must ensure that their staff are trained to interact with patrons who have disabilities. Staff should understand how to communicate with patrons, both in person and remotely. In addition, staff should know where accessible content is shelved as well as how patrons can access library materials in alternative ways, such as through the library website, from other branches, and from the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) or the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS)

Staff should also know how their libraries’ accessible computer equipment works. This knowledge allows them to help first-time patrons learn the basics or troubleshoot if computers malfunction.

In addition, staff should know how to provide a welcoming experience for patrons if their branches are lacking certain structural features. For instance, staff should:

  • Retrieve resources from inaccessible sections or floors upon request
  • Know where the nearest accessible washrooms are
  • Offer remote service for patrons who cannot enter the space

Staff should make the public aware that they have these or other accessible library services. When they do so, more people can be patrons of libraries that value them as clients.



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An Important Victory – The Trudeau Government Announced Yesterday that It will Vote in the House of Commons to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 23, 2019

Yesterday, May 22, 2019, the Federal Government announced by email and Twitter that it will vote to approve all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate passed earlier this month. The debate in the House of Commons on these amendments is expected to begin next week according to the Federal Government. Next week also happens to be National accessibility Week in Canada.

“This is an important victory for those disability advocates who have devoted so much effort and energy over the past weeks and months to strengthen Bill C-81,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, which has campaigned on accessibility for people with disabilities for many years, and which has been involved in the campaign for this legislation since at least 2014. “The Senate’s amendments set 2040 as the legal deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities, and cut back on the power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations that could weaken the accessibility rights of passengers with disabilities when travelling on airlines or other inter-provincial modes of transportation, among other things.”

While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies with Bill C-81 with which we have been concerned, they are an important and helpful step forward. The AODA Alliance and others have been hard at work over the past three weeks, mounting an all-out blitz on social media and elsewhere to press all MPs in the House of Commons to agree to vote to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. It was by no means a certainty that the Federal Government, which holds a majority in the House of Commons, would agree to do so. Opposition parties in the House of Commons have since last fall been supporting our call for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

We express our gratitude and appreciation to the Federal Government, including the minister responsible for this bill, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, for making its announcement yesterday in which it agreed to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We thank the opposition parties that have pressed for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

The House of Commons only needs to hold one vote to ratify these amendments. No further public hearings or Standing Committee study of the bill are needed. Once the amendments are passed during that vote, Bill C-81 will have completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament. It will be a law. It will come into force when the Federal Government gives Bill C-81 royal assent. The Federal Government decides when that will take place.

With the Federal Government’s announcement yesterday, there is no doubt that the vote in the House of Commons will be successful. The bill had been unanimously passed last fall on Third Reading in the House of Commons. That was the case even though opposition parties had agreed with us and other similarly-disposed disability advocates that Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. It is an important fact that up to now, all provincial accessibility legislation passed so far in Ontario in 2005, in Manitoba in 2013 and in Nova Scotia in 2017, has passed unanimously.

“This good news does not mean that our advocacy work is finished,” said Lepofsky. “Our attention now turns to the federal election this fall. We will be unleashing a non-partisan campaign to get election commitments from all the federal political parties regarding the future of Bill C-81 and its implementation and enforcement.”

We thank all those who have toiled tirelessly at the grassroots to help our campaign in the Senate and the House of Commons to get Bill C-81 strengthened. Every tweet or re-tweet, and every email or phone call to a Senator or MP, plays a crucial part in our efforts.

We thank all the disability organizations, numbering at least 71, that signed the open letter to the House of Commons sent earlier this month, that called for the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. The AODA Alliance is a co-signatory to that letter. We also thank all those other disability organizations with whom we have teamed up over the past weeks and months to work on our shared objective of getting Bill C-81 strengthened.

Today’s announcement again shows that we were right to not simply accept Bill C-81 as it was, when the House of Commons passed it last fall. It was right for us and so many others to agree that people with disabilities deserve better, and to keep working to get the Senate to strengthen the bill. The improvements that we and others have won are helpful and important.

Our tenacity has always been one of our strengths. We remain resolved to do what we can with Bill C-81 to make as much progress as we can for over five million people with disabilities in Canada, and to keep working to get the bill further improved in the future.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail
To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/ For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/canada



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