Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility directorates across Canada.
Accessibility Directorates Across Canada
The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO) helps to implement the AODA through advising the Minister. The ADO advises the Minister about creating standards development committees, and about the process of developing AODA standards. In addition, the ADO reviews AODA standards and advises the Minister about how effective they are. Furthermore, the ADO advises on the format and the details of accessibility reports. Likewise, the ADO also recommends how to review these reports, as well as how to enforce current AODA standards. Moreover, the ADO reviews existing laws and policies and suggests changes to them which could help citizens with disabilities. Finally, the ADO must assist the minister with any other elements of the Act that the minister oversees.
Training and Consulting
Moreover, the ADO helps to create training resources for the members of standards development committees, such as:
- Reference materials
Similarly, the ADO also supports the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. Furthermore, the ADO helps people and organizations understand how to complete their accessibility reports. In addition, the ADO meets with many organizations to inform and train their workers about accessibility. For example, some of these organizations are:
- School boards
- Colleges and universities
- Trade and occupational associations
- Self-governing professions
Likewise, members of the ADO also research how to increase public awareness about the AODA and its purpose. Then, based on that research, the ADO creates programs that teach organizations about what they must do to comply with the AODA. Finally, the ADO alerts organizations when new AODA standards will soon apply to them. The ADO informs these organizations about new policies and practices they can implement that will help them start complying with the new standard.
Accessibility Directorate of Nova Scotia
The Accessibility Directorate of Nova Scotia has a similar duty to support how the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act is implemented. However, this directorate also has a broader mandate to ensure that the government considers any concerns that people with disabilities have about policy, or about how programs are developed and delivered. Furthermore, the Directorate conducts additional research about issues that impact the lives of people with disabilities. The Directorate also recommends actions that the government should take to resolve these systemic problems.
Accessibility Standards Canada Board of Directors
There is no accessibility directorate involved in implementing the Accessible Canada Act. However, a board of eleven (11) directors supervises Accessibility Standards Canada, the organization responsible for creating national accessibility standards. The organization has many of the same responsibilities as provincial directorates, including:
- Conducting and promoting accessibility research
- Spreading awareness about ways to identify, remove, and prevent barriers
The organization’s board of directors supervises its activities and decides what strategies it will follow to reach its goals. To do so, the Board creates bylaws about the activities that Accessibility Standards Canada will undertake. The Board also advises the Chief Executive Officer, who supervises the organization’s every-day activities, about how to support the organization in achieving its mandate.
Directors, including the Board’s chair and vice-chair, serve on a part-time basis. At least half the members of the board should be people with disabilities. In addition, directors should represent different types of disabilities, as well as other diverse communities within Canada. Moreover, directors must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents. However, directors cannot be people who already work for the federal government, or for the government of a province or territory.
As governments work together to align their accessibility laws, the AODA may change so that law in Ontario corresponds more closely with standards in other provinces, or with the Accessible Canada Act. A broader mandate could help the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario address concerns of people with disabilities that go beyond the AODA. This mandate would support the cultural change that the third review of the AODA recommends. In addition, members of the directorate who have disabilities would ensure that the Directorate has first-hand experience of the concerns it was created to resolve. These changes could profoundly strengthen the AODA and allow Ontario to become accessible in a timely manner.