Federal Election Action Kit Raise Disability Accessibility Issues in Canada’s 2019 Federal Election!


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

September 20, 2019

Introduction

Do you think people with disabilities in Canada should be able to travel on airplanes and on interprovincial buses or trains without being impeded by disability barriers? Do you think they should have equal access to services provided by the Government of Canada? Should they be able to enjoy whatever information CBC posts on its public website? Should they be assured that they can enter their neighbourhood polling station during a federal election, and independently mark their own ballot in private? Should the Federal Government ensure that our public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

Over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face too many accessibility barriers. They should not have to individually fight these barriers, one at a time, through endless federal human rights complaints. They need the Federal Government to ensure that it does all it can to ensure that people with disabilities can live in a Canada that is accessible and barrier-free.

Canada’s next federal election is on October 19, 2015. Canadians have a unique opportunity during this election campaign to speed up progress on the long, challenging road to a barrier-free Canada for more than 6 million Canadians with physical, mental, sensory, communication or other disabilities. The new Accessible Canada Act, enacted this past June, requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. We want each party and each candidate to commit to plans that will ensure we will reach this goal.

Let’s work together to raise important disability accessibility issues during this federal election campaign. Let’s get the strongest election pledges from each party and candidate. This Action Kit tells you how to pitch in and help with this effort between now and October 21. Our blitz is totally non-partisan. We don’t try to elect or defeat any party or candidate. We try to get all parties and candidates to make the strongest election commitments we can get on our issues.

This Action Kit tells you:

* What we are seeking from the federal parties and candidates in this federal election.

* What we’ve heard from the major parties so far.

* What you can do.

Helping our cause takes just a few minutes. This Action Kit draws on the extensive experience of the AODA Alliance and its predecessor coalition, the ODA Committee, in successfully conducting non-partisan blitzes like this in seven Ontario elections since 1995. All you need to know is in this Action Kit. Be creative. Come up with your own ideas. Share them with us. Contact us at [email protected] or on Twitter @aodaalliance

What We’re Seeking from the Federal Political Parties

We aim to get all the major national parties to commit to strengthen the new Accessible Canada Act and to promptly effectively implement it, so that the many barriers impeding people with disabilities will get torn down, as far as the Federal Government can do this. Back on July 18, 2019, we wrote the leaders of the major federal parties. We asked them to make specific commitments. We are making the responses of the party leaders public on our website at www.aodaalliance.org/canada You can read the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the major national party leaders by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

Let’s build on our past successes! In the 2015 federal election campaign, we and others conducted a successful non-partisan blitz to get commitments to pass a new national law that would make Canada become accessible to people with disabilities, in so far as the Federal Government can do this. Working together, we and others in the disability community succeeded in getting three of the four national parties that existed in 2015 to do so. In the 2015 election, the Liberals, NDP and Greens all made the pledge. Only the federal Conservatives did not.

We and others in the disability community continued to work hard over the past four years since the 2015 election to get strong new national accessibility law passed. In June of this year, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act.

The Accessible Canada Act is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada. We got some of the ingredients in the law that we sought. However the Accessible Canada Act falls well short of what people with disabilities need.

It is good that this new law sets the mandatory goal of Canada becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. It gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. It includes a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Yet the Accessible Canada Act also suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:

1. Even though it gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, it largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.

2. It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies. That is a real disadvantage for people with disabilities.

3. It continues to allow federal public money to be wastefully used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

4. It unfairly lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.

5. It is very long, excessively complicated and hard to read and navigate.

The AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the federal party leaders asks them for 11 commitments to ensure that Canada becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. We want to know what their plans are to ensure that Canada is accessible by that date.

Where Do the Parties Stand?

As of September 20, 2019, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the only leader of a major federal party that has answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter, which asked for election commitments on this issue. The NDP made some of the commitments we sought. To read the NDP’s September 16, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

We will make public any responses we get from the other party leaders. Check out our website’s Canada page for the latest news, at www.aodaalliance.org/Canada and follow our tweets on Twitter: @aodaalliance

How You Can Help

* Phone, email or visit the candidates’ campaign offices in your riding. Later in this Action Kit we give you ideas of what you might say to them. To help you, we have posted online a list of the names, email addresses and Twitter handles (where we could locate ones) for the candidates for some of the major parties at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/list-of-major-national-party-candidates-and-their-email-and-twitter-addresses-in-the-2019-federal-election/

* Go to a local all-candidates’ debate in or near your riding. These are a great place for grassroots democracy. These usually are held at a school, church or other community hall. You can find out when and where an all-candidates’ debate will be held by contacting any local candidate’s campaign office. Ask the candidates a brief, punchy question about the Accessible Canada Act during the debate. Later in this Action Kit, we offer ideas of what you might ask.

* Spread the word about these issues on social media like Twitter and Facebook. These social media platforms give you great ways to reach candidates, voters and news organizations during election campaigns. Later in this Kit, we give you sample tweets you might wish to use on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Tweet candidates in your riding or elsewhere to ask where they stand on the need to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act and to ensure its swift, strong implementation and enforcement. Just include their Twitter name in the tweet.

In fact, you can quickly help our social media blitz, without having to yourself compose your own tweets to the candidates. We and others are daily tweeting about this issue on Twitter. Just follow @aodaalliance on Twitter or search for the hashtag #AccessibleCanada and you will see all our tweets. It would help us so much if you would set aside a few minutes each day to just retweet our tweets to the candidates. Every re-tweet helps.

* On a smart phone or digital camera, take photos or videos of any accessibility barriers you find at candidates’ offices, campaign events, all-candidates debates, and other election events. Share those photos on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag #AccessibleCanada

* Use a smart phone to make video or audio recordings of candidates when they answer questions about the Accessible Canada Act, at all-candidates forums or other campaign events. Post these videos for free on YouTube. Then you can share the YouTube link to your video via social media like Facebook, and Twitter. This lets you become your own citizen journalist. Your online video may be the only record of a candidate’s giving commitments at one of these events on the Accessible Canada Act.

* Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about these accessibility issues. Tell them what the parties have said about this issue. Urge them to consider this issue when deciding on their vote.

* Call your local radio or TV station, and your local newspaper. Tell them about disability accessibility barriers that impede you or others you know, especially in areas like air and train travel, banking, cable or telephone services, Canada Post, or when dealing with the federal government. Urge the media to cover this election issue.

* Call in to radio or TV call-in shows. Write letters to the editor. If you are especially eager, write a guest column and urge your local newspaper to print it. Cut and paste as much as you want from this Action Kit and from our website. We are delighted when others make use of our resources.

* If you are connected with a community organization, such as one that deals with disability or other social justice issues, get that organization to circulate this Action Kit and post it or link to it on their website and Facebook page.

What You Might Say to Candidates, Media Reporters and Voters

It is best if you say it in your own words, not ours. However, if you don’t have time to re-phrase our suggestions, just use them as is!

Give examples of barriers that we need the Accessible Canada Act to fix, such as accessibility problems you or others have faced at airports, or when taking flights within Canada or on flights that start or end in Canada; when trying to use services of the Government of Canada; with Canada Post services; using banks in Canada, or when trying to vote in a Canadian election.

Explain why you or others should not have to fight these accessibility barriers one at a time, by launching a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, or by suing in court under the Charter of Rights. Accessibility is good for all Canadians. We all are bound to get a disability as we age. These barriers hurt our economy, are bad for business, and create a preventable burden on the public purse.

Be brief candidates and news reporters are extremely busy during election campaigns. Be personal. People remember personal stories more than statistics.

Tips for Phoning or Visiting a Candidate’s Campaign Office:

Usually, a receptionist or volunteer at a candidate’s campaign office will take your call. The candidate is likely out knocking on doors to meet voters. Here is what you might say when someone answers your call or meet you at their campaign office. Try to get the receptionist or volunteer on our side, by getting them interested in the Accessible Canada Act. We have found that often, campaign staff and volunteers have their own personal experience with disability accessibility barriers.

ME: Hello, my name is [insert name] and I’m a voter and constituent of [insert riding]. I’d like to speak with the candidate to introduce myself. Would he/she be available?

RECEPTIONIST: No, he/she is out at the moment. Can I take a message?

ME: Yes, please. My name is [insert name], and I’m a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability. Parliament passed a law last spring called the Accessible Canada Act. It says that Canada must become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party will do to achieve this if you are elected.

Note: It is helpful to try to convince a campaign staff member or volunteer about the importance of this issue. If they get really motivated about this issue, they can call their party’s campaign headquarters and help turn up the heat on this issue.

What You Might Say When Talking to a Candidate Wherever You Meet Them

ME: My name is [insert name] and I am a voter in [insert riding]. I’m also a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability. [Describe your connection to disability.]

Last June, Parliament passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada by 2040. I want to know what you and your party will do to make sure this happens, if you are elected.

Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers in areas that the federal government can address, like air travel, federal government services, banking, Canada Post, phone and cable companies, and other telecommunications. Everyone either has a disability now or will get one as they age. So this issue affects all voters.

Tips for Emailing a Candidate:

Email is a quick and easy way to get your message to candidates. However, candidates often have staff or volunteers monitor email accounts for them. If you want to be sure you’re reaching the candidate him/herself, it is best to email them, and then phone their campaign office to follow up on the email.

Sample email:

Dear [insert name],

As a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability, I would like to know where you stand on an important issue in this federal election.

[Feel free to insert a paragraph about your personal connection to disability.]

Today there are more than 6 million Canadians with disabilities, and this number is expected to grow even larger in the future. These people continue to face unnecessary barriers in areas of federal authority such as federal government services, air travel, cable TV and phone services, Canada Post, banking, and telecommunications. These barriers mean that people with disabilities in Canada can’t fully participate in all aspects of life.

Last June, Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party’s plan is to ensure that we achieve this goal. What will your party do on this issue, if you are elected? I also want to know if you, as a Member of Parliament, will personally advocate to make sure this new law is effectively implemented and enforced. I would appreciate it if you would tell others in your party that this issue is important to your constituents.

If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to contact me or to email the AODA Alliance at [email protected]

Yours sincerely,

Tips for Attending a Local All-Candidates’ Debate

Some all-candidates debates let you ask a question from the floor. Others require you to write it out while there, and submit it so that the debate moderator can read it aloud. Either way, you should write it out in advance if you can. Make it short and punchy. If the event’s format presents accessibility challenges, let the organizers know. You may even wish to highlight the challenges as part of your question.

ME: My name is [insert name], and I live in this riding. More than 6 million Canadians have disabilities. They face unfair accessibility barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction like federal government services, Canada Post, air travel, banking, phone and cable TV companies, and telecommunications.

Here is my question for all the candidates:

Last June, Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party’s plan is to ensure that we achieve this. What will your party do on this issue, if you are elected.

Tweets You Might Wish to Send on Twitter or Facebook

As mentioned earlier, you can find all the email addresses and Twitter handles for federal candidates that we could track down on our website at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/list-of-major-national-party-candidates-and-their-email-and-twitter-addresses-in-the-2019-federal-election/

At the start of your tweet, insert the Twitter handle (i.e. Twitter name) for a candidate and then cut and paste in any of these tweets. These all fit within the Twitter maximum of 280 characters, with a bit of space leftover.

Parliament unanimously passed #AccessibleCanada Act. It requires Canada to become #accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. What is your party’s plan to ensure we reach that goal? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #accessibility #canpoli

@aodaalliance wrote party leaders for election pledges to ensure #AccessibleCanada Act is swiftly & effectively implemented & enforced. Will you help get your leader to pledge? Read our letter https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #CRPD #canpoli

Parliament unanimously passed the #AccessibleCanada Act this year to make Canada #accessible by 2040. Do you pledge to support its full, strong and prompt implementation & enforcement? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #CRPD #canpoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should never let public money be used to create or perpetuate #accessibility barriers against over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada? Please pledge! https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree and commit that enforceable federal #accessibility regulations should &will be enacted within 4 years in the areas that the new #AccessibleCanada Act is mandated to regulate? Please pledge! https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree and commit that nothing should and will be done under the #AccessibleCanada Act that reduces the rights of people with disabilities in Canada? Please pledge https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #accessibility #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should ensure that no federal laws create or permit #accessibility barriers against people with disabilities? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should ensure that voters with disabilities face no #accessibility barriers to voting independently and in private & verifying that their ballot was marked as they wish? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada

Do you agree that the Federal Government should not be able to exempt itself from any of its obligations under the new #AccessibleCanada Act? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #accessibility #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you commit to only attend all-candidates debates during this election campaign if they are held in a place that has #accessibility for voters with disabilities? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #Canpoli




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Federal Election Action Kit – Raise Disability Accessibility Issues in Canada’s 2019 Federal Election! – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Federal Election Action Kit – Raise Disability Accessibility Issues in Canada’s 2019 Federal Election!

September 20, 2019

Introduction

Do you think people with disabilities in Canada should be able to travel on airplanes and on interprovincial buses or trains without being impeded by disability barriers? Do you think they should have equal access to services provided by the Government of Canada? Should they be able to enjoy whatever information CBC posts on its public website? Should they be assured that they can enter their neighbourhood polling station during a federal election, and independently mark their own ballot in private? Should the Federal Government ensure that our public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

Over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face too many accessibility barriers. They should not have to individually fight these barriers, one at a time, through endless federal human rights complaints. They need the Federal Government to ensure that it does all it can to ensure that people with disabilities can live in a Canada that is accessible and barrier-free.

Canada’s next federal election is on October 19, 2015. Canadians have a unique opportunity during this election campaign to speed up progress on the long, challenging road to a barrier-free Canada for more than 6 million Canadians with physical, mental, sensory, communication or other disabilities. The new Accessible Canada Act, enacted this past June, requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. We want each party and each candidate to commit to plans that will ensure we will reach this goal.

Let’s work together to raise important disability accessibility issues during this federal election campaign. Let’s get the strongest election pledges from each party and candidate. This Action Kit tells you how to pitch in and help with this effort between now and October 21. Our blitz is totally non-partisan. We don’t try to elect or defeat any party or candidate. We try to get all parties and candidates to make the strongest election commitments we can get on our issues.

This Action Kit tells you:

* What we are seeking from the federal parties and candidates in this federal election.

* What we’ve heard from the major parties so far.

* What you can do.

Helping our cause takes just a few minutes. This Action Kit draws on the extensive experience of the AODA Alliance  and its predecessor coalition, the ODA Committee, in successfully conducting non-partisan blitzes like this in seven Ontario elections since 1995. All you need to know is in this Action Kit. Be creative. Come up with your own ideas. Share them with us. Contact us at [email protected] or on Twitter @aodaalliance

What We’re Seeking from the Federal Political Parties

We aim to get all the major national parties to commit to strengthen the new Accessible Canada Act and to promptly effectively implement it, so that the many barriers impeding people with disabilities will get torn down, as far as the Federal Government can do this. Back on July 18, 2019, we wrote the leaders of the major federal parties. We asked them to make specific commitments. We are making the responses of the party leaders public on our website at www.aodaalliance.org/canada You can read the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the major national party leaders by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

Let’s build on our past successes! In the 2015 federal election campaign, we and others conducted a successful non-partisan blitz to get commitments to pass a new national law that would make Canada become accessible to people with disabilities, in so far as the Federal Government can do this. Working together, we and others in the disability community succeeded in getting three of the four national parties that existed in 2015 to do so. In the 2015 election, the Liberals, NDP and Greens all made the pledge. Only the federal Conservatives did not.

We and others in the disability community continued to work hard over the past four years since the 2015 election to get strong new national accessibility law passed. In June of this year, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act.

The Accessible Canada Act is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada. We got some of the ingredients in the law that we sought. However the Accessible Canada Act falls well short of what people with disabilities need.

It is good that this new law sets the mandatory goal of Canada becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. It gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. It includes a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Yet the Accessible Canada Act also suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:

  1. Even though it gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, it largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.
  1. It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies. That is a real disadvantage for people with disabilities.
  1. It continues to allow federal public money to be wastefully used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.
  1. It unfairly lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.
  1. It is very long, excessively complicated and hard to read and navigate.

The AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the federal party leaders asks them for 11 commitments to ensure that Canada becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. We want to know what their plans are to ensure that Canada is accessible by that date.

Where Do the Parties Stand?

As of September 20, 2019, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the only leader of a major federal party that has answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter, which asked for election commitments on this issue. The NDP made some of the commitments we sought. To read the NDP’s September 16, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

We will make public any responses we get from the other party leaders. Check out our website’s Canada page for the latest news, at www.aodaalliance.org/Canada and follow our tweets on Twitter: @aodaalliance

How You Can Help

* Phone, email or visit the candidates’ campaign offices in your riding. Later in this Action Kit we give you ideas of what you might say to them. To help you, we have posted online a list of the names, email addresses and Twitter handles (where we could locate ones) for the candidates for some of the major parties at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/list-of-major-national-party-candidates-and-their-email-and-twitter-addresses-in-the-2019-federal-election/

 

* Go to a local all-candidates’ debate in or near your riding. These are a great place for grassroots democracy. These usually are held at a school, church or other community hall. You can find out when and where an all-candidates’ debate will be held by contacting any local candidate’s campaign office. Ask the candidates a brief, punchy question about the Accessible Canada Act during the debate. Later in this Action Kit, we offer ideas of what you might ask.

* Spread the word about these issues on social media like Twitter and Facebook. These social media platforms give you great ways to reach candidates, voters and news organizations during election campaigns. Later in this Kit, we give you sample tweets you might wish to use on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Tweet candidates in your riding or elsewhere to ask where they stand on the need to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act and to ensure its swift, strong implementation and enforcement. Just include their Twitter name in the tweet.

In fact, you can quickly help our social media blitz, without having to yourself compose your own tweets to the candidates. We and others are daily tweeting about this issue on Twitter. Just follow @aodaalliance on Twitter or search for the hashtag #AccessibleCanada and you will see all our tweets. It would help us so much if you would set aside a few minutes each day to just retweet our tweets to the candidates. Every re-tweet helps.

* On a smart phone or digital camera, take photos or videos of any accessibility barriers you find at candidates’ offices, campaign events, all-candidates debates, and other election events. Share those photos on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag #AccessibleCanada

* Use a smart phone to make video or audio recordings of candidates when they answer questions about the Accessible Canada Act, at all-candidates forums or other campaign events. Post these videos for free on YouTube. Then you can share the YouTube link to your video via social media like Facebook, and Twitter. This lets you become your own citizen journalist. Your online video may be the only record of a candidate’s giving commitments at one of these events on the Accessible Canada Act.

* Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about these accessibility issues. Tell them what the parties have said about this issue. Urge them to consider this issue when deciding on their vote.

* Call your local radio or TV station, and your local newspaper. Tell them about disability accessibility barriers that impede you or others you know, especially in areas like air and train travel, banking, cable or telephone services, Canada Post, or when dealing with the federal government. Urge the media to cover this election issue.

* Call in to radio or TV call-in shows. Write letters to the editor. If you are especially eager, write a guest column and urge your local newspaper to print it. Cut and paste as much as you want from this Action Kit and from our website. We are delighted when others make use of our resources.

* If you are connected with a community organization, such as one that deals with disability or other social justice issues, get that organization to circulate this Action Kit and post it or link to it on their website and Facebook page.

What You Might Say to Candidates, Media Reporters and Voters

 

It is best if you say it in your own words, not ours. However, if you don’t have time to re-phrase our suggestions, just use them as is!

Give examples of barriers that we need the Accessible Canada Act to fix, such as accessibility problems you or others have faced at airports, or when taking flights within Canada or on flights that start or end in Canada; when trying to use services of the Government of Canada; with Canada Post services; using banks in Canada, or when trying to vote in a Canadian election.

Explain why you or others should not have to fight these accessibility barriers one at a time, by launching a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, or by suing in court under the Charter of Rights. Accessibility is good for all Canadians. We all are bound to get a disability as we age. These barriers hurt our economy, are bad for business, and create a preventable burden on the public purse.

Be brief – candidates and news reporters are extremely busy during election campaigns. Be personal. People remember personal stories more than statistics.

Tips for Phoning or Visiting a Candidate’s Campaign Office:

Usually, a receptionist or volunteer at a candidate’s campaign office will take your call. The candidate is likely out knocking on doors to meet voters. Here is what you might say when someone answers your call or meet you at their campaign office. Try to get the receptionist or volunteer on our side, by getting them interested in the Accessible Canada Act. We have found that often, campaign staff and volunteers have their own personal experience with disability accessibility barriers.

ME:  Hello, my name is [insert name] and I’m a voter and constituent of [insert riding]. I’d like to speak with the candidate to introduce myself. Would he/she be available?

 

RECEPTIONIST: No, he/she is out at the moment. Can I take a message?

ME: Yes, please. My name is [insert name], and I’m a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability. Parliament passed a law last spring called the Accessible Canada Act. It says that Canada must become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party will do to achieve this if you are elected.

Note: It is helpful to try to convince a campaign staff member or volunteer about the importance of this issue. If they get really motivated about this issue, they can call their party’s campaign headquarters and help turn up the heat on this issue.

What You Might Say When Talking to a Candidate Wherever You Meet Them

 

ME: My name is [insert name] and I am a voter in [insert riding]. I’m also a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability. [Describe your connection to disability.]

Last June, Parliament passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada by 2040. I want to know what you and your party will do to make sure this happens, if you are elected.

Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers in areas that the federal government can address, like air travel, federal government services, banking, Canada Post, phone and cable companies, and other telecommunications. Everyone either has a disability now or will get one as they age. So this issue affects all voters.

Tips for Emailing a Candidate:

Email is a quick and easy way to get your message to candidates. However, candidates often have staff or volunteers monitor email accounts for them. If you want to be sure you’re reaching the candidate him/herself, it is best to email them, and then phone their campaign office to follow up on the email.

Sample email:

Dear [insert name],

As a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability, I would like to know where you stand on an important issue in this federal election.

[Feel free to insert a paragraph about your personal connection to disability.]

Today there are more than 6 million Canadians with disabilities, and this number is expected to grow even larger in the future. These people continue to face unnecessary barriers in areas of federal authority such as federal government services, air travel, cable TV and phone services, Canada Post, banking, and telecommunications. These barriers mean that people with disabilities in Canada can’t fully participate in all aspects of life.

Last June, Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party’s plan is to ensure that we achieve this goal. What will your party do on this issue, if you are elected? I also want to know if you, as a Member of Parliament, will personally advocate to make sure this new law is effectively implemented and enforced. I would appreciate it if you would tell others in your party that this issue is important to your constituents.

If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to contact me or to email the AODA Alliance at [email protected].

Yours sincerely,

Tips for Attending a Local All-Candidates’ Debate

Some all-candidates debates let you ask a question from the floor. Others require you to write it out while there, and submit it so that the debate moderator can read it aloud. Either way, you should write it out in advance if you can. Make it short and punchy. If the event’s format presents accessibility challenges, let the organizers know. You may even wish to highlight the challenges as part of your question.

ME: My name is [insert name], and I live in this riding. More than 6 million Canadians have disabilities. They face unfair accessibility barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction like federal government services, Canada Post, air travel, banking, phone and cable TV companies, and telecommunications.

Here is my question for all the candidates:

Last June, Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party’s plan is to ensure that we achieve this. What will your party do on this issue, if you are elected.

 

Tweets You Might Wish to Send on Twitter or Facebook

As mentioned earlier, you can find all the email addresses and Twitter handles for federal candidates that we could track down on our website at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/list-of-major-national-party-candidates-and-their-email-and-twitter-addresses-in-the-2019-federal-election/

At the start of your tweet, insert the Twitter handle (i.e. Twitter name) for a candidate and then cut and paste in any of these tweets. These all fit within the Twitter maximum of 280 characters, with a bit of space leftover.

Parliament unanimously passed #AccessibleCanada Act. It requires Canada to become #accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. What is your party’s plan to ensure we reach that goal? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #accessibility #canpoli

@aodaalliance wrote party leaders for election pledges to ensure #AccessibleCanada Act is swiftly & effectively implemented & enforced. Will you help get your leader to pledge? Read our letter https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #CRPD #canpoli

Parliament unanimously passed the #AccessibleCanada Act this year to make Canada #accessible by 2040. Do you pledge to support its full, strong and prompt implementation & enforcement? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #CRPD #canpoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should never let public money be used to create or perpetuate #accessibility barriers against over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada? Please pledge! https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree and commit that enforceable federal #accessibility regulations should &will be enacted within 4 years in the areas that the new #AccessibleCanada Act is mandated to regulate? Please pledge! https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree and commit that nothing should and will be done under the #AccessibleCanada Act that reduces the rights of people with disabilities in Canada? Please pledge https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #accessibility #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should ensure that no federal laws create or permit #accessibility barriers against people with disabilities? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should ensure that voters with disabilities face no #accessibility barriers to voting independently and in private & verifying that their ballot was marked as they wish? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada

Do you agree that the Federal Government should not be able to exempt itself from any of its obligations under the new #AccessibleCanada Act? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #accessibility #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you commit to only attend all-candidates debates during this election campaign if they are held in a place that has #accessibility for voters with disabilities? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #Canpoli



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Download the final text of the Accessible Canada Act, as passed by Canada’s Parliament, previously called Bill C-81, in English or French, and in an accessible MS Word or a pdf format



Click here to download the English version of the Accessible Canada Act in MS Word format. Click here to down load the English version of the Accessible Canada Act in pdf format. Click here to download the French version of the Accessible Canada Act in an accessible MS Word format. Click here to download the … Continue reading Download the final text of the Accessible Canada Act, as passed by Canada’s Parliament, previously called Bill C-81, in English or French, and in an accessible MS Word or a pdf format



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Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, the 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

June 3, 2019
SUMMARY

We are right back in action, after being off-line during a short but eventful time in the campaign for accessibility in Canada and Ontario. Get ready for a number of updates to bring you up to speed!

In the most important development last week, right in the middle of National Accessibility Week, the House of Commons passed all the amendments to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate earlier made to the bill. Therefore, Bill C-81 has completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament.

The Accessible Canada Act does not go into effect until the Federal Government gives the bill “Royal Assent.” We understand that this step may well take place in the next few weeks.

We thank everyone who helped in our shared efforts to get this bill improved. We thank those disability organizations and groups who worked with us on this shared goal. We thank all the AODA Alliance supporters and volunteers who contributed to our efforts. We appreciate every tweet or email sent to add pressure in favour of a stronger bill. As well the feedback we regularly received from our supporters have helped improve our message and our strategies.

We also thank all the MPs and Senators and their staff who helped press for a stronger bill, and all the federal public servants who did the same. Some of their efforts were undertaken behind the scenes, and without an opportunity for public acknowledgement and thanks.

Below we offer seven reflections on this achievement. In summary:

1. Final passage of the amended Bill C-81 is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada.

2. We got some of the ingredients in the bill that we were seeking.

3. We found creative ways to constructively contribute to advocacy efforts on this legislation where there are so many disability organizations and groups spread over such a big country.

4. While helpful, Bill C-81 still falls well short of what people with disabilities need.

5. We’re ready for the next round in this non-partisan campaign.

6. Our advocacy principles served us well.

7. The media too often failed to cover this important issue a disservice to all Canadians.

As well, for those who want more detail on all of the above, below we provide this further background information:

* A May 30, 2019 report by CTV on line, written by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press, on the final passage of Bill C-81.

* The May 24, 2019 Globe and Mail article, also by CP’s Michelle McQuigge, on the Federal Government’s announcement that it would agree to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

* The May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article reporting on efforts to get the Federal Government to finally pass Bill C-81. This article includes some of the inaccurate statements that overstates what Bill C-81 requires.

* The May 30, 2019 news release by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, on the passage of Bill C-81, which provides a good response to the bill’s final passage with which we agree.

* The final version of this spring’s second open letter to the House of Commons, calling for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 to be ratified. Fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed this open letter, listed below.

MORE DETAILS

Our Top Seven Preliminary Reflections on the Enactment of the Accessible Canada Act

Here are our top seven preliminary reflections we offer about this news:

1. Final Passage of the Amended Bill C-81 is a Helpful Step Forward

It is a helpful step forward that Parliament has passed the Accessible Canada Act, replete with all the amendments to it that the Senate made last month. As amended, this law gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. We plan to be active in pressing the Federal Government to ensure the achievement of the law’s goal of a barrier-free Canada without delay, and in any event, no later than 2040.

2. We Got Some of the Ingredients in the Bill that We Were Seeking

The Act includes features for which we and others pressed over the past four years. These include a fixed deadline to achieve an accessible Canada, a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Working with others in the disability community, we saw improvements to the law at each stage of the process. We saw improvements when the law was being initially designed, when it first came before the House of Commons for debate in the fall of 2018, and after that, when it came before the Senate this spring. This included some improvements to which the Federal Government had been opposed throughout the process.

3. We Found Ways to Constructively Contribute in a Country with so Many Disability Organizations and Groups

We found constructive and creative ways to work within Canada’s disability community throughout this four-year process. From coast to coast, Canada has a large and diverse landscape of disability organizations and groups. The AODA Alliance is but one of them. We certainly were not the leader of the effort, and at no time purported to be such. There was no one “leader” in this effort.

Moreover, in a country as big as Canada, there is no way to bring all of these disability organizations and groups together at one time and in one place to operate as one unanimous voice. With over five million people with disabilities, there are bound to be differences of opinion and approach.

Our goal was to try to offer influential ideas for the content of Bill C-81 and effective strategies for achieving as strong a bill as possible. We wanted to offer ideas around which as many people with disabilities and disability organizations could rally, based on the strength of those ideas.

We found it very constructive to collaborate with a good number of disability organizations and groups. Among other things, this included a close and ongoing collaboration with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Among our contributions and efforts in this process were the following:

* We took part in behind-the-scenes efforts to get 2016 election commitments to pass national accessibility legislation from the federal Liberals and New Democratic Party. We also mounted a major social media campaign to press candidates across Canada to support the enactment of strong national accessibility legislation.

* In 2016, we made public a detailed Discussion Paper on what the national accessibility legislation should include. We refined it after receiving public input on it. We can trace some key features in Bill C-81 to ideas set out in this Discussion Paper. The Discussion Paper built on experience with provincial accessibility legislation.

* In August 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky designed and moderated a 3-hour captioned online policy experts conference on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include. Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough and her deputy minister attended and took active part in this event. It remains archived online for any Canadian province or other government around the world to learn from our ideas. This was conducted under the auspices of a coalition that formed for purposes of the Federal Government’s consultation on this bill, the Alliance for an Accessible and Inclusive Canada.

* We took part in behind-the-scenes briefings of several successive ministers that had responsibility for this file, several MPs from the various federal parties, and senior public servants involved with this issue.
* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky delivered a lecture on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include at the Osgoode Hall Law School where he is a part-time faculty member. This captioned lecture has remained available online, to assist others advocating in this area.

* Before Bill C-81 was introduced into Parliament in June 2018, we made public a beginner’s guide to how a law goes through parliament. This was written to help everyone involved in this campaign learn the processes for passing a federal law.

* We submitted a very detailed brief to the House of Commons in Fall 2017. It analyzed Bill C-81 in detail and sought 96 amendments. We also made an oral presentation to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee that held public hearings on the bill last fall.

* We joined together with ARCH Disability Law Centre and CCD to collectively spearhead an open letter to the House of Commons at the conclusion of its public hearings. Over 90 disability organizations and groups signed it. It listed key amendments needed to make this legislation strong and effective.

* After the House of Commons passed the bill with some but not all of the amendments we and others had sought, we worked together with other disability organizations to advocate at the Senate for further amendments to the bill. Again, our efforts were coordinated with other like-minded organizations, with a special effort together with ARCH and CCD.

* This spring, we submitted a brief to the Senate as well as the text of a short list of amendments that we proposed. We were also one of the disability organizations that made an oral presentation at the Senate’s Standing Committee hearings in April and May of this year. Here again, the Senate made some but not all of the amendments that we and others sought.

* At the Senate, as at the House of Commons, we were also very busy with extensive behind-the-scenes advocacy efforts with several Senators and their staff. We were delighted at how many were open to consult with us right up to the last minute.

* Over the final three weeks, we and others mounted a concerted and successful campaign to get the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. This ratification was far from a certainty when we began that effort. This included our Twitter blitz to as many MPs as possible.

Again, we joined with ARCH and CCD to create another open letter to the House of Commons. This one called for the House to approve all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. Set out below, fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed it.

* We kept our supporters and the broader public aware of each major step in this four-year campaign via our AODA Alliance updates and our tweets. This entire saga is reported at www.aodaalliance.org/canadaHere

* We attempted to use the conventional media, as well as social media, to spread the word on this campaign and get more public support for our cause. We issued news releases at several major steps along the way. Most recently, the April 30, 2019 online Toronto Star included our guest column on this campaign.

* Throughout this process, several members of the House of Commons and the Senate made supportive and flattering references to our presentations and recommendations and advocated for their adoption. We, like ARCH and CCD, were often the sources quoted when a member of the House or Senate was pointing out deficiencies with the bill and the needed improvements. Several other disability organizations pointed to and relied on the detailed analysis of the bill and the detailed recommendations for amendments that we and/or ARCH presented. We worked very closely with ARCH to coordinate our respective analysis and proposals.

4. While Helpful, Bill C-81 Still Falls Well Short of What People with Disabilities Need

While the final version of Bill C-81 is helpful and a step forward, it still suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:

* It gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, but largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.

* It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies, which is a real disadvantage to people with disabilities.

* It continues to allow federal public money to be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

* It lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.

* It is excessively complicated and hard to read. This threatens to make it less effective and harder to implement.

In the excitement over the passage of a new law called “the Accessible Canada Act,” it is important not to overstate what this law actually does. As we noted in our April 30, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, Rick Hansen incorrectly stated in a guest column in the April 22, 2019 Globe and Mail that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

We regret that the Globe never ran our letter to the editor correcting this inaccuracy, and that, to our knowledge, Mr. Hansen did not himself correct it. We had asked him to do so.

Similarly, a May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article, set out below, included these two inaccuracies about Bill C-81:

* “If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.”

* “Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.”

We wish Bill C-81 did what the Globe reported in that article and what Rick Hansen wrote in the April 22, 2019 Globe. We regret that it does not require these measures. It only permits them.

5. We’re Ready for the Next Round in This Non-Partisan Campaign

Our volunteer advocacy work is not finished. Over the next weeks and months, we will launch a non-partisan campaign to get the federal political parties to make strong commitments during the upcoming 2019 federal election campaign. We will ask them to make detailed commitments to effectively implement this law, and to strengthen it with further amendments that the Federal Government did not agree to over the past year. Stay tuned for more on this.

6. Our Advocacy Principles Served Us Well

Throughout this process we adhered to important principles:
* We never give up. We took every opportunity up to the last to get this bill strengthened. We did not simply settle for what we considered a weak bill, and we did not give up the chance to get more amendments.

* We maintained complete independence from the Federal Government by not applying for any grant money from the Government at any time. We also will seek no federal grant money in the future.

* We offered our best ideas to the Government and the disability community, focusing on amendments that are substantive and as impactful as possible for all people with disabilities.

7. The Media too Often Failed to Cover this Important Issue A Disservice to All Canadians

It remains deeply troubling that throughout the past four years, the campaign for this legislation secured very little media coverage. It deserved much more coverage, both during the 2015 federal election campaign, during the Federal Government’s 18-month public consultation leading to the bill, and during the bill’s two trips through the House of Commons and one trip through the Senate. It is commendable that despite this, a few reporters tried to cover this issue. You can find most of these reports at www.aodaalliance.org/canada

This is a newsworthy subject. This bill directly affects the needs of over five million people with disabilities in Canada. It ultimately addresses the needs of all in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they age.

The media should reflect on this. It is profoundly regrettable that the media’s preoccupation with certain scandals and perceived headline-grabbing issues has left far too many Canadians unaware that there even was a Bill C-81 or a campaign to get it strengthened.

CTV News Online May 30, 2019

First national accessibility legislation gets unanimous support in House

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/first-national-accessibility-legislation-gets-unanimous-support-in-house-1.4444877?cache=yes%3FclipId%3D375756%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3Fot%3DAjaxLayout%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3FclipId%3D89619

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Service and Procurement and Accessibility stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Disabled Canadians declared a partial victory Thursday hours after the government voted to enact Canada’s 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 spearheaded 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 bill’s implementation and failure to recognize various forms of sign language as official languages of the deaf.

The Senate’s 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 don’t comply with accessibility measures. Conservatives and New Democrats echoed those issues in Parliament.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, said the government’s 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 can’t 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.”

The Globe and Mail May 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-federal-government-will-implement-senate-proposals-to-strengthen/

Accessibility bill will be amended to address concerns: minister

By MICHELLE MCQUIGGE
THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government will heed the calls of Canada’s disabled community and amend the country’s first piece of national accessibility legislation to
include some of the changes they sought, the minister spearheading the effort said Thursday.

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government will be adopting all the amendments the Senate introduced to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act, when it comes back before the House next week.

Earlier this month, the upper chamber’s committee on social affairs, science and technology amended the proposed act to include a handful of measures disability
advocacy organizations across the country said were necessary to make the bill more effective.

Ms. Qualtrough conceded that the government had initially resisted some of their most pressing calls, such as the demand to include a timeline that would require the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

But Ms. Qualtrough said the legislation, which was drafted after cross-country consultations with disabled individuals and advocacy groups, needed to reflect the will of the people it’s meant to serve.

“It’s just paying tribute to all the work and all the people that have been here in the past 40, 50 years really insisting that disability rights are human rights,” Ms. Qualtrough said in a telephone interview.

Activists had been crusading for Canadian accessibility legislation for decades and watched as other countries, including the United States, got laws on their books.

The Liberals began making good on an election promise to deliver a Canadian version when they tabled the Accessible Canada Act last June, pledging $290-million over six years toward its implementation.

The act’s stated purpose is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes built
environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

Barrier, as defined by the act, includes anything “architectural, physical, technological or attitudinal” that “hinders the full participation in society
of a person with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication or sensory impairment.”

Disabled Canadians reacted with wary optimism when the draft act was first tabled, but soon began voicing concerns that it was too weak to make a difference in their lives.

Last year, an open letter signed by 95 organizations, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March
of Dimes Canada, raised a number of measures they said the act must include to be effective.

Chief among their concerns was the bill’s unwillingness to include a timeline for implementation, as well as its failure to name various forms of sign language as official languages of deaf Canadians.

The Senate’s social-affairs committee, citing community concerns, amended the bill to address those issues. Ms. Qualtrough said their proposed amendments
will now be incorporated into the bill, which will come before Parliament for final debate next week and could be officially passed into law by the end of June.

The government, Ms. Qualtrough said, has already begun work to appoint the people who will be tasked with implementing and enforcing the bill.

A chief accessibility officer will oversee the implementation of the legislation across all sectors, while a new Accessibility Commissioner will be responsible
for compliance. A new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, comprised largely of people with a broad spectrum of disabilities, will also be put in place.

“Canadians deserve this,” Ms. Qualtrough said.

Activists celebrated the inclusion of the Senate’s amendments, saying they help to strengthen the bill in some key areas.

“This is an important victory,” accessibility activist David Lepofsky said in a statement. “While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies with Bill C-81 … they are an important and helpful step forward.”

Many community members said they remain concerned about other areas the Senate did not address when making revisions to the act.

The open letter 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 don’t comply with accessibility measures.

Advocates also raised concerns about the way the bill was written. The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives,
meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them, they argued.

The Globe and Mail May 22, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-push-is-on-to-pass-canadian-accessibility-law/

Activists urge Ottawa to pass accessibility law before summer

By MIKE HAGER
Globe and Mail, May 22, 2019

VANCOUVER – Disabled Canadians and their supporters are pushing Ottawa to pass a bill enshrining their right to more accessible and inclusive federal workplaces before the next election, legislation they say could help improve the lives of those with physical and mental disabilities.

Bill Adair, a spokesperson for a group of 96 organizations, said more than a thousand people and non-profit groups have recently sent letters to every MP in a blitz aimed at getting Bill C-81, known as the Accessible Canada Act, passed by Parliament and written into law before the summer break begins next month.

“We worked hard at bringing this into effect over the past three years and it is time for our country to take this step forward and throw the doors wide open for participation,” said Mr. Adair, who is also executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada.

Mr. Adair said his umbrella group believes the bill, which would “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in agencies and programs that fall under federal jurisdiction, could help level the considerable unemployment gap for disabled people, roughly 60 per cent of whom are employed, compared with 80 per cent for the general population.

If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.

As well, the bill would recognize various forms of sign language – including Indigenous sign languages – and include them among government services.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, said passing the amended bill remains a priority for her government.

“I expect the debate in the House of Commons to take place next week coinciding with National AccessAbility Week – a timely opportunity to highlight the work our government is doing to create a more accessible and inclusive Canada for all,” her statement Tuesday said.

Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.

The government has pledged $290-million over six years toward implementing the act, which will see Ottawa appoint an accessibility commissioner and create an organization to develop accessibility standards for the industries covered by the law.

Rick Hansen, a former Paralympian whose eponymous foundation is part of the push to pass the bill, said it would be a huge disappointment if the act didn’t pass before the federal election. “Canada can’t afford to let down the one in five Canadians with disabilities,” Mr. Hansen said.

In the absence of national accessibility standards, his organization is launching an awareness campaign called Everyone Everywhere to identify common barriers disabled people face. These include: a lack of visual fire alarms; no push button doors at a building’s main entrance; steep curbs, narrow parking spaces, circular doorknobs; signage without Braille or raised lettering; ramps that are too steep or not wide enough and a lack of grab bars in bathrooms.

Mr. Hansen said a pilot project completed over two years rated about 1,100 buildings across B.C.

for their accessibility and found just more than a third didn’t meet the minimum standard.

Mr. Hansen’s organization also commissioned a Conference Board of Canada report last year that suggested the estimated 2.9 million Canadians with physical disabilities would be able to contribute $16.8-billion more to the gross domestic product by 2030 if they faced fewer barriers to participating in the workforce. Earlier this year, an independent review found deficiencies to nearly all aspects of Ontario’s 14-yearold accessibility law, including that too many buildings are still designed in ways that make it impossible for some disabled people to enter.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouverbased writer who led a campaign that created a matted trail for wheelchair users to access one of the city’s most popular beaches last summer, said Bill C-81 needs to give Ottawa the teeth to limit the funding of any agencies not making the effort to improve life for disabled Canadians. Ms. Peters, who uses a wheelchair, said she is genuinely uncertain how the legislation would affect her own life and the lives of other disabled people if it passes. Text of the ARCH Disability Law Centre May 30, 2109 News Release

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/press-release-arch-disability-law-centre-welcomes-the-passage-of-the-accessible-canada-act/ Press Release ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act

ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, an important moment in Canadas disability rights movement continuing towards our goal of full inclusion and equality for persons with disabilities across Canada.

The Accessible Canada Act is federal accessibility legislation. Its stated purpose is to achieve a barrier free Canada by 2040. To do this, the Act gives powers to the Government of Canada, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission to create new legal requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, the built environment, transportation, procurement of goods, services and facilities, information and communication technologies, communication, and the design and delivery of programs and services. These new legal requirements will be aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers, which the Act defines as anything that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or functional limitation.

Bill C-81 Accessible Canada Act was first introduced in the House of Commons in June 2018. As the Bill wound its way through the legislative process, a number of important changes were made to it. In particular, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made several amendments which strengthened the Bill. For example, SOCI included in the Bill a timeline of 2040 for achieving a barrier free Canada; added multiple and intersectional discrimination as a principle which must be considered when laws, policies, services and programs are developed; clarified that nothing in the Bill or its regulations limits the existing legal obligation to accommodate persons with disabilities; and recognized sign languages as the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.

SOCI adopted these amendments after receiving recommendations from disability organizations across Canada. ARCH thanks Senators for listening to the concerns of disability communities and taking action to address them. The amendments made by the Senate strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We commend Minister Qualtrough and the Government for voting to pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments made by the Senate said Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of ARCH.

Throughout Bill C-81s journey, disability communities across Canada were actively involved in advocating for the Bill to be as strong as possible. ARCH worked closely with Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), AODA Alliance and over 90 national, provincial and local disability groups. To support disability communities with their advocacy, ARCH wrote an extensive legal analysis of Bill C-81, provided updates on the Bills progress in our quarterly newsletter, gave presentations on the legislation, and produced a series of Briefing Notes explaining key amendments sought. ARCH also worked with CCD and AODA Alliance to coordinate 2 Open Letter campaigns. Advocating to strengthen Bill C-81 has provided opportunities for disability communities to work together. It has been a privilege to work closely with so many dedicated advocates. The Accessible Canada Act is stronger because of their tireless work said Kerri Joffe, ARCH Staff Lawyer.

Despite the helpful amendments that were made to the legislation, a number of concerns raised by ARCH and other disability groups remain. One such weakness is the use of permissive language may rather than directive language shall or must in the Accessible Canada Act. This language gives government, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the CRTC and other bodies power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers.

The Accessible Canada Act has been passed by the House of Commons, but there is still one more step before it becomes law the Act must receive Royal Asset. ARCH urges the Government to ensure that the Act receives Royal Assent before the next federal election is called.

For more details contact:

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director
416-482-8255 x. 2233

Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer
416-482-8255 x. 2222

Open Letter to the House of Commons Updated

Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament
Date: May 14, 2019
The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.
We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.
The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities. SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committees debates by stating that the committees amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: Nothing about us without us.
While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senates amendments improve Bill C-81. The amendments include: setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people; making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bills employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.
It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senates amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senates amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.
We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senates amendments to Bill C-81.
If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the fall election. Signed:
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
StopGap Foundation
Travel for All
Older Womens Network
PONDA
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs
Keremeos Measuring Up Team
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada The Project Group Consulting Cooperative
VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) DeafBlind Ontario Services
March of Dimes Canada
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Québec Accessible
CNIB
Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Rick Hansen Foundation
Access 2 Accessibility
BALANCE for Blind Adults
Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)
Canadian Association of the Deaf Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC) Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)
Community Living Ontario
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
Hydrocephalus Canada
LArche Canada
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) NWT Disability Council
Realize
Tetra Society of North America Ontario Division
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Vibrant Healthcare Alliance
Vie Autonome Montréal
Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec
Association multiethnique pour lintégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
Canadian Association for Community Living
Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance
Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)
Deaf Literacy Initiative
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)
Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
National Network for Mental Health
OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada People First of Canada
reachAbility Association
Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Silent Voice Canada Inc.
The Canadian Council of the Blind
The Club Inclusion
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter) Family Network for Deaf Children
SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)
Disability Awareness Consultants
Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)
Empowered Kids Ontario Enfants Avenir Ontario
Sound Times Support Services
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities
JRG Society for the Arts
A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland
Community Inclusion Society
Abilities Centre
Ontario Association of the Deaf
L’Arche Comox Valley
ALS Society of Canada
Saskatchewan ALS Society
Lettre ouverte pour une rapide ratification des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81, la Loi canadienne sur laccessibilité. À: Tous les membres du Parlement
Date: 14 mai 2019
Nous, les soussignés, organisations nationales, provinciales et locales de personnes handicapées, recommandons à tous les membres du Parlement de sengager à adopter rapidement toutes les modifications au projet de loi C-81, Loi canadienne sur laccessibilité, adoptées le 2 mai 2019 par le Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, sciences et technologie (SOCI).
Nous félicitons lhonorable ministre Carla Qualtrough davoir défendu ce projet de loi et, tel quexprimé au Comité sénatorial permanent, de son ouverture envers les modifications proposées.
Le Comité sénatorial a entendu une vaste gamme dorganisations de personnes en situation de handicap et dintervenants marteler le besoin dune loi nationale sur laccessibilité et recommander lamélioration de certains secteurs afin que le projet de loi atteigne son objectif, à savoir faire du Canada un pays exempt dobstacles. En clôturant les débats, la sénatrice Chantal Peticlerc, présidente du SOCI, a déclaré que les modifications apportées par le Comité traduisaient le slogan des collectivités de personnes handicapées Rien pour nous, sans nous.
Bien que nincluant pas toutes les améliorations revendiquées par les organisations de personnes handicapées et les intervenants, les modifications sénatoriales améliorent le projet de loi C-81. Elles stipulent : que le Canada devienne un pays totalement exempt dobstacles dici 2040; que cet échéancier ne justifie aucun délai quant à lélimination et la prévention des obstacles le plus tôt possible; que lAmerican Sign Language, de la langue des signes québécoise et de les langues des signes autochtones soient reconnues comme langues de communication fondamentales des personnes Sourdes; que les formes multiples et intersectorielles de discrimination subies par les personnes en situation de handicap soient un principe sous-tendant lapplication du projet de loi; que le projet de loi C-81 et les règlements afférents ne puissent restreindre les droits humains des personnes handicapées, garantis par la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne; que lors du règlement des plaintes basées sur les obstacles dans les transports, lOffice des transports du Canada ne puisse atténuer les droits des voyageurs en situation de handicap, actuellement garantis; que soient réglés les problèmes identifiés par le gouvernement fédéral entre les dispositions du projet de loi en matière demploi et la loi régissant la GRC.
Le Sénat devrait adopter le projet de loi C-81, tel que modifié, avant le 16 mai 2019. Le projet de loi reviendra alors en la Chambre des communes pour un vote sur les modifications sénatoriales. Et pour que le projet de loi devienne rapidement loi, ces modifications doivent absolument être adoptées.
Nous demandons à la Chambre des communes de programmer un vote aussitôt que possible et nous demandons à tous les membres du Parlement de voter en faveur des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81.
La Chambre des communes affaiblira le projet de loi si elle se contente de moins; dans ce cas-là, la course parlementaire de ce projet de loi risque dêtre stoppée avant lélection de cet automne. Lettre ouverte signée par:
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
StopGap Foundation
Travel for All
Older Womens Network
PONDA
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs
Keremeos Measuring Up Team
National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada The Project Group Consulting Cooperative
VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) DeafBlind Ontario Services
March of Dimes Canada
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Québec Accessible
CNIB
Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Rick Hansen Foundation
Access 2 Accessibility
BALANCE for Blind Adults
Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)
Canadian Association of the Deaf Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC) Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)
Community Living Ontario
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
Hydrocephalus Canada
LArche Canada
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) NWT Disability Council
Realize
Tetra Society of North America Ontario Division
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Vibrant Healthcare Alliance
Vie Autonome Montréal
Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec
Association multiethnique pour lintégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
Canadian Association for Community Living
Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance
Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)
Deaf Literacy Initiative
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)
Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
National Network for Mental Health
OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada People First of Canada
reachAbility Association
Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Silent Voice Canada Inc.
The Canadian Council of the Blind
The Club Inclusion
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter) Family Network for Deaf Children
SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)
Disability Awareness Consultants
Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)
Empowered Kids Ontario Enfants Avenir Ontario
Sound Times Support Services
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities
JRG Society for the Arts
A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland
Community Inclusion Society
Abilities Centre
Ontario Association of the Deaf
L’Arche Comox Valley
ALS Society of Canada
Saskatchewan ALS Society



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Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act -Here Are Seven Preliminary Reflections – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act –Here Are Seven Preliminary Reflections

June 3, 2019

          SUMMARY

We are right back in action, after being off-line during a short but eventful time in the campaign for accessibility in Canada and Ontario. Get ready for a number of updates to bring you up to speed!

In the most important development last week, right in the middle of National Accessibility Week, the House of Commons passed all the amendments to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate earlier made to the bill. Therefore, Bill C-81 has completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament.

The Accessible Canada Act does not go into effect until the Federal Government gives the bill “Royal Assent.” We understand that this step may well take place in the next few weeks.

We thank everyone who helped in our shared efforts to get this bill improved. We thank those disability organizations and groups who worked with us on this shared goal. We thank all the AODA Alliance supporters and volunteers who contributed to our efforts. We appreciate every tweet or email sent to add pressure in favour of a stronger bill. As well the feedback we regularly received from our supporters have helped improve our message and our strategies.

We also thank all the MPs and Senators and their staff who helped press for a stronger bill, and all the federal public servants who did the same. Some of their efforts were undertaken behind the scenes, and without an opportunity for public acknowledgement and thanks.

Below we offer seven reflections on this achievement. In summary:

  1. Final passage of the amended Bill C-81 is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada.
  1. We got some of the ingredients in the bill that we were seeking.
  1. We found creative ways to constructively contribute to advocacy efforts on this legislation where there are so many disability organizations and groups spread over such a big country.
  1. While helpful, Bill C-81 still falls well short of what people with disabilities need.
  1. We’re ready for the next round in this non-partisan campaign.
  1. Our advocacy principles served us well.
  1. The media too often failed to cover this important issue – a disservice to all Canadians.

As well, for those who want more detail on all of the above, below we provide this further background information:

* A May 30, 2019 report by CTV on line, written by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press, on the final passage of Bill C-81.

* The May 24, 2019 Globe and Mail article, also by CP’s Michelle McQuigge, on the Federal Government’s announcement that it would agree to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

* The May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article reporting on efforts to get the Federal Government to finally pass Bill C-81. This article includes some of the inaccurate statements that overstates what Bill C-81 requires.

* The May 30, 2019 news release by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, on the passage of Bill C-81, which provides a good response to the bill’s final passage with which we agree.

* The final version of this spring’s second open letter to the House of Commons, calling for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 to be ratified. Fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed this open letter, listed below.

          MORE DETAILS

Our Top Seven Preliminary Reflections on the Enactment of the Accessible Canada Act

Here are our top seven preliminary reflections we offer about this news:

1. Final Passage of the Amended Bill C-81 is a Helpful Step Forward

It is a helpful step forward that Parliament has passed the Accessible Canada Act, replete with all the amendments to it that the Senate made last month. As amended, this law gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. We plan to be active in pressing the Federal Government to ensure the achievement of the law’s goal of a barrier-free Canada without delay, and in any event, no later than 2040.

2. We Got Some of the Ingredients in the Bill that We Were Seeking

The Act includes features for which we and others pressed over the past four years. These include a fixed deadline to achieve an accessible Canada, a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Working with others in the disability community, we saw improvements to the law at each stage of the process. We saw improvements when the law was being initially designed, when it first came before the House of Commons for debate in the fall of 2018, and after that, when it came before the Senate this spring. This included some improvements to which the Federal Government had been opposed throughout the process.

3. We Found Ways to Constructively Contribute in a Country with so Many Disability Organizations and Groups

We found constructive and creative ways to work within Canada’s disability community throughout this four-year process. From coast to coast, Canada has a large and diverse landscape of disability organizations and groups. The AODA Alliance is but one of them. We certainly were not the leader of the effort, and at no time purported to be such. There was no one “leader” in this effort.

Moreover, in a country as big as Canada, there is no way to bring all of these disability organizations and groups together at one time and in one place to operate as one unanimous voice. With over five million people with disabilities, there are bound to be differences of opinion and approach.

Our goal was to try to offer influential ideas for the content of Bill C-81 and effective strategies for achieving as strong a bill as possible. We wanted to offer ideas around which as many people with disabilities and disability organizations could rally, based on the strength of those ideas.

We found it very constructive to collaborate with a good number of disability organizations and groups. Among other things, this included a close and ongoing collaboration with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Among our contributions and efforts in this process were the following:

* We took part in behind-the-scenes efforts to get 2016 election commitments to pass national accessibility legislation from the federal Liberals and New Democratic Party. We also mounted a major social media campaign to press candidates across Canada to support the enactment of strong national accessibility legislation.

* In 2016, we made public a detailed Discussion Paper on what the national accessibility legislation should include. We refined it after receiving public input on it. We can trace some key features in Bill C-81 to ideas set out in this Discussion Paper. The Discussion Paper built on experience with provincial accessibility legislation.

* In August 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky designed and moderated a 3-hour captioned online policy experts conference on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include. Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough and her deputy minister attended and took active part in this event. It remains archived online for any Canadian province or other government around the world to learn from our ideas. This was conducted under the auspices of a coalition that formed for purposes of the Federal Government’s consultation on this bill, the Alliance for an Accessible and Inclusive Canada.

* We took part in behind-the-scenes briefings of several successive ministers that had responsibility for this file, several MPs from the various federal parties, and senior public servants involved with this issue.

* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky delivered a lecture on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include at the Osgoode Hall Law School where he is a part-time faculty member. This captioned lecture has remained available online, to assist others advocating in this area.

* Before Bill C-81 was introduced into Parliament in June 2018, we made public a beginner’s guide to how a law goes through parliament. This was written to help everyone involved in this campaign learn the processes for passing a federal law.

* We submitted a very detailed brief to the House of Commons in Fall 2017. It analyzed Bill C-81 in detail and sought 96 amendments. We also made an oral presentation to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee that held public hearings on the bill last fall.

* We joined together with ARCH Disability Law Centre and CCD to collectively spearhead an open letter to the House of Commons at the conclusion of its public hearings. Over 90 disability organizations and groups signed it. It listed key amendments needed to make this legislation strong and effective.

* After the House of Commons passed the bill with some but not all of the amendments we and others had sought, we worked together with other disability organizations to advocate at the Senate for further amendments to the bill. Again, our efforts were coordinated with other like-minded organizations, with a special effort together with ARCH and CCD.

* This spring, we submitted a brief to the Senate as well as the text of a short list of amendments that we proposed. We were also one of the disability organizations that made an oral presentation at the Senate’s Standing Committee hearings in April and May of this year. Here again, the Senate made some but not all of the amendments that we and others sought.

* At the Senate, as at the House of Commons, we were also very busy with extensive behind-the-scenes advocacy efforts with several Senators and their staff. We were delighted at how many were open to consult with us right up to the last minute.

* Over the final three weeks, we and others mounted a concerted and successful campaign to get the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. This ratification was far from a certainty when we began that effort. This included our Twitter blitz to as many MPs as possible.

Again, we joined with ARCH and CCD to create another open letter to the House of Commons. This one called for the House to approve all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. Set out below, fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed it.

* We kept our supporters and the broader public aware of each major step in this four-year campaign via our AODA Alliance updates and our tweets. This entire saga is reported at www.aodaalliance.org/canadaHere

* We attempted to use the conventional media, as well as social media, to spread the word on this campaign and get more public support for our cause. We issued news releases at several major steps along the way. Most recently, the April 30, 2019 online Toronto Star included our guest column on this campaign.

* Throughout this process, several members of the House of Commons and the Senate made supportive and flattering references to our presentations and recommendations and advocated for their adoption. We, like ARCH and CCD, were often the sources quoted when a member of the House or Senate was pointing out deficiencies with the bill and the needed improvements. Several other disability organizations pointed to and relied on the detailed analysis of the bill and the detailed recommendations for amendments that we and/or ARCH presented. We worked very closely with ARCH to coordinate our respective analysis and proposals.

4. While Helpful, Bill C-81 Still Falls Well Short of What People with Disabilities Need

While the final version of Bill C-81 is helpful and a step forward, it still suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:

* It gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, but largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.

* It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies, which is a real disadvantage to people with disabilities.

* It continues to allow federal public money to be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

* It lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.

* It is excessively complicated and hard to read. This threatens to make it less effective and harder to implement.

In the excitement over the passage of a new law called “the Accessible Canada Act,” it is important not to overstate what this law actually does. As we noted in our April 30, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, Rick Hansen incorrectly stated in a guest column in the April 22, 2019 Globe and Mail that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

We regret that the Globe never ran our letter to the editor correcting this inaccuracy, and that, to our knowledge, Mr. Hansen did not himself correct it. We had asked him to do so.

Similarly, a May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article, set out below, included these two inaccuracies about Bill C-81:

* “If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.”

* “Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.”

We wish Bill C-81 did what the Globe reported in that article and what Rick Hansen wrote in the April 22, 2019 Globe. We regret that it does not require these measures. It only permits them.

5. We’re Ready for the Next Round in This Non-Partisan Campaign

Our volunteer advocacy work is not finished. Over the next weeks and months, we will launch a non-partisan campaign to get the federal political parties to make strong commitments during the upcoming 2019 federal election campaign. We will ask them to make detailed commitments to effectively implement this law, and to strengthen it with further amendments that the Federal Government did not agree to over the past year. Stay tuned for more on this.

6. Our Advocacy Principles Served Us Well

Throughout this process we adhered to important principles:

* We never give up. We took every opportunity up to the last to get this bill strengthened. We did not simply settle for what we considered a weak bill, and we did not give up the chance to get more amendments.

* We maintained complete independence from the Federal Government by not applying for any grant money from the Government at any time. We also will seek no federal grant money in the future.

* We offered our best ideas to the Government and the disability community, focusing on amendments that are substantive and as impactful as possible for all people with disabilities.

7. The Media too Often Failed to Cover this Important Issue – A Disservice to All Canadians

It remains deeply troubling that throughout the past four years, the campaign for this legislation secured very little media coverage. It deserved much more coverage, both during the 2015 federal election campaign, during the Federal Government’s 18-month public consultation leading to the bill, and during the bill’s two trips through the House of Commons and one trip through the Senate. It is commendable that despite this, a few reporters tried to cover this issue. You can find most of these reports at www.aodaalliance.org/canada

This is a newsworthy subject. This bill directly affects the needs of over five million people with disabilities in Canada. It ultimately addresses the needs of all in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they age.

The media should reflect on this. It is profoundly regrettable that the media’s preoccupation with certain scandals and perceived headline-grabbing issues has left far too many Canadians unaware that there even was a Bill C-81 or a campaign to get it strengthened.

CTV News Online May 30, 2019

First national accessibility legislation gets unanimous support in House

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/first-national-accessibility-legislation-gets-unanimous-support-in-house-1.4444877?cache=yes%3FclipId%3D375756%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3Fot%3DAjaxLayout%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3FclipId%3D89619

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Service and Procurement and Accessibility stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Disabled Canadians declared a partial victory Thursday hours after the government voted to enact Canada’s 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 spearheaded 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 bill’s implementation and failure to recognize various forms of sign language as official languages of the deaf.

The Senate’s 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 don’t comply with accessibility measures. Conservatives and New Democrats echoed those issues in Parliament.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, said the government’s 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 can’t 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.”

The Globe and Mail May 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-federal-government-will-implement-senate-proposals-to-strengthen/

Accessibility bill will be amended to address concerns: minister

By MICHELLE MCQUIGGE

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government will heed the calls of Canada’s disabled community and amend the country’s first piece of national accessibility legislation to

include some of the changes they sought, the minister spearheading the effort said Thursday.

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government will be adopting all the amendments the Senate introduced to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible

Canada Act, when it comes back before the House next week.

Earlier this month, the upper chamber’s committee on social affairs, science and technology amended the proposed act to include a handful of measures disability

advocacy organizations across the country said were necessary to make the bill more effective.

Ms. Qualtrough conceded that the government had initially resisted some of their most pressing calls, such as the demand to include a timeline that would

require the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

But Ms. Qualtrough said the legislation, which was drafted after cross-country consultations with disabled individuals and advocacy groups, needed to reflect

the will of the people it’s meant to serve.

“It’s just paying tribute to all the work and all the people that have been here in the past 40, 50 years really insisting that disability rights are human

rights,” Ms. Qualtrough said in a telephone interview.

Activists had been crusading for Canadian accessibility legislation for decades and watched as other countries, including the United States, got laws on

their books.

The Liberals began making good on an election promise to deliver a Canadian version when they tabled the Accessible Canada Act last June, pledging $290-million

over six years toward its implementation.

The act’s stated purpose is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes built

environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

Barrier, as defined by the act, includes anything “architectural, physical, technological or attitudinal” that “hinders the full participation in society

of a person with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication or sensory impairment.”

Disabled Canadians reacted with wary optimism when the draft act was first tabled, but soon began voicing concerns that it was too weak to make a difference

in their lives.

Last year, an open letter signed by 95 organizations, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March

of Dimes Canada, raised a number of measures they said the act must include to be effective.

Chief among their concerns was the bill’s unwillingness to include a timeline for implementation, as well as its failure to name various forms of sign

language as official languages of deaf Canadians.

The Senate’s social-affairs committee, citing community concerns, amended the bill to address those issues. Ms. Qualtrough said their proposed amendments

will now be incorporated into the bill, which will come before Parliament for final debate next week and could be officially passed into law by the end

of June.

The government, Ms. Qualtrough said, has already begun work to appoint the people who will be tasked with implementing and enforcing the bill.

A chief accessibility officer will oversee the implementation of the legislation across all sectors, while a new Accessibility Commissioner will be responsible

for compliance. A new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, comprised largely of people with a broad spectrum of disabilities, will

also be put in place.

“Canadians deserve this,” Ms. Qualtrough said.

Activists celebrated the inclusion of the Senate’s amendments, saying they help to strengthen the bill in some key areas.

“This is an important victory,” accessibility activist David Lepofsky said in a statement. “While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies

with Bill C-81 … they are an important and helpful step forward.”

Many community members said they remain concerned about other areas the Senate did not address when making revisions to the act.

The open letter 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 don’t comply with accessibility measures.

Advocates also raised concerns about the way the bill was written. The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives,

meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them, they argued.

The Globe and Mail May 22, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-push-is-on-to-pass-canadian-accessibility-law/

Activists urge Ottawa to pass accessibility law before summer

By MIKE HAGER

Globe and Mail, May 22, 2019

VANCOUVER – Disabled Canadians and their supporters are pushing Ottawa to pass a bill enshrining their right to more accessible and inclusive federal workplaces before the next election, legislation they say could help improve the lives of those with physical and mental disabilities.

Bill Adair, a spokesperson for a group of 96 organizations, said more than a thousand people and non-profit groups have recently sent letters to every MP in a blitz aimed at getting Bill C-81, known as the Accessible Canada Act, passed by Parliament and written into law before the summer break begins next month.

“We worked hard at bringing this into effect over the past three years and it is time for our country to take this step forward and throw the doors wide open for participation,” said Mr. Adair, who is also executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada.

Mr. Adair said his umbrella group believes the bill, which would “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in agencies and programs that fall under federal jurisdiction, could help level the considerable unemployment gap for disabled people, roughly 60 per cent of whom are employed, compared with 80 per cent for the general population.

If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.

As well, the bill would recognize various forms of sign language – including Indigenous sign languages – and include them among government services.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, said passing the amended bill remains a priority for her government.

“I expect the debate in the House of Commons to take place next week coinciding with National AccessAbility Week – a timely opportunity to highlight the work our government is doing to create a more accessible and inclusive Canada for all,” her statement Tuesday said.

Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.

The government has pledged $290-million over six years toward implementing the act, which will see Ottawa appoint an accessibility commissioner and create an organization to develop accessibility standards for the industries covered by the law.

Rick Hansen, a former Paralympian whose eponymous foundation is part of the push to pass the bill, said it would be a huge disappointment if the act didn’t pass before the federal election. “Canada can’t afford to let down the one in five Canadians with disabilities,” Mr. Hansen said.

In the absence of national accessibility standards, his organization is launching an awareness campaign called Everyone Everywhere to identify common barriers disabled people face. These include: a lack of visual fire alarms; no push button doors at a building’s main entrance; steep curbs, narrow parking spaces, circular doorknobs; signage without Braille or raised lettering; ramps that are too steep or not wide enough and a lack of grab bars in bathrooms.

Mr. Hansen said a pilot project completed over two years rated about 1,100 buildings across B.C.

for their accessibility and found just more than a third didn’t meet the minimum standard.

Mr. Hansen’s organization also commissioned a Conference Board of Canada report last year that suggested the estimated 2.9 million Canadians with physical disabilities would be able to contribute $16.8-billion more to the gross domestic product by 2030 if they faced fewer barriers to participating in the workforce. Earlier this year, an independent review found deficiencies to nearly all aspects of Ontario’s 14-yearold accessibility law, including that too many buildings are still designed in ways that make it impossible for some disabled people to enter.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouverbased writer who led a campaign that created a matted trail for wheelchair users to access one of the city’s most popular beaches last summer, said Bill C-81 needs to give Ottawa the teeth to limit the funding of any agencies not making the effort to improve life for disabled Canadians. Ms. Peters, who uses a wheelchair, said she is genuinely uncertain how the legislation would affect her own life and the lives of other disabled people if it passes.

Text of the ARCH Disability Law Centre May 30, 2109 News Release

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/press-release-arch-disability-law-centre-welcomes-the-passage-of-the-accessible-canada-act/

Press Release – ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act

ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, an important moment in Canada’s disability rights movement continuing towards our goal of full inclusion and equality for persons with disabilities across Canada.

The Accessible Canada Act is federal accessibility legislation. Its stated purpose is to achieve a barrier free Canada by 2040. To do this, the Act gives powers to the Government of Canada, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission to create new legal requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, the built environment, transportation, procurement of goods, services and facilities, information and communication technologies, communication, and the design and delivery of programs and services. These new legal requirements will be aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers, which the Act defines as anything that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or functional limitation.

Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act was first introduced in the House of Commons in June 2018. As the Bill wound its way through the legislative process, a number of important changes were made to it. In particular, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made several amendments which strengthened the Bill. For example, SOCI included in the Bill a timeline of 2040 for achieving a barrier free Canada; added multiple and intersectional discrimination as a principle which must be considered when laws, policies, services and programs are developed; clarified that nothing in the Bill or its regulations limits the existing legal obligation to accommodate persons with disabilities; and recognized sign languages as the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.

SOCI adopted these amendments after receiving recommendations from disability organizations across Canada. “ARCH thanks Senators for listening to the concerns of disability communities and taking action to address them. The amendments made by the Senate strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We commend Minister Qualtrough and the Government for voting to pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments made by the Senate” said Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of ARCH.

Throughout Bill C-81’s journey, disability communities across Canada were actively involved in advocating for the Bill to be as strong as possible. ARCH worked closely with Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), AODA Alliance and over 90 national, provincial and local disability groups. To support disability communities with their advocacy, ARCH wrote an extensive legal analysis of Bill C-81, provided updates on the Bill’s progress in our quarterly newsletter, gave presentations on the legislation, and produced a series of Briefing Notes explaining key amendments sought. ARCH also worked with CCD and AODA Alliance to coordinate 2 Open Letter campaigns. “Advocating to strengthen Bill C-81 has provided opportunities for disability communities to work together. It has been a privilege to work closely with so many dedicated advocates. The Accessible Canada Act is stronger because of their tireless work” said Kerri Joffe, ARCH Staff Lawyer.

Despite the helpful amendments that were made to the legislation, a number of concerns raised by ARCH and other disability groups remain. One such weakness is the use of permissive language “may” rather than directive language “shall” or “must” in the Accessible Canada Act. This language gives government, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the CRTC and other bodies power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers.

The Accessible Canada Act has been passed by the House of Commons, but there is still one more step before it becomes law – the Act must receive Royal Asset. ARCH urges the Government to ensure that the Act receives Royal Assent before the next federal election is called.

For more details contact:

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director

416-482-8255 x. 2233

Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer

416-482-8255 x. 2222

Open Letter to the House of Commons Updated

Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament

Date: May 14, 2019

The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.

We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.

The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities. SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committee’s debates by stating that the committee’s amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: “Nothing about us without us.

While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senate’s amendments improve Bill C-81. The amendments include: setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people; making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bill’s employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.

It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senate’s amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.

We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the fall election.

Signed:

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

PONDA

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Access 2 Accessibility

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC)

Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Community Living Ontario

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Hydrocephalus Canada

L’Arche Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NWT Disability Council

Realize

Tetra Society of North America – Ontario Division

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Vibrant Healthcare Alliance

Vie Autonome Montréal

Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

Canadian Association for Community Living

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Deaf Literacy Initiative

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

National Network for Mental Health

OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada

People First of Canada

reachAbility Association

Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Silent Voice Canada Inc.

The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Club Inclusion

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)

Family Network for Deaf Children

SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)

Disability Awareness Consultants

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Sound Times Support Services

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

JRG Society for the Arts

A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland

Community Inclusion Society

Abilities Centre

Ontario Association of the Deaf

L’Arche Comox Valley

ALS Society of Canada

Saskatchewan ALS Society

Lettre ouverte pour une rapide ratification des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81, la Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité.

À: Tous les membres du Parlement

Date: 14 mai 2019

Nous, les soussignés, organisations nationales, provinciales et locales de personnes handicapées, recommandons à tous les membres du Parlement de s’engager à adopter rapidement toutes les modifications au projet de loi C-81, Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité, adoptées le 2 mai 2019 par le Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, sciences et technologie (SOCI).

Nous félicitons l’honorable ministre Carla Qualtrough d’avoir défendu ce projet de loi et, tel qu’exprimé au Comité sénatorial permanent, de son ouverture envers les modifications proposées.

Le Comité sénatorial a entendu une vaste gamme d’organisations de personnes en situation de handicap et d’intervenants marteler le besoin d’une loi nationale sur l’accessibilité et recommander l’amélioration de certains secteurs afin que le projet de loi atteigne son objectif, à savoir faire du Canada un pays exempt d’obstacles. En clôturant les débats, la sénatrice Chantal Peticlerc, présidente du SOCI, a déclaré que les modifications apportées par le Comité traduisaient le slogan des collectivités de personnes handicapées “Rien pour nous, sans nous”.

Bien que n’incluant pas toutes les améliorations revendiquées par les organisations de personnes handicapées et les intervenants, les modifications sénatoriales améliorent le projet de loi C-81. Elles stipulent : que le Canada devienne un pays totalement exempt d’obstacles d’ici 2040; que cet échéancier ne justifie aucun délai quant à l’élimination et la prévention des obstacles le plus tôt possible; que l’American Sign Language, de la langue des signes québécoise et de les langues des signes autochtones soient reconnues comme langues de communication fondamentales des personnes Sourdes; que les formes multiples et intersectorielles de discrimination subies par les personnes en situation de handicap soient un principe sous-tendant l’application du projet de loi; que le projet de loi C-81 et les règlements afférents ne puissent restreindre les droits humains des personnes handicapées, garantis par la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne; que lors du règlement des plaintes basées sur les obstacles dans les transports, l’Office des transports du Canada ne puisse atténuer les droits des voyageurs en situation de handicap, actuellement garantis; que soient réglés les problèmes identifiés par le gouvernement fédéral entre les dispositions du projet de loi en matière d’emploi et la loi régissant la GRC.

Le Sénat devrait adopter le projet de loi C-81, tel que modifié, avant le 16 mai 2019. Le projet de loi reviendra alors en la Chambre des communes pour un vote sur les modifications sénatoriales. Et pour que le projet de loi devienne rapidement loi, ces modifications doivent absolument être adoptées.

Nous demandons à la Chambre des communes de programmer un vote aussitôt que possible et nous demandons à tous les membres du Parlement de voter en faveur des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81.

La Chambre des communes affaiblira le projet de loi si elle se contente de moins; dans ce cas-là, la course parlementaire de ce projet de loi risque d’être stoppée avant l’élection de cet automne.

Lettre ouverte signée par:

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

PONDA

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Access 2 Accessibility

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC)

Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Community Living Ontario

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Hydrocephalus Canada

L’Arche Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NWT Disability Council

Realize

Tetra Society of North America – Ontario Division

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Vibrant Healthcare Alliance

Vie Autonome Montréal

Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

Canadian Association for Community Living

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Deaf Literacy Initiative

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

National Network for Mental Health

OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada

People First of Canada

reachAbility Association

Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Silent Voice Canada Inc.

The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Club Inclusion

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)

Family Network for Deaf Children

SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)

Disability Awareness Consultants

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Sound Times Support Services

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

JRG Society for the Arts

A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland

Community Inclusion Society

Abilities Centre

Ontario Association of the Deaf

L’Arche Comox Valley

ALS Society of Canada

Saskatchewan ALS Society



Source link

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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Canada’s Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill — But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Canada’s Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill — But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?

May 14, 2019

          SUMMARY

Last evening the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading, complete with all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs added to the bill on May 2, 2019. This is an important step forward for this bill, and a helpful step for people with disabilities in Canada. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of the Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 that took place in the Senate last evening.

The first among the speeches on the bill was by Senator Jim Munson. Senator Munson is the Federal Government’s sponsor of the bill in the Senate. It is likely that some or all of his speech was written by the Federal Government.

Bill C-81 is not yet an enforceable law. It is still just a bill, a proposed law.

For Bill C-81 to become a law, it must go back to the House of Commons. The House must vote on the amendments that the Senate has added to the bill. If the House of Commons passes all those amendments, Bill C-81 becomes a law. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of those amendments, it remains a bill, a proposed law. The Senate would then have to vote again on the bill, but without the Senate’s amendments.

Thus, all attention must now focus on the House of Commons, and especially on the Trudeau Government which has a majority of seats in the House. The Federal Government has not yet said it will vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

As we announced days ago, we and many other people with disabilities and disability organizations are campaigning to get the House of Commons to pass ALL the amendments to the bill that the Senate has just passed. We are focusing special attention on the Senate’s commendable amendments that would set the time line of 2040 for Canada to reach full accessibility to people with disabilities, while making it clear that this time line may not delay progress before then on accessibility.

For tips on how to help with this time-sensitive blitz, 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/

Please email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments 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/

To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

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/

Our overall strategy regarding Bill C-81 is unfolding as we planned. The Senate’s amendments, for which we and others fought so hard, help improve this bill. The bill clearly needed improvements. Now the issue will come before the House of Commons just months before an impending federal election.

From a disability advocacy perspective, this timing is very helpful to our cause. What elected politician or party would want to vote against measures to strengthen the protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What elected politician or party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 from becoming a law?

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

Senate of Canada Hansard May 13, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/287db_2019-05-13-e

Accessible Canada Bill

Third Reading

Hon. Jim Munson moved third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, as amended.

He said: Honourable senators, what a journey we have been on. What a journey all of us have been on.

Senators, as the sponsor of this bill, I’m pleased to speak tonight at the third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, also known as the Accessible Canada Act. I am humbled and honoured to speak to a bill that will no doubt become a proud part of Canadian history.

Making history takes dedication, hard work and perseverance. So I want to acknowledge the work of many people who helped get this bill to this stage.

I want to thank the chair and deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Senators Petitclerc and Seidman, and all members who attended the committee meetings. Questions were engaging and led to an enlightening input from witnesses and to constructive amendments. This committee works so well together; I am honoured to be a member.

Thank you also to our clerk and administrator, Dan Charbonneau and Ericka Dupont, for arranging sign language, ASL, and CART services, Communication Access Real-time Translation, and the special room set-up, which helped to make the Senate committee meetings the most accessible to date. The Senate should be proud in this regard. We have shown leadership by example.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Carla Qualtrough. She and her team have shown great leadership on accessibility, and I can confidently say that Bill C-81 enjoys widespread support due to their efforts.

Most importantly, I want to recognize persons with disabilities, stakeholders, and organizations who all play a crucial role in accessibility in Canada. They have all invested tremendous work and energy into this historic bill, ensuring that it reflects the priorities of persons with disabilities. Their contributions have been instrumental in getting the bill in its amended form to this stage. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and stories with us. I know it takes courage. We could not have done any of this without your involvement and expertise. Some of those folks are here in the Senate tonight.

Senators Petitclerc and Seidman gave excellent speeches at the report stage of the bill last week, summarizing the amendments that were adopted at committee. I will not go over the amendments and details again. However, I do want to highlight some important testimony.

Over the course of our committee hearings we heard repeatedly that the time for an accessible Canada act is now. Canadians facing barriers to fully participating in their workplaces and society told us and are still telling us to pass this bill into law. Here is what Bill Adair from Spinal Cord Injury Canada and with the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, or FALA, told us at committee:

What people are telling us across the country who are participating with FALA is: We want the bill. Give us something to work with. Yes, push for the changes, but at the end of the day, before the election, we want the bill. That gives us structure and the framework so that we can get to work on removing barriers and we want it now. We’ve been waiting far too long and this is our day.

Senators, everyone is eager to see this bill become law. We must continue our essential work in order to take it over the finish line. This community has waited long enough for this recognition and respect.

Another significant and positive change is that Bill C-81 will shift the responsibility on to the system and away from the individuals facing barriers in their daily lives. Diane Bergeron from CNIB said during her testimony:

Having a disability is exhausting, and I do not say that lightly. But when you have to deal with discrimination, rights violations, different pieces of legislation, criticisms, people not thinking that you have value, it makes it worse. The current system is unfair and unacceptable.

Colleagues, we know the history. It is one of institutionalization, sterilization and social isolation. Canada had a system that took children away from their families and power away from our citizens. Persons with disabilities were seen as burdens and treated as if they were broken. Our country simply cannot continue to place the burden of advancing human rights on individuals. We can do better, and we must do better. In fact, with this bill we will do better.

In addition to this necessary shift in responsibility, the accessible Canada act, when passed, will set best practices and a framework that the provinces and the private sector can mirror. Most importantly, this bill will start to shift culture, perception and understanding of what inclusion in our society should really look like. I cannot come up with a better analogy that encompasses my hope for what this legislation will achieve than that of Minister Qualtrough. You have to be a sports fan to get this. I couldn’t agree more when she said at committee:

I think we will look back on this as a “TSN Turning Point” on disability rights and the way we talk about disability in this country.

The words of the minister.

Honourable senators, in 2017, approximately 6.2 million people, or about 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability. This percentage is expected to increase in the coming years due to Canada’s aging population, since the prevalence of disability increases with age. This is why the government consulted with over 6,000 individuals from across the country with lived experience over the course of this bill’s development. They have continued to be consulted and included as witnesses and experts at committee so that we can use their knowledge and their experiences to help drive the change needed for a better tomorrow.

One of those witnesses was Steven Estey from Nova Scotia, from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. This organization helped facilitate some of these consultations. Mr. Estey gave us a good summary of what that meant. He said:

. . . to talk to Canadians with disabilities about what they wanted in this legislation. We had a chance to talk to over a thousand people across the country. We had 22 separate consultations in towns and cities across the country. We had telephone consultations. We had Internet consultations. We really spent a lot of time trying to figure out what people wanted to see in this legislation. It’s an important thing for us to be involved with. We have really appreciated the opportunity and the support that we have had to be able to do that.

This is what inclusion looks like, honourable senators. Consultation, collaboration, cooperation and real input from real life experience. I know that the finer points of the bill have been outlined to you many times, including by myself, but I do want to talk again about the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. The landmark importance of the CASDO board membership aligning with the community’s mantra of “nothing about us without us.” Think about it. Because it’s the board membership who will be responsible, with their own lived experience, in making standards.

I’ve always said this, that you need to be in the room when it comes to communications. It is just as important in policy making; you need to be in the room to make a difference and to influence change. In this case, CASDO will set regulations that will lead to better results for people in this country. I hope it reoccurs in other areas of policy development. Applying a disability lens is crucial in moving forward.

Barbara Collier, Executive Director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada explained in her testimony at committee what that organization represents. Her list included people with or affected by cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down’s syndrome, learning disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, cognitive and intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, head and neck cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

(1910)

Senators, these are common conditions. It made me realize again that we will all face barriers to fully participating in society at some point in our lives. This is legislation that will affect us all in a positive way.

We learned at committee that many wheels are already in motion in anticipation of the bill coming into force. Job postings are already online for the chief accessibility officer and the CEO and board of the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, or CASDO. In fact, CASDO is expected to open its doors this summer. We know that the organizations responsible for accessibility have taken advanced steps towards planning regulations. In fact, the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA, has already released the first draft of its accessibility regulations.

Committee members gave the bill and its adopted amendments a deserved thorough study and consideration despite time constraints. I know that many of these amendments came right from the community, witnesses and organizations; I think we should pass the bill with these changes and let the other place do its job and reflect on our amendments. This is the process of our democracy and of our Parliament. We all need to move swiftly.

I will say it again: An accessible Canada act is a long-overdue recognition for human rights equality for 6.2 million — or one in five — Canadians. The 2017 disability survey also indicated that of the approximately 1.5 million Canadians with a disability aged 15 to 64 who are unemployed, approximately 654,000 are potential candidates for work in an inclusive, discrimination-free and accommodating labour market.

Yes, senators, there is a business case for inclusion. There is a huge untapped talent pool that could help improve Canada’s shrinking labour market.

As I mentioned, the spirit of collaboration on this bill has been and continues to be exceptional. I’m always an optimist, so over the course of study and consultations it became obvious that the removal of barriers is universal in scope and understanding. Together, our society is ready to take this step, the first of many towards a fair and equal-opportunity society. The momentum is with us.

Colleagues, I am proud of Bill C-81. I am proud of the amendments made at committee. We need to send the amended bill to the other place this week so that we can receive it back in time to do what Canadians have been asking us to do through testimony, letters, emails and phone calls: Give Canada a framework toward being barrier-free and accessible for all.

This is the time, colleagues. This is their time. It’s our opportunity to help make this happen and to be on the right side of history.

I will close tonight with some words from the great Jean Vanier, the master of inclusion. As you know, he passed away last week at the age of 90. At a 1998 Massey Lecture entitled Becoming Human, he said:

As we become more conscious of the uniqueness of others, we become aware of our common humanity. We are all fundamentally the same, no matter what our age, gender, race, culture, religion, limits or handicaps may be.

Honourable senators, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we are on a shared journey. What we have discovered on this journey is a new path of inclusion, a path where, as they say in the disability community:

Nothing About Us Without Us.

I recognize we haven’t satisfied everyone. That’s the way it is when you’re building something we have never had before: a Canada without barriers.

But we have done our job. We have discovered more about each other. We have captured the meaning of empathy. We have amended the bill. We recognize there will always be next steps. This is a step toward a more inclusive society.

Thank you very much.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Honourable senators, I rise today at third reading stage of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

For one last time, I want to express my full support for the bill and commend the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on its excellent work. I also want to acknowledge the work of the chair of the committee, Senator Petitclerc, as well as that of the deputy chair, Senator Seidman, on a decisive and historic bill for Canada.

I won’t get into the details of the thorough review undertaken by the committee, since Senators Petitclerc and Seidman already did so quite eloquently. However, I’d like to draw your attention to the remarkable work that the committee has done since March 21, 2019.

The committee studied the bill in depth over the course of four meetings, with the intention of widening its scope. After hearing testimony from 20 interest groups four organizations, the committee did indeed make changes that are favourable to the primary goal of the bill.

Although I’m not a member of that committee, it is clear that those long, well-informed deliberations led to the adoption of 11 amendments. Through those deliberations, the vast and unique needs of many groups of disabled persons were identified by the committee, which led to specific amendments that improve Bill C-81 without jeopardizing its long-awaited passing.

To sum up, the changes to the bill remain faithful to its principles while doing more to recognize, eliminate and prevent barriers in all areas of federal jurisdiction. This new version of the bill also takes into account the fact that seniors living with disabilities also experience multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination.

Another amendment recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada and an integral part of their accessibility. After all, the recognition of sign languages constitutes an essential part of their culture and a valuable tool that enables them to participate in society.

[English]

Honourable senators, these are some examples of the positive changes that were made to the bill in consultation with experts and in collaboration with the extensive work that was previously accomplished in the other place.

I feel this bill should also act as a signal and reminder to the government regarding the recent news of 34 developmentally disabled federal workers who hold segregated and redundant jobs in Ottawa. Their contract is set to end in March 2020. I hope that, once enacted, this law will eventually represent further actions for every Canadian with a disability in order to help them become full, equal members of society.

After all, a barrier-free Canada requires us to understand the norms, societal attitudes and stigma that prevents people with intellectual, cognitive and physical disabilities from fully participating in society.

I truly believe this bill, once enacted, will be a tool for many organizations that are ready and have been patiently preparing for the implementation in order to respond to these emergent challenges and obstacles.

Honourable senators, this historic law is a testament of the great work that was accomplished in the hallmarks of this great chamber in defence of the rights of minorities.

It marks a new beginning. We will transform and address accessibility by becoming proactive instead of reactive for Canadians who do not want to be treated as a burden but as full and equal members of society as we continue to grow and learn how to become more inclusive. Thank you.

(1920)

Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. I have listened with great interest to my colleagues, as well as to the many witnesses we had at the Social Affairs Committee. I speak today to share with you my perspective, my story, based on a lifetime of learning and action in this very important area.

When I arrived in Senate 15 months ago, there was much to learn; there is still much to learn. For instance, when I arrived here, I had incorrectly assumed that accessibility had already been addressed as a national issue with a fulsome national strategy. Why? Because my own formal leadership on accessibility began in Ontario, 14 years ago. I thought — silly me — that the same regulations were being mandated nationally, given how much time had elapsed since this successful law in Ontario was implemented and began its implementation in 2005.

Honourable senators, 2019 is far too late in the game to be discussing and mandating accessibility for all at the federal level, and it’s why the bill before us is so important.

In my previous life, as an educator, every day I was faced with an issue by a student, their family, a teacher or a community member who challenged fair, equitable and inclusive access. One case — and sometimes it just takes one — in particular crystallized for me what would be become a lifetime commitment to universal accessibility.

Imagine now a single mother with six children, all under the age of 10. Three of them carry the positive gene for Duchenne’s disease, a severe type of muscular dystrophy that over time reduces muscular function. It eventually results in the young person being immobilized, weakened and in need of a wheelchair.

The family survives on a low income, and, frankly, the school and the community are their lifeline. As principal of the school, on a one-floor facility, my staff and I gave the family everything we had, from meals to fundraisers, to transportation, to tutoring, and finally to the purchase of a well-used wheelchair for her oldest son, Ricky.

This school goes up to Grade 6, and now it becomes time for Ricky to graduate from junior school and move on to middle school. We meet with a team of educators and medical support people to determine the best plan for Ricky. As a former secondary school administrator, new to elementary administration, I learn that due to Ricky’s physical needs he will not be able to attend the middle school just down the road. There are just too many accessibility issues. Eventually, I learn that he will have to take a 50-minute bus ride to the nearest school that will provide some sort of wheelchair access.

How do I tell his mother, with so much on her plate already, that her son will now spend over 100 minutes a day with strangers, with different untrained bus drivers, travelling on several highways, with no significant network of support, and that in two years, if Ricky is able to keep on attending school, his ride to high school will be even more challenging and disconnected with yet another group of young people, all at the same time his condition worsens and that in two years she will have to go through this all over again with her next child?

As it turned out, it was a hard lesson I needed to learn. This was in 2005, the same year that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act became law. As you know, the act was aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. It applied then to government, non-profit and private sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees.

My own school board needed an established leader to commit to this AODA work for at least three years. Somewhat fortuitously, I was invited to take on this role. It was going to be tough work, very political, but an opportunity to bring many internal and external stakeholders together to do the right thing. Most of the table I worked with was represented by those representing diverse accessibility needs in our community. My job would be to ensure that all aspects of the act were being addressed, that all staff and volunteers were trained, that we had an accessibility policy and procedures, and that we had a multi-year accessibility plan with annual public updates, timelines and monitoring in place. I continued this leadership for 10 years. The work was ongoing and a challenge politically, financially and ensuring equity while the voices of all were heard.

Senator Moncion highlighted her work related to the AODA at second reading. I will not repeat her message. However, I will indicate how the “visible” and “invisible” needs of those with a disability are far-reaching and diverse. We started with the built environment and spaces in 130 buildings and new builds. I learned more about architecture, facility design, ramps, lifts, nine styles of elevators, more than I dreamed possible. One basic washroom to upgrade for one child was $35,000; one elevator was half a million dollars. How do you prioritize? Every student matters.

These are the more visible physical needs we are familiar with. It’s the invisible needs that are often overlooked; that is, making sure every individual — just as we do in the Senate — feels they are part of their community.

As a result of deep consultation, we were determined that every decision had to result in our students being able to attend a school within their family of schools, which is a geographically smaller region. This would not be the closest to their home, perhaps, but still in their community — full stop. We had to find the way and we did. Every decision was and continues to be backward mapped with this in mind; that is, to find a way to keep our students and families in their community.

Honourable senators, imagine your son or daughter being told they could go on a bus for a class trip with their classmates on a bus all by themselves — not with their friends, not with their peers.

One of my proudest moments was meeting with 200 bus drivers, getting some buses retrofitted, modified and ensuring more of our students could travel and experience being with their classmates. The visible need was physically getting the student to their destination by ensuring the best barrier-free environment. The invisible need was ensuring the student would not be stigmatized on a separate bus and they could contribute and participate in this class trip to the same extent as their peers — something they deserve.

This is why this legislation is so important. It will aim to make federally regulated entities so much more accessible. However, it will also unlock the potential of a huge group of Canadians who have been held back in one way or another. It will allow them to participate and contribute to their community in ways that, quite frankly, they should have been able to do long ago. With this legislation, Canada could become a world leader in accessibly. This leadership is sorely needed.

In my role as an international coach and sports leader travelling internationally, I saw first-hand and continue to see first-hand the great disparity in the respect and understanding of what it means to try to embrace and provide support for those with a disability. I observed countries that “hid” those with disabilities, countries whose representatives said to my face, “We have no citizens with disabilities.” I watched first-hand a political leader of a G7 country, while on Canadian soil, say, “There is no place for athletes with a disability in a major sporting event.”

Thankfully, this culture is changing. I’m excited to say, after 12 years of advocacy, my sport will have its debut at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. To get to this point, again, we had to educate the countries that did not support their para-athletes and para-children, and did not demonstrate their beliefs in accessibility or inclusion. This has taken over a decade.

This past weekend, at Carleton University in Ottawa, I was able to speak with families and para-athletes from many countries about what sport means to them, what it means to be barrier-free and the work that must still continue around the world. The passage of Bill C-81 for Canada will set the kind of example needed to keep this momentum going.

Senators, I want to shift my thinking before I wrap up. I want to thank the steering committee of the Social Affairs Committee — Senator Munson, Senator Seidman and our chair, Senator Petitclerc, for guiding us through such a comprehensive and in-depth process. You have heard that said earlier this evening. It is so very true. It was a collective effort by all groups and caucuses represented at committee, and that showed in fulsome but respectful discussions that played out at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which led to some good amendments in the legislation.

To the large but important number of Canadians who will be directly affected by this legislation, I can say to you with confidence that every member of the Social Affairs Committee has listened to your concerns. I want to thank the many individuals who gave us such compelling evidence at committee, as well as the hundreds who took the time to write and meet with us. Colleagues, many of these stakeholders have been advocating for years. They are very tired, exhausted but hopeful for the immediate passage of this bill.

(1930)

While no piece of legislation is perfect, I am confident that the bill before us gives us a solid foundation and permission to rebuild our culture in the years to come. A senator last week reminded me that there is progress and there is perfection. This bill is no different. Bill C-81, the time for all is now. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today also to speak very briefly at third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Bill C-81 enacts the accessible Canada act in order to enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons living with disability, in our society. This bill will require federally regulated entities across the country to ensure accessibility to workplaces, public spaces, employment, programs, services and information.

Bill C-81, as others have stated, is an important step in the right direction to address the barriers that many Canadians face. The message that we have heard from advocates has been the same: Bill C-81 is a good bill and deserves to be enacted into law but no one can be certain of the full effect that this bill will eventually have. This will require further knowledge and learning from a practical perspective and a commitment to work in consultation with stakeholders across Canada.

I want to associate myself with some of the very important comments that have been made in this chamber and especially recognize our colleague Senator Munson, who has dedicated so much of his life to really be quite a voice and a champion for Canadians with disabilities and, of course, on issues like autism. He has been a cosponsor on a number of events, and we have done some meaningful work together. I know that one of the motions that we cosponsored that recognized June as Deafblind Awareness Month recognizes this important subgroup of Canadians who are living with some incredible challenges.

This motion was adopted unanimously in 2015, and it was sort of thanks to our retired former colleague Senator Vim Kochhar who many of us know to be a real champion and a strong voice for Canadians living with physical disabilities as well as other disabilities. Through his outstanding effort and inspiration, we have worked together to achieve certain outcomes through the Senate. Senator Kochhar also cofounded the Canadian Helen Keller Centre and Rotary Cheshire Home, which is said to be one of the only facilities in the world where those who live with deaf-blindness can live independently.

Some of the intervenors who have come to the Hill have spoken about their work to help Canadians living with deaf-blindness communicate. Their work is truly astonishing. It’s a real calling for them to serve in this capacity. They work in a unique space where they allow those who cannot communicate otherwise to communicate with the outside world.

I also know that the work of our former colleague Senator Asha Seth also led to a motion to designate May as National Vision Health Month. That, too, was unanimously adopted in the Senate.

I stand together with many of you who have spoken on this measure and also recognize the great work of our Social Affairs Committee, the chair, the deputy chair and committee members to ensure that important amendments were adopted that will help towards ensuring a barrier-free Canada as is envisioned in this bill.

I had the opportunity to meet with the Canadian Association of the Deaf and President Frank Folino, who was also a witness during committee hearings on this bill, as well as Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. They expressed their firm support of passage of Bill C-81 as a very important step, but they were also hopeful that there will be continued vigilance and effort towards proper implementation and, of course, that same intention beyond implementation. In some ways we have achieved this important milestone, but our work will begin to ensure that implementation and the work beyond implementation will be successful.

I recognize these men and others who have been the real heroes and champions who inspired this important legislation and once again thank our colleagues Senator Munson, Senator Ngo and members of the Social Affairs Committee for your leadership helping this chamber arrive at this significant moment in our legislative history.

Your Honour and honourable senators, I am definitely ready for the question.

Hon. Tony Dean: Thank you Senator Martin and others who have spoken. Thank you, Senator Munson, for your very fine sponsorship of this legislation.

I have some brief introductory remarks and then I want to speak specifically about the inclusion of communication in this bill as a category of challenge in the spectrum of disabilities.

I rise to add my voice to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. We all know now that the stated policy objective of this important and historic piece of legislation is to enhance the full and equal participation of all individuals, with a special emphasis for those living with disabilities. The bill is designed to achieve a barrier-free Canada through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Many groups, including various disability advocacy groups, support Bill C-81 and are urging us to pass this bill before our summer break. Senate leaders met on April 4 to sign an agreement to ensure several pieces of legislation are voted on prior to the break and the next federal election. This bill is one of them.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, the Leader of the independent Senate Liberals, the Government Representative in the Senate and the Senate Conservative Leader on this important modernizing step. You will know, I think, that I and others here believe that we could benefit greatly from more organized and effective business planning of this sort. Moreover, that’s what Canadians expect of us, and they expect and deserve timely votes on all bills, but particularly on bills that are inclusive of all members of our society and that aim to protect some of our most vulnerable people, bills like Bill C-81.

An act to ensure a barrier-free Canada is a direct response to a 2016 federal budget announcement that made a commitment to “eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities.”

Among other things, the bill aims to guide future interpretations of the accessible Canada act by setting out important principles and including a provision that states that all persons, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, must be treated with dignity, enjoy equality of opportunity, be able to fully and equally participate in society without barriers and have autonomy.

It also establishes the application of the accessible Canada act bringing greater clarification to which bodies and entities are bound by accessibility legislation and allows the Governor-in-Council to designate a minister to be responsible for this act.

Another important piece of this legislation is the proposed establishment of the Canadian accessible standards development office, CASDO, which Senator Munson has spoken about eloquently.

I emphasize that the CASDO would be overseen by a board of directors whose majority identify as persons with disabilities. The board would be responsible for setting the organization’s strategic direction and managing the activities and affairs in accordance with its mandate.

The inclusion of people with disabilities on the board would ensure fair representation for the many Canadians who don’t currently have a voice in accessibility standards.

Honourable senators, while no single area of accessibility is more important than any other, I would like to now focus some remarks on the issue of communication.

I am delighted that communication is recognized in key definitions in this bill, including in the definitions of barrier and disability. This legislation says that “barrier” means anything including physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a policy or practice that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation.

(1940)

It also defines “disability” as a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation, whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature that an interaction with a barrier hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

This recognition of communication is critically important, as communication includes the half million Canadians who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused by significant hearing loss and who do not require or use sign language. They may have lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, learning or cognitive disabilities. Other people may have acquired disabilities that affect communication, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, ALS, multiple sclerosis and much more.

Having a communication disability can affect one or more areas of a person’s ability to speak, to understand what others are saying, read or write. People with theses disabilities may communicate using unclear speech, writing, typing, pictures, symbols, speech-generating devices, sign language interpreting, captioning and communication assistive devices.

Recognizing the broad scope of communication is also consistent with the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, of which Canada is a signatory. This is obviously important for many reasons, but I’d like to highlight a tangible example for honourable senators to consider.

Similar to the need for sign language services for people who are deaf or translation services for people who don’t speak English or French, victims, witnesses and accused persons with speech and language disabilities may require appropriate communication supports in police, legal and justice services. Despite the fact that people with speech and language disabilities are at high risk for all types of abuses and crimes — and remember, for violators, the best victims are often the ones who are perceived not to be able to tell. Communication support services in police, legal and justice services are not routinely provided as an accessibility accommodation.

Communications intermediaries are qualified speech-language pathologists who have extra training from Communication Disabilities Access Canada, CDAC, to work in justice settings. CDAC maintains a database of trained intermediaries with limited funding from a small private foundation. These services are provided to people who require assistance, understanding questions posed to them or supporting them communicating what they want to say to police, legal and justice professionals.

In a case in Canada I recently learned about, an elderly woman indicated to her son, a police officer, that she had been sexually assaulted by a personal support worker in a retirement or long-term care facility. The woman had a stroke two years before the incident, which left her with aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage to the language centres of the brain. She had difficulty understanding spoken language and expressing her thoughts in words, as well as difficulties in reading and writing. She communicated what happened using gestures, some speech and pointing to pictures.

The Crown attorney recognized that she would require assistance to communicate in court and engaged a communication intermediary who conducted an assessment. The intermediary concluded that the woman could effectively communicate in court if provided with appropriate communication intermediary support to ensure that she rephrase questions posed to her in ways she could understand and to facilitate her responses using pictures. The judge denied the woman access to the communication supports that she required to testify.

This case illustrates the lack of understanding about accessibility accommodations required by a victim, witnesses or an accused person who has speech and language disability.

Having strong accessibility legislation in place makes it mandatory for all justice services to provide people with the communication accommodations and supports they need, including communication boards, speech-generating devices, sign language interpretation, captioning and communications assistance devices, and is an important move in ensuring that the policy objectives of this bill are realized. Access to appropriate supports for people living with disabilities that affect communications would go beyond our justice system and would also include access to health services, education and more.

Honourable senators, I want to share with you one other brief story, the story of a friend of mine of 30 years who in the past several months came to know all too well the challenges associated with difficulty in communications. Kim Clarke Champniss, as some of you will recall from his work in the heyday of MuchMusic as a veejay, TV producer and a challenging interviewer of the world’s top rock and roll artists, lost his voice permanently in the past months due to radical throat surgery that was used to address throat cancer.

I’ve watched Kim over the last weeks and months heroically take on this challenge, including the challenge of access to supports and technologies that would assist in his ability to continue engaging in the world with his upbeat energy and curiosity about the human condition. Kim will get through this. He would say, “I’m all right, Tone. I’m all right.” But Kim would also wish for better services for those who were alongside him and those who will undoubtedly follow him with communications challenges.

I would urge the government to ensure someone with a disability that affects their speech, language and communication be considered as a member of the board of the proposed Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, CASDO, which was mentioned earlier. Their contributions would greatly benefit the 500,000 people living with speech and language difficulties and ensure that no one is left behind.

I would also like to recognize that standards and regulations under Bill C-81 will need to be updated every five years, which allows for changes in innovation. They will also require public review before they are adopted.

I close by saying, senators, that Bill C-81 needs to pass now. We have an obligation as parliamentarians and senators to protect the needs of all Canadians, especially those who are among the most vulnerable in our society. I strongly believe that acknowledging this community is an essential part of meeting the objectives of this bill, which will ultimately aim to remove and prevent barriers for all people in this country.

I end by thanking Barbara Collier, who has been a tireless advocate for a communications amendment passed in the House of Commons. With these final words, I would ask my honourable colleagues to join me in voting in favour of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Thank you, all.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed.)



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Canada’s Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill


But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?

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 14, 2019

SUMMARY

Last evening the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading, complete with all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs added to the bill on May 2, 2019. This is an important step forward for this bill, and a helpful step for people with disabilities in Canada. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of the Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 that took place in the Senate last evening.

The first among the speeches on the bill was by Senator Jim Munson. Senator Munson is the Federal Government’s sponsor of the bill in the Senate. It is likely that some or all of his speech was written by the Federal Government.

Bill C-81 is not yet an enforceable law. It is still just a bill, a proposed law.

For Bill C-81 to become a law, it must go back to the House of Commons. The House must vote on the amendments that the Senate has added to the bill. If the House of Commons passes all those amendments, Bill C-81 becomes a law. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of those amendments, it remains a bill, a proposed law. The Senate would then have to vote again on the bill, but without the Senate’s amendments.

Thus, all attention must now focus on the House of Commons, and especially on the Trudeau Government which has a majority of seats in the House. The Federal Government has not yet said it will vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

As we announced days ago, we and many other people with disabilities and disability organizations are campaigning to get the House of Commons to pass ALL the amendments to the bill that the Senate has just passed. We are focusing special attention on the Senate’s commendable amendments that would set the time line of 2040 for Canada to reach full accessibility to people with disabilities, while making it clear that this may not delay progress before then on accessibility.

For tips on how to help with this time-sensitive blitz, 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/

Please email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments 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/ To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

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/

Our overall strategy regarding Bill C-81 is unfolding as we planned. The Senate’s amendments, for which we and others fought so hard, help improve this bill. The bill clearly needed improvements. Now the issue will come before the House of Commons just months before an impending federal election.

From a disability advocacy perspective, this timing is very helpful to our cause. What elected politician or party would want to vote against measures to strengthen the protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What elected politician or party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 from becoming a law?

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Senate of Canada Hansard May 13, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/287db_2019-05-13-e

Accessible Canada Bill

Third Reading

Hon. Jim Munson moved third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, as amended.

He said: Honourable senators, what a journey we have been on. What a journey all of us have been on.

Senators, as the sponsor of this bill, I’m pleased to speak tonight at the third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, also known as the Accessible Canada Act. I am humbled and honoured to speak to a bill that will no doubt become a proud part of Canadian history.

Making history takes dedication, hard work and perseverance. So I want to acknowledge the work of many people who helped get this bill to this stage.

I want to thank the chair and deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Senators Petitclerc and Seidman, and all members who attended the committee meetings. Questions were engaging and led to an enlightening input from witnesses and to constructive amendments. This committee works so well together; I am honoured to be a member.

Thank you also to our clerk and administrator, Dan Charbonneau and Ericka Dupont, for arranging sign language, ASL, and CART services, Communication Access Real-time Translation, and the special room set-up, which helped to make the Senate committee meetings the most accessible to date. The Senate should be proud in this regard. We have shown leadership by example.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Carla Qualtrough. She and her team have shown great leadership on accessibility, and I can confidently say that Bill C-81 enjoys widespread support due to their efforts.

Most importantly, I want to recognize persons with disabilities, stakeholders, and organizations who all play a crucial role in accessibility in Canada. They have all invested tremendous work and energy into this historic bill, ensuring that it reflects the priorities of persons with disabilities. Their contributions have been instrumental in getting the bill in its amended form to this stage. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and stories with us. I know it takes courage. We could not have done any of this without your involvement and expertise. Some of those folks are here in the Senate tonight.

Senators Petitclerc and Seidman gave excellent speeches at the report stage of the bill last week, summarizing the amendments that were adopted at committee. I will not go over the amendments and details again. However, I do want to highlight some important testimony.

Over the course of our committee hearings we heard repeatedly that the time for an accessible Canada act is now. Canadians facing barriers to fully participating in their workplaces and society told us and are still telling us to pass this bill into law. Here is what Bill Adair from Spinal Cord Injury Canada and with the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, or FALA, told us at committee:

What people are telling us across the country who are participating with FALA is: We want the bill. Give us something to work with. Yes, push for the changes, but at the end of the day, before the election, we want the bill. That gives us structure and the framework so that we can get to work on removing barriers and we want it now. We’ve been waiting far too long and this is our day.

Senators, everyone is eager to see this bill become law. We must continue our essential work in order to take it over the finish line. This community has waited long enough for this recognition and respect.

Another significant and positive change is that Bill C-81 will shift the responsibility on to the system and away from the individuals facing barriers in their daily lives. Diane Bergeron from CNIB said during her testimony:

Having a disability is exhausting, and I do not say that lightly. But when you have to deal with discrimination, rights violations, different pieces of legislation, criticisms, people not thinking that you have value, it makes it worse. The current system is unfair and unacceptable.

Colleagues, we know the history. It is one of institutionalization, sterilization and social isolation. Canada had a system that took children away from their families and power away from our citizens. Persons with disabilities were seen as burdens and treated as if they were broken. Our country simply cannot continue to place the burden of advancing human rights on individuals. We can do better, and we must do better. In fact, with this bill we will do better.

In addition to this necessary shift in responsibility, the accessible Canada act, when passed, will set best practices and a framework that the provinces and the private sector can mirror. Most importantly, this bill will start to shift culture, perception and understanding of what inclusion in our society should really look like. I cannot come up with a better analogy that encompasses my hope for what this legislation will achieve than that of Minister Qualtrough. You have to be a sports fan to get this. I couldn’t agree more when she said at committee:

I think we will look back on this as a “TSN Turning Point” on disability rights and the way we talk about disability in this country.

The words of the minister.

Honourable senators, in 2017, approximately 6.2 million people, or about 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability. This percentage is expected to increase in the coming years due to Canada’s aging population, since the prevalence of disability increases with age. This is why the government consulted with over 6,000 individuals from across the country with lived experience over the course of this bill’s development. They have continued to be consulted and included as witnesses and experts at committee so that we can use their knowledge and their experiences to help drive the change needed for a better tomorrow.

One of those witnesses was Steven Estey from Nova Scotia, from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. This organization helped facilitate some of these consultations. Mr. Estey gave us a good summary of what that meant. He said:

. . . to talk to Canadians with disabilities about what they wanted in this legislation. We had a chance to talk to over a thousand people across the country. We had 22 separate consultations in towns and cities across the country. We had telephone consultations. We had Internet consultations. We really spent a lot of time trying to figure out what people wanted to see in this legislation. It’s an important thing for us to be involved with. We have really appreciated the opportunity and the support that we have had to be able to do that.

This is what inclusion looks like, honourable senators. Consultation, collaboration, cooperation and real input from real life experience. I know that the finer points of the bill have been outlined to you many times, including by myself, but I do want to talk again about the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. The landmark importance of the CASDO board membership aligning with the community’s mantra of “nothing about us without us.” Think about it. Because it’s the board membership who will be responsible, with their own lived experience, in making standards.

I’ve always said this, that you need to be in the room when it comes to communications. It is just as important in policy making; you need to be in the room to make a difference and to influence change. In this case, CASDO will set regulations that will lead to better results for people in this country. I hope it reoccurs in other areas of policy development. Applying a disability lens is crucial in moving forward.

Barbara Collier, Executive Director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada explained in her testimony at committee what that organization represents. Her list included people with or affected by cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down’s syndrome, learning disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, cognitive and intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, head and neck cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

(1910)

Senators, these are common conditions. It made me realize again that we will all face barriers to fully participating in society at some point in our lives. This is legislation that will affect us all in a positive way.

We learned at committee that many wheels are already in motion in anticipation of the bill coming into force. Job postings are already online for the chief accessibility officer and the CEO and board of the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, or CASDO. In fact, CASDO is expected to open its doors this summer. We know that the organizations responsible for accessibility have taken advanced steps towards planning regulations. In fact, the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA, has already released the first draft of its accessibility regulations.

Committee members gave the bill and its adopted amendments a deserved thorough study and consideration despite time constraints. I know that many of these amendments came right from the community, witnesses and organizations; I think we should pass the bill with these changes and let the other place do its job and reflect on our amendments. This is the process of our democracy and of our Parliament. We all need to move swiftly.

I will say it again: An accessible Canada act is a long-overdue recognition for human rights equality for 6.2 million or one in five Canadians. The 2017 disability survey also indicated that of the approximately 1.5 million Canadians with a disability aged 15 to 64 who are unemployed, approximately 654,000 are potential candidates for work in an inclusive, discrimination-free and accommodating labour market.

Yes, senators, there is a business case for inclusion. There is a huge untapped talent pool that could help improve Canada’s shrinking labour market.

As I mentioned, the spirit of collaboration on this bill has been and continues to be exceptional. I’m always an optimist, so over the course of study and consultations it became obvious that the removal of barriers is universal in scope and understanding. Together, our society is ready to take this step, the first of many towards a fair and equal-opportunity society. The momentum is with us.

Colleagues, I am proud of Bill C-81. I am proud of the amendments made at committee. We need to send the amended bill to the other place this week so that we can receive it back in time to do what Canadians have been asking us to do through testimony, letters, emails and phone calls: Give Canada a framework toward being barrier-free and accessible for all.

This is the time, colleagues. This is their time. It’s our opportunity to help make this happen and to be on the right side of history.

I will close tonight with some words from the great Jean Vanier, the master of inclusion. As you know, he passed away last week at the age of 90. At a 1998 Massey Lecture entitled Becoming Human, he said:

As we become more conscious of the uniqueness of others, we become aware of our common humanity. We are all fundamentally the same, no matter what our age, gender, race, culture, religion, limits or handicaps may be.

Honourable senators, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we are on a shared journey. What we have discovered on this journey is a new path of inclusion, a path where, as they say in the disability community:

Nothing About Us Without Us.

I recognize we haven’t satisfied everyone. That’s the way it is when you’re building something we have never had before: a Canada without barriers.

But we have done our job. We have discovered more about each other. We have captured the meaning of empathy. We have amended the bill. We recognize there will always be next steps. This is a step toward a more inclusive society.

Thank you very much.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Honourable senators, I rise today at third reading stage of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

For one last time, I want to express my full support for the bill and commend the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on its excellent work. I also want to acknowledge the work of the chair of the committee, Senator Petitclerc, as well as that of the deputy chair, Senator Seidman, on a decisive and historic bill for Canada.

I won’t get into the details of the thorough review undertaken by the committee, since Senators Petitclerc and Seidman already did so quite eloquently. However, I’d like to draw your attention to the remarkable work that the committee has done since March 21, 2019.

The committee studied the bill in depth over the course of four meetings, with the intention of widening its scope. After hearing testimony from 20 interest groups four organizations, the committee did indeed make changes that are favourable to the primary goal of the bill.

Although I’m not a member of that committee, it is clear that those long, well-informed deliberations led to the adoption of 11 amendments. Through those deliberations, the vast and unique needs of many groups of disabled persons were identified by the committee, which led to specific amendments that improve Bill C-81 without jeopardizing its long-awaited passing.

To sum up, the changes to the bill remain faithful to its principles while doing more to recognize, eliminate and prevent barriers in all areas of federal jurisdiction. This new version of the bill also takes into account the fact that seniors living with disabilities also experience multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination.

Another amendment recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada and an integral part of their accessibility. After all, the recognition of sign languages constitutes an essential part of their culture and a valuable tool that enables them to participate in society.

[English]

Honourable senators, these are some examples of the positive changes that were made to the bill in consultation with experts and in collaboration with the extensive work that was previously accomplished in the other place.

I feel this bill should also act as a signal and reminder to the government regarding the recent news of 34 developmentally disabled federal workers who hold segregated and redundant jobs in Ottawa. Their contract is set to end in March 2020. I hope that, once enacted, this law will eventually represent further actions for every Canadian with a disability in order to help them become full, equal members of society.

After all, a barrier-free Canada requires us to understand the norms, societal attitudes and stigma that prevents people with intellectual, cognitive and physical disabilities from fully participating in society.

I truly believe this bill, once enacted, will be a tool for many organizations that are ready and have been patiently preparing for the implementation in order to respond to these emergent challenges and obstacles.

Honourable senators, this historic law is a testament of the great work that was accomplished in the hallmarks of this great chamber in defence of the rights of minorities.

It marks a new beginning. We will transform and address accessibility by becoming proactive instead of reactive for Canadians who do not want to be treated as a burden but as full and equal members of society as we continue to grow and learn how to become more inclusive. Thank you.

(1920)

Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. I have listened with great interest to my colleagues, as well as to the many witnesses we had at the Social Affairs Committee. I speak today to share with you my perspective, my story, based on a lifetime of learning and action in this very important area.

When I arrived in Senate 15 months ago, there was much to learn; there is still much to learn. For instance, when I arrived here, I had incorrectly assumed that accessibility had already been addressed as a national issue with a fulsome national strategy. Why? Because my own formal leadership on accessibility began in Ontario, 14 years ago. I thought silly me that the same regulations were being mandated nationally, given how much time had elapsed since this successful law in Ontario was implemented and began its implementation in 2005.

Honourable senators, 2019 is far too late in the game to be discussing and mandating accessibility for all at the federal level, and it’s why the bill before us is so important.

In my previous life, as an educator, every day I was faced with an issue by a student, their family, a teacher or a community member who challenged fair, equitable and inclusive access. One case and sometimes it just takes one in particular crystallized for me what would be become a lifetime commitment to universal accessibility.

Imagine now a single mother with six children, all under the age of 10. Three of them carry the positive gene for Duchenne’s disease, a severe type of muscular dystrophy that over time reduces muscular function. It eventually results in the young person being immobilized, weakened and in need of a wheelchair.

The family survives on a low income, and, frankly, the school and the community are their lifeline. As principal of the school, on a one-floor facility, my staff and I gave the family everything we had, from meals to fundraisers, to transportation, to tutoring, and finally to the purchase of a well-used wheelchair for her oldest son, Ricky.

This school goes up to Grade 6, and now it becomes time for Ricky to graduate from junior school and move on to middle school. We meet with a team of educators and medical support people to determine the best plan for Ricky. As a former secondary school administrator, new to elementary administration, I learn that due to Ricky’s physical needs he will not be able to attend the middle school just down the road. There are just too many accessibility issues. Eventually, I learn that he will have to take a 50-minute bus ride to the nearest school that will provide some sort of wheelchair access.

How do I tell his mother, with so much on her plate already, that her son will now spend over 100 minutes a day with strangers, with different untrained bus drivers, travelling on several highways, with no significant network of support, and that in two years, if Ricky is able to keep on attending school, his ride to high school will be even more challenging and disconnected with yet another group of young people, all at the same time his condition worsens and that in two years she will have to go through this all over again with her next child?

As it turned out, it was a hard lesson I needed to learn. This was in 2005, the same year that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act became law. As you know, the act was aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. It applied then to government, non-profit and private sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees.

My own school board needed an established leader to commit to this AODA work for at least three years. Somewhat fortuitously, I was invited to take on this role. It was going to be tough work, very political, but an opportunity to bring many internal and external stakeholders together to do the right thing. Most of the table I worked with was represented by those representing diverse accessibility needs in our community. My job would be to ensure that all aspects of the act were being addressed, that all staff and volunteers were trained, that we had an accessibility policy and procedures, and that we had a multi-year accessibility plan with annual public updates, timelines and monitoring in place. I continued this leadership for 10 years. The work was ongoing and a challenge politically, financially and ensuring equity while the voices of all were heard.

Senator Moncion highlighted her work related to the AODA at second reading. I will not repeat her message. However, I will indicate how the “visible” and “invisible” needs of those with a disability are far-reaching and diverse. We started with the built environment and spaces in 130 buildings and new builds. I learned more about architecture, facility design, ramps, lifts, nine styles of elevators, more than I dreamed possible. One basic washroom to upgrade for one child was $35,000; one elevator was half a million dollars. How do you prioritize? Every student matters.

These are the more visible physical needs we are familiar with. It’s the invisible needs that are often overlooked; that is, making sure every individual just as we do in the Senate feels they are part of their community.

As a result of deep consultation, we were determined that every decision had to result in our students being able to attend a school within their family of schools, which is a geographically smaller region. This would not be the closest to their home, perhaps, but still in their community full stop. We had to find the way and we did. Every decision was and continues to be backward mapped with this in mind; that is, to find a way to keep our students and families in their community.

Honourable senators, imagine your son or daughter being told they could go on a bus for a class trip with their classmates on a bus all by themselves not with their friends, not with their peers.

One of my proudest moments was meeting with 200 bus drivers, getting some buses retrofitted, modified and ensuring more of our students could travel and experience being with their classmates. The visible need was physically getting the student to their destination by ensuring the best barrier-free environment. The invisible need was ensuring the student would not be stigmatized on a separate bus and they could contribute and participate in this class trip to the same extent as their peers something they deserve.

This is why this legislation is so important. It will aim to make federally regulated entities so much more accessible. However, it will also unlock the potential of a huge group of Canadians who have been held back in one way or another. It will allow them to participate and contribute to their community in ways that, quite frankly, they should have been able to do long ago. With this legislation, Canada could become a world leader in accessibly. This leadership is sorely needed.

In my role as an international coach and sports leader travelling internationally, I saw first-hand and continue to see first-hand the great disparity in the respect and understanding of what it means to try to embrace and provide support for those with a disability. I observed countries that “hid” those with disabilities, countries whose representatives said to my face, “We have no citizens with disabilities.” I watched first-hand a political leader of a G7 country, while on Canadian soil, say, “There is no place for athletes with a disability in a major sporting event.”

Thankfully, this culture is changing. I’m excited to say, after 12 years of advocacy, my sport will have its debut at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. To get to this point, again, we had to educate the countries that did not support their para-athletes and para-children, and did not demonstrate their beliefs in accessibility or inclusion. This has taken over a decade.

This past weekend, at Carleton University in Ottawa, I was able to speak with families and para-athletes from many countries about what sport means to them, what it means to be barrier-free and the work that must still continue around the world. The passage of Bill C-81 for Canada will set the kind of example needed to keep this momentum going.

Senators, I want to shift my thinking before I wrap up. I want to thank the steering committee of the Social Affairs Committee Senator Munson, Senator Seidman and our chair, Senator Petitclerc, for guiding us through such a comprehensive and in-depth process. You have heard that said earlier this evening. It is so very true. It was a collective effort by all groups and caucuses represented at committee, and that showed in fulsome but respectful discussions that played out at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which led to some good amendments in the legislation.

To the large but important number of Canadians who will be directly affected by this legislation, I can say to you with confidence that every member of the Social Affairs Committee has listened to your concerns. I want to thank the many individuals who gave us such compelling evidence at committee, as well as the hundreds who took the time to write and meet with us. Colleagues, many of these stakeholders have been advocating for years. They are very tired, exhausted but hopeful for the immediate passage of this bill.

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While no piece of legislation is perfect, I am confident that the bill before us gives us a solid foundation and permission to rebuild our culture in the years to come. A senator last week reminded me that there is progress and there is perfection. This bill is no different. Bill C-81, the time for all is now. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today also to speak very briefly at third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Bill C-81 enacts the accessible Canada act in order to enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons living with disability, in our society. This bill will require federally regulated entities across the country to ensure accessibility to workplaces, public spaces, employment, programs, services and information.

Bill C-81, as others have stated, is an important step in the right direction to address the barriers that many Canadians face. The message that we have heard from advocates has been the same: Bill C-81 is a good bill and deserves to be enacted into law but no one can be certain of the full effect that this bill will eventually have. This will require further knowledge and learning from a practical perspective and a commitment to work in consultation with stakeholders across Canada.

I want to associate myself with some of the very important comments that have been made in this chamber and especially recognize our colleague Senator Munson, who has dedicated so much of his life to really be quite a voice and a champion for Canadians with disabilities and, of course, on issues like autism. He has been a cosponsor on a number of events, and we have done some meaningful work together. I know that one of the motions that we cosponsored that recognized June as Deafblind Awareness Month recognizes this important subgroup of Canadians who are living with some incredible challenges.

This motion was adopted unanimously in 2015, and it was sort of thanks to our retired former colleague Senator Vim Kochhar who many of us know to be a real champion and a strong voice for Canadians living with physical disabilities as well as other disabilities. Through his outstanding effort and inspiration, we have worked together to achieve certain outcomes through the Senate. Senator Kochhar also cofounded the Canadian Helen Keller Centre and Rotary Cheshire Home, which is said to be one of the only facilities in the world where those who live with deaf-blindness can live independently.

Some of the intervenors who have come to the Hill have spoken about their work to help Canadians living with deaf-blindness communicate. Their work is truly astonishing. It’s a real calling for them to serve in this capacity. They work in a unique space where they allow those who cannot communicate otherwise to communicate with the outside world.

I also know that the work of our former colleague Senator Asha Seth also led to a motion to designate May as National Vision Health Month. That, too, was unanimously adopted in the Senate.

I stand together with many of you who have spoken on this measure and also recognize the great work of our Social Affairs Committee, the chair, the deputy chair and committee members to ensure that important amendments were adopted that will help towards ensuring a barrier-free Canada as is envisioned in this bill.

I had the opportunity to meet with the Canadian Association of the Deaf and President Frank Folino, who was also a witness during committee hearings on this bill, as well as Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. They expressed their firm support of passage of Bill C-81 as a very important step, but they were also hopeful that there will be continued vigilance and effort towards proper implementation and, of course, that same intention beyond implementation. In some ways we have achieved this important milestone, but our work will begin to ensure that implementation and the work beyond implementation will be successful.

I recognize these men and others who have been the real heroes and champions who inspired this important legislation and once again thank our colleagues Senator Munson, Senator Ngo and members of the Social Affairs Committee for your leadership helping this chamber arrive at this significant moment in our legislative history.

Your Honour and honourable senators, I am definitely ready for the question.

Hon. Tony Dean: Thank you Senator Martin and others who have spoken. Thank you, Senator Munson, for your very fine sponsorship of this legislation.

I have some brief introductory remarks and then I want to speak specifically about the inclusion of communication in this bill as a category of challenge in the spectrum of disabilities.

I rise to add my voice to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. We all know now that the stated policy objective of this important and historic piece of legislation is to enhance the full and equal participation of all individuals, with a special emphasis for those living with disabilities. The bill is designed to achieve a barrier-free Canada through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Many groups, including various disability advocacy groups, support Bill C-81 and are urging us to pass this bill before our summer break. Senate leaders met on April 4 to sign an agreement to ensure several pieces of legislation are voted on prior to the break and the next federal election. This bill is one of them.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, the Leader of the independent Senate Liberals, the Government Representative in the Senate and the Senate Conservative Leader on this important modernizing step. You will know, I think, that I and others here believe that we could benefit greatly from more organized and effective business planning of this sort. Moreover, that’s what Canadians expect of us, and they expect and deserve timely votes on all bills, but particularly on bills that are inclusive of all members of our society and that aim to protect some of our most vulnerable people, bills like Bill C-81.

An act to ensure a barrier-free Canada is a direct response to a 2016 federal budget announcement that made a commitment to “eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities.”

Among other things, the bill aims to guide future interpretations of the accessible Canada act by setting out important principles and including a provision that states that all persons, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, must be treated with dignity, enjoy equality of opportunity, be able to fully and equally participate in society without barriers and have autonomy.

It also establishes the application of the accessible Canada act bringing greater clarification to which bodies and entities are bound by accessibility legislation and allows the Governor-in-Council to designate a minister to be responsible for this act.

Another important piece of this legislation is the proposed establishment of the Canadian accessible standards development office, CASDO, which Senator Munson has spoken about eloquently.

I emphasize that the CASDO would be overseen by a board of directors whose majority identify as persons with disabilities. The board would be responsible for setting the organization’s strategic direction and managing the activities and affairs in accordance with its mandate.

The inclusion of people with disabilities on the board would ensure fair representation for the many Canadians who don’t currently have a voice in accessibility standards.

Honourable senators, while no single area of accessibility is more important than any other, I would like to now focus some remarks on the issue of communication.

I am delighted that communication is recognized in key definitions in this bill, including in the definitions of barrier and disability. This legislation says that “barrier” means anything including physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a policy or practice that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation.

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It also defines “disability” as a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation, whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature that an interaction with a barrier hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

This recognition of communication is critically important, as communication includes the half million Canadians who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused by significant hearing loss and who do not require or use sign language. They may have lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, learning or cognitive disabilities. Other people may have acquired disabilities that affect communication, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, ALS, multiple sclerosis and much more.

Having a communication disability can affect one or more areas of a person’s ability to speak, to understand what others are saying, read or write. People with theses disabilities may communicate using unclear speech, writing, typing, pictures, symbols, speech-generating devices, sign language interpreting, captioning and communication assistive devices.

Recognizing the broad scope of communication is also consistent with the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, of which Canada is a signatory. This is obviously important for many reasons, but I’d like to highlight a tangible example for honourable senators to consider.

Similar to the need for sign language services for people who are deaf or translation services for people who don’t speak English or French, victims, witnesses and accused persons with speech and language disabilities may require appropriate communication supports in police, legal and justice services. Despite the fact that people with speech and language disabilities are at high risk for all types of abuses and crimes and remember, for violators, the best victims are often the ones who are perceived not to be able to tell. Communication support services in police, legal and justice services are not routinely provided as an accessibility accommodation.

Communications intermediaries are qualified speech-language pathologists who have extra training from Communication Disabilities Access Canada, CDAC, to work in justice settings. CDAC maintains a database of trained intermediaries with limited funding from a small private foundation. These services are provided to people who require assistance, understanding questions posed to them or supporting them communicating what they want to say to police, legal and justice professionals.

In a case in Canada I recently learned about, an elderly woman indicated to her son, a police officer, that she had been sexually assaulted by a personal support worker in a retirement or long-term care facility. The woman had a stroke two years before the incident, which left her with aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage to the language centres of the brain. She had difficulty understanding spoken language and expressing her thoughts in words, as well as difficulties in reading and writing. She communicated what happened using gestures, some speech and pointing to pictures.

The Crown attorney recognized that she would require assistance to communicate in court and engaged a communication intermediary who conducted an assessment. The intermediary concluded that the woman could effectively communicate in court if provided with appropriate communication intermediary support to ensure that she rephrase questions posed to her in ways she could understand and to facilitate her responses using pictures. The judge denied the woman access to the communication supports that she required to testify.

This case illustrates the lack of understanding about accessibility accommodations required by a victim, witnesses or an accused person who has speech and language disability.

Having strong accessibility legislation in place makes it mandatory for all justice services to provide people with the communication accommodations and supports they need, including communication boards, speech-generating devices, sign language interpretation, captioning and communications assistance devices, and is an important move in ensuring that the policy objectives of this bill are realized. Access to appropriate supports for people living with disabilities that affect communications would go beyond our justice system and would also include access to health services, education and more.

Honourable senators, I want to share with you one other brief story, the story of a friend of mine of 30 years who in the past several months came to know all too well the challenges associated with difficulty in communications. Kim Clarke Champniss, as some of you will recall from his work in the heyday of MuchMusic as a veejay, TV producer and a challenging interviewer of the world’s top rock and roll artists, lost his voice permanently in the past months due to radical throat surgery that was used to address throat cancer.

I’ve watched Kim over the last weeks and months heroically take on this challenge, including the challenge of access to supports and technologies that would assist in his ability to continue engaging in the world with his upbeat energy and curiosity about the human condition. Kim will get through this. He would say, “I’m all right, Tone. I’m all right.” But Kim would also wish for better services for those who were alongside him and those who will undoubtedly follow him with communications challenges.

I would urge the government to ensure someone with a disability that affects their speech, language and communication be considered as a member of the board of the proposed Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, CASDO, which was mentioned earlier. Their contributions would greatly benefit the 500,000 people living with speech and language difficulties and ensure that no one is left behind.

I would also like to recognize that standards and regulations under Bill C-81 will need to be updated every five years, which allows for changes in innovation. They will also require public review before they are adopted.

I close by saying, senators, that Bill C-81 needs to pass now. We have an obligation as parliamentarians and senators to protect the needs of all Canadians, especially those who are among the most vulnerable in our society. I strongly believe that acknowledging this community is an essential part of meeting the objectives of this bill, which will ultimately aim to remove and prevent barriers for all people in this country.

I end by thanking Barbara Collier, who has been a tireless advocate for a communications amendment passed in the House of Commons. With these final words, I would ask my honourable colleagues to join me in voting in favour of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Thank you, all.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed.)



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Canada’s Senate To Debate 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

February 6, 2019

SUMMARY

Last fall, Canada’s House of Commons passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is now headed for debate in Canada’s Senate. We want to bring you up to date on what’s going on, and what to expect in the weeks ahead.

We and many in the disability community were very excited when the Federal Government commendably committed to bring forward national accessibility legislation, and have worked extensively with the Federal Government in an effort to ensure that it is a good law.

However, we are now disappointed that Bill C-81, while well-intentioned, is so weak. It says that it aims to achieve an accessible and barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities. Yet as now written, this bill does not require that a single disability barrier ever be removed or prevented. Good intentions don’t transform a weak law into a strong and effective law.

What does the AODA Alliance plan to do about this? This Update tells you about our strategy and offers you tips on how you can help. Further Updates over the next weeks will fill in more details as events unfold. We’ve been hard at work with a number of organizations in the disability community across Canada, to share our experience and to work towards a coordinated strategy.

In this Update we let you know:

* Why we need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81.

* What our strategy is at the Senate, and how a bill proceeds at this stage.

* What improvements to Bill C-81 we are seeking.

* Why it would be strategically wrong and would hurt our cause to just settle for Bill C-81 as it now is written, without acting to get the bill improved.

* How we are continuing to work with the Federal Government to try to get Bill C-81 strengthened.

* What you can do to help.

As a good illustration of grassroots feelings about this bill that we have heard time and again, we set out the December 19, 2018 article by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press that ran in the National Post about Bill C-81.

To learn more about the background and history of efforts in this area, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

As always, send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Why Do We Need the Senate to Strengthen Bill C-81?

Bill C-81 that the House of Commons passed last fall and sent to Canada’s Senate is full of good intentions, but is very weak. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. It’s great that the bill says it aims to achieve an accessible and barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities. However the bill does not require any disability barriers to ever be removed. It doesn’t ensure that any new barriers will be prevented.

2. It is good that this bill lets the Federal Government pass new enforceable accessibility standards as regulations. These regulations can spell out specific measures that must be taken by organizations that the Federal Government can regulate (like ViaRail, Air Canada or Bell Canada). However, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever enact any accessibility standards as regulations. If any are passed, the bill doesn’t require these regulations to be strong.

3. Do you think the Federal Government should allow public money to be used to create new disability barriers? Nothing in the bill ensures that this won’t happen. For example, nothing in the bill ensures that the Federal Government won’t give public money to a hospital, university or public transit system to build new buildings that are replete with disability barriers.

4. Under this bill, the Government can give itself or other organizations sweeping exemptions from having to obey key parts of the bill.

Last fall, an October 30, 2018 open letter was sent to the Federal Government, calling for 9 amendments to be made to Bill C-81. Fully 95 disability organizations, including the AODA Alliance, have now co-signed that letter so far. The improvements to Bill C-81 that the open letter seeks were supported by many of the disability organizations that made presentations to the House of Commons’ public hearings on Bill C-81 last fall. The reforms to the bill which the open letter requested were not made in the House of Commons.

What Is Our Strategy At the Senate?

We will call on the Senate to make the 9 amendments to Bill C-81 that the open letter requested. As a non-partisan coalition, we are ready to work with all political parties. We will coordinate our efforts with others in the disability community.

To become a law, a bill must be passed in the same wording by both houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate. For more details on this, check out the AODA Alliance’s introductory guide on how a law gets passed by Canada’s Parliament.

After the House of Commons passes a bill like Bill C-81, it then goes to the Senate. The Senate can approve the bill “as is”, or reject the bill, or amend the bill. The Senate can pass amendments to the bill if it wishes. If it does, then the bill goes back to the House of Commons. It won’t become a law unless the House of Commons approves the Senate’s amendments. If the House of Commons rejects the Senate’s amendments, the bill goes back once again to the Senate. In that case, we understand that the Senate would pass the bill as is, in the terms that the House of Commons passed it.

The Senate will begin debating Bill C-81 on or after February 19, 2019. We understand that the Senate will hold public hearings on the bill, likely in March or April.

We will ask to make a presentation to the Senate hearings, in order to call for amendments that the open letter seeks. Back on October 25, 2018, we made a presentation at the House of Commons public hearings, requesting improvements to the bill along similar lines (though the open letter wasn’t yet written)

A number of other disability organizations also plan to ask to appear before the Senate’s Bill C-81 public hearings, to ask for amendments, including those the open letter identifies. The more individuals and disability organizations that support this effort, the better is our chance of getting the bill strengthened. We have been working hard with other disability organizations to jointly coordinate our collective efforts. An organization that sits this one out would miss this important opportunity to help improve this bill.

What happens next if the Senate makes amendments to Bill C-81? Bill C-81 then goes back to the House of Commons. The House of Commons then has a chance to approve those amendments. We know that most if not all of the opposition parties should support at least some if not all amendments we seek. This is because the federal Conservatives, NDP and Greens all supported some or all of them in the House of Commons last fall. All pressed the Justin Trudeau Government to strengthen Bill C-81.

If the Senate makes the amendments we seek, and sends the bill back to the House of Commons, will the Justin Trudeau Liberals support those amendments when they come back to the House of Commons? Up to now, the federal Liberals didn’t support them. However, if an amended bill returns to the House of Commons later this spring, with a federal election just months away, we and others will try to get the Liberals to support these amendments. The Liberals will not want to go into the fall federal election as the only federal party that refused to strengthen Bill C-81.

No matter what we do, the Senate may not finish with Bill C-81 before Parliament breaks for the fall federal election. Even if the Senate finishes with Bill C-81, it is possible that before Parliament rises for the fall election, the House of Commons might not finish considering any amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate made.

We have a plan of action in case any of this happens. Our plan is to head into the fall federal election with a non-partisan campaign, building on the disability community’s efforts during the 2015 federal election. We’d ask each federal party to make an election pledge that they would bring back a bill before Parliament after the election — one that includes the ingredients in Bill C-81 and the amendments that the open letter seeks. This is because of the fact that if a bill does not get passed before an election, it must be re-introduced into Parliament after the election, if it is to be considered.

There’s good reason to expect that all parties would be willing to commit in the fall election to bring back Bill C-81 before Parliament after the election, if it has not passed by then. Bill C-81 passed unanimously in the House of Commons just over eight weeks ago. Each national party spoke about the need for national accessibility legislation.

What Core Improvements Are We Asking the Senate to Make to Bill C-81?

Bill C-81 must be strong enough to stand the test of time and effectively serve people with disabilities for many years, as ministers get shuffled into different posts, and as governments change. It is good that the Federal Government made some amendments to the bill last fall when it was before the House of Commons. However, these didn’t eliminate several serious problems with the bill that make it weak.

When we ask the Senate to make all the improvements to Bill C-81 that the Open Letter requests, we will summarize some key points as follows:

1. It is good that Bill C-81 gives the Federal Government and certain federal agencies powers to take action, make regulations and impose orders to advance the cause of accessibility in Canada. However, with few and limited exceptions, the bill does not impose duties on the Federal Government or those federal agencies to take the needed action, nor does it impose timelines for their having to do so. Therefore, the bill may not result in any accessibility improvements at all, or may only bring about change at a painfully slow pace. It will be hard to hold anyone accountable.

Bill C-81 needs to be amended to set a deadline by when Canada must become accessible to people with disabilities. It needs to impose duties on federal implementation agencies to deploy the key powers Bill C-81 gives them, and to set timelines for the deployment of those powers.

2. Bill C-81 now splinters the power to make regulations, including mandatory accessibility standards regulations, and the power to enforce this law among up to four federal agencies. This risks confusion, unnecessary complexity, and excessive cost. It will slow and weaken the bill’s implementation and enforcement. We need Bill C-81 amended so that there is “one-stop-shopping.” This splintering should be removed from the bill. People with disabilities should be able to go to one federal agency, the new Accessibility Commissioner, for all enforcement of the bill. All regulations to be made under the bill, including enforceable accessibility standards, should be made by the federal Cabinet.

3. Bill C-81 now allows federal public money to continue to be used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. Bill C-81 needs to be amended to ensure that when the Federal Government spends public money, it can never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the bill should require federal accessibility strings to be attached when the Federal Government spends or transfers public money for infrastructure projects, when it procures (purchases or rents) goods or services, or when it grants or lends public money to other public or private organizations e.g. for business development projects.

Why Not Just Settle for Bill C-81 As It Is?

Why shouldn’t we just accept Bill C-81 as it is? No law is perfect. Why shouldn’t we just get it enacted and then try to work with it? Isn’t it better than nothing? Are we risking losing everything by trying to get this bill improved? Isn’t it hopeless to try to get the Federal Government to agree to improve this bill now?

That is not our strategy, for very good, time-tested reasons that are based on many years of experience in the trenches, advocating for laws in this area. We have learned that the best way to ensure that we don’t make any further progress is to give up trying. Until a bill gets the last vote it needs to become a law, there is always an opportunity to get it improved. Our tenacity is our strength.

We have been told time and again that this or that goal is impossible, or is hopelessly uphill. That has never stopped us. Our track record of winning new laws , and of winning improvements to existing laws and policies, has proven our approach to be correct.

We have extensive real-world experience working with weak legislation that does not require any disability barriers to be removed and that does not require any enforceable accessibility standards to be enacted. We have lots of experience with Governments that make encouraging and ambitious promises about what that law will achieve. We have seen how such laws remain weak after they are enacted. If a Government won’t offer stronger concrete provisions before a law is enacted, it is typically unwilling to do any more than that after the law is enacted.

We have little if anything meaningful to lose by our strategy, and everything to gain. Bill C-81 is so weak, that any improvement to it can only help. The best time to press for improvements like this is when a federal election is only months away. That is when politicians feel most compelled to listen.

Some others may choose to sit this round out. That of course, is their right. It is, however, important not to take action that would undermine the efforts by so many of us to now try to get this bill strengthened before it is passed. To simply accept and applaud this bill as it is would impede the efforts of so many who are working to strengthen it.

Are We Working with the Federal Government On Bill C-81?

When it comes to issues like Bill C-81, we don’t just criticize or go to the media. In our usual non-partisan spirit, we also work hard on coming up with constructive solutions. We have worked extensively with the Federal Government and the opposition parties on the proposed Accessible Canada Act. This has included:

* working to secure election commitments in 2015 from the federal parties.

* After the 2015 federal election, advising the Federal Government on how to conduct an inclusive and accessible public consultation on the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

* Well before Bill C-81 was introduced in Parliament, providing an extensive presentation to senior Government officials on what is needed in the Accessible Canada Act.

* In 2016, circulating a detailed (over 30 pages) Discussion Paper on what the promised Accessible Canada Act should include, after getting feedback on it from the grassroots.

* Giving senior federal officials numerous briefings on what is needed in the Accessible Canada Act, and once Bill C-81 was introduced, briefings on our concerns with the bill.

* Providing direct briefings to the successive federal ministers that have been responsible for the Accessible Canada Act over the past four years, and for their policy staff assigned to this issue.

* Developing a detailed brief (over 100) pages for the House of Commons on the amendments needed to Bill C-81. We were delighted that so many from the disability community endorsed our brief.

* On October 25, 2018, giving a detailed presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on amendments needed to Bill C-81.

* Briefing a number of individual Members of Parliament and Senators and their staff on key problems with Bill C-81 that require amendments.

* Working with a wide range of different voices in the disability community to focus all our efforts on key amendments to Bill C-81.

* We have told the Federal Government that we are open to discussing the possibility of arriving at a package of amendments to Bill C-81 for the Senate that the Federal Government could support, and that could speed up the Parliamentary process while making the bill stronger than it now is.

What You Can Do to Help

We urge one and all to contact any Senators. Point them to the open letter on Bill C-81, and urge them to support amendments that the Open Letter seeks.

Please ask to appear before the Senate committee when it holds public hearings on Bill C-81. We will let you know which committee that will be, once we hear.

We urge you to contact any community disability organizations and organizations that serve people with disabilities in your community. Urge them to support the effort to get the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81.

National Post December 19, 2018

Originally posted at

https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/advocates-say-accessible-canada-act-is-too-weak-to-be-effective Advocates say Accessible Canada Act is too weak to be effective

Steve Estey, the Human Rights Officer for Disabled Peoples International, an international NGO, based in Canada which focuses on the human rights of people with disabilities, poses for a photo in Halifax on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS The Canadian Press
Michelle McQuigge

The cautious optimism that prevailed in Canada’s disabled community when the federal government tabled historic accessibility legislation earlier this year has given way to widespread concern that the law won’t lead to meaningful change.

Major disability organizations, grassroots advocacy groups and disabled individuals said they’ve raised numerous concerns about the power and scope of the Accessible Canada Act, which the Liberal government first introduced in June.

They said the government has largely ignored those concerns as the bill worked its way through debate in the House of Commons and are now calling on the Senate to introduce amendments that they say would make the bill more effective.

One the main concerns they raise is the fact that Bill C 81 does not contain timelines to ensure accessibility, contrary to similar provincial legislation on the books in three provinces.

They also criticize the bill for allowing the government to create accessibility measures without requiring it to actually enact them, spreading enforcement over numerous government agencies and failing to recognize sign language as an official language of deaf people.

Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair user in Vancouver, said the surge of hope she felt when the bill first came before Parliament has morphed into disappointment and worry based largely on the document’s vague language.

“They want to be able to say that they have an accessible act, but they don’t really want to play an active role in creating an accessible country,” Peters said.

The Accessible Canada Act states that its goal is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. These include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

The government pledged $290 million over six years towards implementing the act, which will see Ottawa appoint an accessibility commissioner and create an organization tasked with developing accessibility standards for relevant areas.

When the bill was tabled, Peters said she hoped the government could change the conversation around disability issues by signalling that they form a national priority. The government’s choice of language throughout the legislation, however, has played a major role in sowing doubts.

The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” when describing government actions, meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them. The bill also gives the government broad powers to exempt organizations, including itself, from accessibility measures that are put in place.

Peters’ concerns are echoed in an open letter penned by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and signed by an additional 92 advocates from coast to coast. Signatories range from local service providers and self-advocacy groups to national organizations such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March of Dimes Canada.

The letter highlights a total of nine issues that it called on the government to address.

Chief among them was the absence of overarching timelines in the act. Comparable provincial legislation in Ontario indicates the province must achieve full accessibility by 2025. Legislators in Nova Scotia initially left timelines out of the provincial accessibility bill but eventually included them after lobbying from the province’s disabled community.

Timelines are no guarantee of progress, said Steve Estey of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, but they provide key accountability measures.

“While there’s ample evidence that these deadlines are challenges, and there are challenges attached to meeting them, those challenges are the embodiment of accessibility legislation,” said Estey, who was deafened later in life. “To simply set aside these timelines really is problematic.”

Estey also critiqued the government’s broad exemption powers, citing an example from parliamentary hearings in which airport operators argued small facilities should not be forced to comply with new accessibility standards.

Such exemptions, Estey said, would undercut the purpose of the bill.

“If one can only fly to and from large airports, how is this creating the culture of access that the bill envisions,” he said.

The letter also urges the government to designate both American and Quebec Sign Language as official languages for the deaf.

Failing to do so actively bars deaf people from basic civic and social interactions, said Frank Folino, president of the Canadian Association of the Deaf.

Lack of sign language prevents him from fully taking in political debates, reading government communications in emergency situations, or having equal access to airport staff when travelling within Canada or abroad, he said.

Granting official language status, he said, would address those barriers while also allowing deaf people equal access to the court system.

“Deaf Canadians are entitled to the same rights as any other Canadians,” he said in a written interview.

Carla Qualtrough, the federal accessibility minister, said adding sign language to Canada’s official languages would require complex amendments to the Constitution that are beyond the scope of the Accessible Canada Act.

She said timelines were left out because accessibility standards are continually evolving, adding the focus was on starting immediate conversations around accessibility rather than mandating when they may come to an end.

Qualtrough described the bill as “enabling legislation” which requires “permissive language” in order to be most flexible. She said 74 amendments proposed during parliamentary hearings were eventually adopted.

Advocates, however, said primary concerns they voiced went largely unaddressed despite having support from all three opposition parties.

They said they’re looking to the Senate to strengthen the bill, but Qualtrough said the legislation in its current form already represents significant progress.

“Everybody recognizes that this is a massive step forward,” she said. “People have views on how much further we should have taken it, and they’re entitled to those, but I am holding my head up high around what great law this will be and how fundamentally this is a game-changer for the disability community.”

The very flexibility Qualtrough touts as an asset strikes Peters as its greatest weakness.

“We exclude people in this country,” she said. “We exclude people by design, we exclude people by our policies, and this legislation is failing to prevent that.”

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

February 6, 2019

SUMMARY

Last fall, Canada’s House of Commons passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is now headed for debate in Canada’s Senate. We want to bring you up to date on what’s going on, and what to expect in the weeks ahead.

We and many in the disability community were very excited when the Federal Government commendably committed to bring forward national accessibility legislation, and have worked extensively with the Federal Government in an effort to ensure that it is a good law.

However, we are now disappointed that Bill C-81, while well-intentioned, is so weak. It says that it aims to achieve an accessible and barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities. Yet as now written, this bill does not require that a single disability barrier ever be removed or prevented. Good intentions don’t transform a weak law into a strong and effective law.

What does the AODA Alliance plan to do about this? This Update tells you about our strategy and offers you tips on how you can help. Further Updates over the next weeks will fill in more details as events unfold. We’ve been hard at work with a number of organizations in the disability community across Canada, to share our experience and to work towards a coordinated strategy.

In this Update we let you know:

* Why we need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81.

* What our strategy is at the Senate, and how a bill proceeds at this stage.

* What improvements to Bill C-81 we are seeking.

* Why it would be strategically wrong and would hurt our cause to just settle for Bill C-81 as it now is written, without acting to get the bill improved.

* How we are continuing to work with the Federal Government to try to get Bill C-81 strengthened.

* What you can do to help.

As a good illustration of grassroots feelings about this bill that we have heard time and again, we set out the December 19, 2018 article by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press that ran in the National Post about Bill C-81.

To learn more about the background and history of efforts in this area, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

As always, send us your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Why Do We Need the Senate to Strengthen Bill C-81?

Bill C-81 that the House of Commons passed last fall and sent to Canada’s Senate is full of good intentions, but is very weak. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. It’s great that the bill says it aims to achieve an accessible and barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities. However the bill does not require any disability barriers to ever be removed. It doesn’t ensure that any new barriers will be prevented.

2. It is good that this bill lets the Federal Government pass new enforceable accessibility standards as regulations. These regulations can spell out specific measures that must be taken by organizations that the Federal Government can regulate (like ViaRail, Air Canada or Bell Canada). However, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever enact any accessibility standards as regulations. If any are passed, the bill doesn’t require these regulations to be strong.

3. Do you think the Federal Government should allow public money to be used to create new disability barriers? Nothing in the bill ensures that this won’t happen. For example, nothing in the bill ensures that the Federal Government won’t give public money to a hospital, university or public transit system to build new buildings that are replete with disability barriers.

4. Under this bill, the Government can give itself or other organizations sweeping exemptions from having to obey key parts of the bill.

Last fall, an October 30, 2018 open letter was sent to the Federal Government, calling for 9 amendments to be made to Bill C-81. Fully 95 disability organizations, including the AODA Alliance, have now co-signed that letter so far. The improvements to Bill C-81 that the open letter seeks were supported by many of the disability organizations that made presentations to the House of Commons’ public hearings on Bill C-81 last fall. The reforms to the bill which the open letter requested were not made in the House of Commons.

What Is Our Strategy At the Senate?

We will call on the Senate to make the 9 amendments to Bill C-81 that the open letter requested. As a non-partisan coalition, we are ready to work with all political parties. We will coordinate our efforts with others in the disability community.

To become a law, a bill must be passed in the same wording by both houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate. For more details on this, check out the AODA Alliance’s introductory guide on how a law gets passed by Canada’s Parliament.

After the House of Commons passes a bill like Bill C-81, it then goes to the Senate. The Senate can approve the bill “as is”, or reject the bill, or amend the bill. The Senate can pass amendments to the bill if it wishes. If it does, then the bill goes back to the House of Commons. It won’t become a law unless the House of Commons approves the Senate’s amendments. If the House of Commons rejects the Senate’s amendments, the bill goes back once again to the Senate. In that case, we understand that the Senate would pass the bill as is, in the terms that the House of Commons passed it.

The Senate will begin debating Bill C-81 on or after February 19, 2019. We understand that the Senate will hold public hearings on the bill, likely in March or April.

We will ask to make a presentation to the Senate hearings, in order to call for amendments that the open letter seeks. Back on October 25, 2018, we made a presentation at the House of Commons public hearings, requesting improvements to the bill along similar lines (though the open letter wasn’t yet written)

A number of other disability organizations also plan to ask to appear before the Senate’s Bill C-81 public hearings, to ask for amendments, including those the open letter identifies. The more individuals and disability organizations that support this effort, the better is our chance of getting the bill strengthened. We have been working hard with other disability organizations to jointly coordinate our collective efforts. An organization that sits this one out would miss this important opportunity to help improve this bill.

What happens next if the Senate makes amendments to Bill C-81? Bill C-81 then goes back to the House of Commons. The House of Commons then has a chance to approve those amendments. We know that most if not all of the opposition parties should support at least some if not all amendments we seek. This is because the federal Conservatives, NDP and Greens all supported some or all of them in the House of Commons last fall. All pressed the Justin Trudeau Government to strengthen Bill C-81.

If the Senate makes the amendments we seek, and sends the bill back to the House of Commons, will the Justin Trudeau Liberals support those amendments when they come back to the House of Commons? Up to now, the federal Liberals didn’t support them. However, if an amended bill returns to the House of Commons later this spring, with a federal election just months away, we and others will try to get the Liberals to support these amendments. The Liberals will not want to go into the fall federal election as the only federal party that refused to strengthen Bill C-81.

No matter what we do, the Senate may not finish with Bill C-81 before Parliament breaks for the fall federal election. Even if the Senate finishes with Bill C-81, it is possible that before Parliament rises for the fall election, the House of Commons might not finish considering any amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate made.

We have a plan of action in case any of this happens. Our plan is to head into the fall federal election with a non-partisan campaign, building on the disability community’s efforts during the 2015 federal election. We’d ask each federal party to make an election pledge that they would bring back a bill before Parliament after the election — one that includes the ingredients in Bill C-81 and the amendments that the open letter seeks. This is because of the fact that if a bill does not get passed before an election, it must be re-introduced into Parliament after the election, if it is to be considered.

There’s good reason to expect that all parties would be willing to commit in the fall election to bring back Bill C-81 before Parliament after the election, if it has not passed by then. Bill C-81 passed unanimously in the House of Commons just over eight weeks ago. Each national party spoke about the need for national accessibility legislation.

What Core Improvements Are We Asking the Senate to Make to Bill C-81?

Bill C-81 must be strong enough to stand the test of time and effectively serve people with disabilities for many years, as ministers get shuffled into different posts, and as governments change. It is good that the Federal Government made some amendments to the bill last fall when it was before the House of Commons. However, these didn’t eliminate several serious problems with the bill that make it weak.

When we ask the Senate to make all the improvements to Bill C-81 that the Open Letter requests, we will summarize some key points as follows:

1. It is good that Bill C-81 gives the Federal Government and certain federal agencies powers to take action, make regulations and impose orders to advance the cause of accessibility in Canada. However, with few and limited exceptions, the bill does not impose duties on the Federal Government or those federal agencies to take the needed action, nor does it impose timelines for their having to do so. Therefore, the bill may not result in any accessibility improvements at all, or may only bring about change at a painfully slow pace. It will be hard to hold anyone accountable.

Bill C-81 needs to be amended to set a deadline by when Canada must become accessible to people with disabilities. It needs to impose duties on federal implementation agencies to deploy the key powers Bill C-81 gives them, and to set timelines for the deployment of those powers.

2. Bill C-81 now splinters the power to make regulations, including mandatory accessibility standards regulations, and the power to enforce this law among up to four federal agencies. This risks confusion, unnecessary complexity, and excessive cost. It will slow and weaken the bill’s implementation and enforcement. We need Bill C-81 amended so that there is “one-stop-shopping.” This splintering should be removed from the bill. People with disabilities should be able to go to one federal agency, the new Accessibility Commissioner, for all enforcement of the bill. All regulations to be made under the bill, including enforceable accessibility standards, should be made by the federal Cabinet.

3. Bill C-81 now allows federal public money to continue to be used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. Bill C-81 needs to be amended to ensure that when the Federal Government spends public money, it can never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the bill should require federal accessibility strings to be attached when the Federal Government spends or transfers public money for infrastructure projects, when it procures (purchases or rents) goods or services, or when it grants or lends public money to other public or private organizations e.g. for business development projects.

Why Not Just Settle for Bill C-81 As It Is?

Why shouldn’t we just accept Bill C-81 as it is? No law is perfect. Why shouldn’t we just get it enacted and then try to work with it? Isn’t it better than nothing? Are we risking losing everything by trying to get this bill improved? Isn’t it hopeless to try to get the Federal Government to agree to improve this bill now?

That is not our strategy, for very good, time-tested reasons that are based on many years of experience in the trenches, advocating for laws in this area. We have learned that the best way to ensure that we don’t make any further progress is to give up trying. Until a bill gets the last vote it needs to become a law, there is always an opportunity to get it improved. Our tenacity is our strength.

We have been told time and again that this or that goal is impossible, or is hopelessly uphill. That has never stopped us. Our track record of winning new laws , and of winning improvements to existing laws and policies, has proven our approach to be correct.

We have extensive real-world experience working with weak legislation that does not require any disability barriers to be removed and that does not require any enforceable accessibility standards to be enacted. We have lots of experience with Governments that make encouraging and ambitious promises about what that law will achieve. We have seen how such laws remain weak after they are enacted. If a Government won’t offer stronger concrete provisions before a law is enacted, it is typically unwilling to do any more than that after the law is enacted.

We have little if anything meaningful to lose by our strategy, and everything to gain. Bill C-81 is so weak, that any improvement to it can only help. The best time to press for improvements like this is when a federal election is only months away. That is when politicians feel most compelled to listen.

Some others may choose to sit this round out. That of course, is their right. It is, however, important not to take action that would undermine the efforts by so many of us to now try to get this bill strengthened before it is passed. To simply accept and applaud this bill as it is would impede the efforts of so many who are working to strengthen it.

Are We Working with the Federal Government On Bill C-81?

When it comes to issues like Bill C-81, we don’t just criticize or go to the media. In our usual non-partisan spirit, we also work hard on coming up with constructive solutions. We have worked extensively with the Federal Government and the opposition parties on the proposed Accessible Canada Act. This has included:

* working to secure election commitments in 2015 from the federal parties.

* After the 2015 federal election, advising the Federal Government on how to conduct an inclusive and accessible public consultation on the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

* Well before Bill C-81 was introduced in Parliament, providing an extensive presentation to senior Government officials on what is needed in the Accessible Canada Act.

* In 2016, circulating a detailed (over 30 pages) Discussion Paper on what the promised Accessible Canada Act should include, after getting feedback on it from the grassroots.

* Giving senior federal officials numerous briefings on what is needed in the Accessible Canada Act, and once Bill C-81 was introduced, briefings on our concerns with the bill.

* Providing direct briefings to the successive federal ministers that have been responsible for the Accessible Canada Act over the past four years, and for their policy staff assigned to this issue.

* Developing a detailed brief (over 100) pages for the House of Commons on the amendments needed to Bill C-81. We were delighted that so many from the disability community endorsed our brief.

* On October 25, 2018, giving a detailed presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on amendments needed to Bill C-81.

* Briefing a number of individual Members of Parliament and Senators and their staff on key problems with Bill C-81 that require amendments.

* Working with a wide range of different voices in the disability community to focus all our efforts on key amendments to Bill C-81.

* We have told the Federal Government that we are open to discussing the possibility of arriving at a package of amendments to Bill C-81 for the Senate that the Federal Government could support, and that could speed up the Parliamentary process while making the bill stronger than it now is.

What You Can Do to Help

We urge one and all to contact any Senators. Point them to the open letter on Bill C-81, and urge them to support amendments that the Open Letter seeks.

Please ask to appear before the Senate committee when it holds public hearings on Bill C-81. We will let you know which committee that will be, once we hear.

We urge you to contact any community disability organizations and organizations that serve people with disabilities in your community. Urge them to support the effort to get the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81.

National Post December 19, 2018

Originally posted at

https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/advocates-say-accessible-canada-act-is-too-weak-to-be-effective Advocates say Accessible Canada Act is too weak to be effective

Steve Estey, the Human Rights Officer for Disabled Peoples International, an international NGO, based in Canada which focuses on the human rights of people with disabilities, poses for a photo in Halifax on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS The Canadian Press
Michelle McQuigge

The cautious optimism that prevailed in Canada’s disabled community when the federal government tabled historic accessibility legislation earlier this year has given way to widespread concern that the law won’t lead to meaningful change.

Major disability organizations, grassroots advocacy groups and disabled individuals said they’ve raised numerous concerns about the power and scope of the Accessible Canada Act, which the Liberal government first introduced in June.

They said the government has largely ignored those concerns as the bill worked its way through debate in the House of Commons and are now calling on the Senate to introduce amendments that they say would make the bill more effective.

One the main concerns they raise is the fact that Bill C 81 does not contain timelines to ensure accessibility, contrary to similar provincial legislation on the books in three provinces.

They also criticize the bill for allowing the government to create accessibility measures without requiring it to actually enact them, spreading enforcement over numerous government agencies and failing to recognize sign language as an official language of deaf people.

Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair user in Vancouver, said the surge of hope she felt when the bill first came before Parliament has morphed into disappointment and worry based largely on the document’s vague language.

“They want to be able to say that they have an accessible act, but they don’t really want to play an active role in creating an accessible country,” Peters said.

The Accessible Canada Act states that its goal is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. These include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

The government pledged $290 million over six years towards implementing the act, which will see Ottawa appoint an accessibility commissioner and create an organization tasked with developing accessibility standards for relevant areas.

When the bill was tabled, Peters said she hoped the government could change the conversation around disability issues by signalling that they form a national priority. The government’s choice of language throughout the legislation, however, has played a major role in sowing doubts.

The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” when describing government actions, meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them. The bill also gives the government broad powers to exempt organizations, including itself, from accessibility measures that are put in place.

Peters’ concerns are echoed in an open letter penned by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and signed by an additional 92 advocates from coast to coast. Signatories range from local service providers and self-advocacy groups to national organizations such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March of Dimes Canada.

The letter highlights a total of nine issues that it called on the government to address.

Chief among them was the absence of overarching timelines in the act. Comparable provincial legislation in Ontario indicates the province must achieve full accessibility by 2025. Legislators in Nova Scotia initially left timelines out of the provincial accessibility bill but eventually included them after lobbying from the province’s disabled community.

Timelines are no guarantee of progress, said Steve Estey of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, but they provide key accountability measures.

“While there’s ample evidence that these deadlines are challenges, and there are challenges attached to meeting them, those challenges are the embodiment of accessibility legislation,” said Estey, who was deafened later in life. “To simply set aside these timelines really is problematic.”

Estey also critiqued the government’s broad exemption powers, citing an example from parliamentary hearings in which airport operators argued small facilities should not be forced to comply with new accessibility standards.

Such exemptions, Estey said, would undercut the purpose of the bill.

“If one can only fly to and from large airports, how is this creating the culture of access that the bill envisions,” he said.

The letter also urges the government to designate both American and Quebec Sign Language as official languages for the deaf.

Failing to do so actively bars deaf people from basic civic and social interactions, said Frank Folino, president of the Canadian Association of the Deaf.

Lack of sign language prevents him from fully taking in political debates, reading government communications in emergency situations, or having equal access to airport staff when travelling within Canada or abroad, he said.

Granting official language status, he said, would address those barriers while also allowing deaf people equal access to the court system.

“Deaf Canadians are entitled to the same rights as any other Canadians,” he said in a written interview.

Carla Qualtrough, the federal accessibility minister, said adding sign language to Canada’s official languages would require complex amendments to the Constitution that are beyond the scope of the Accessible Canada Act.

She said timelines were left out because accessibility standards are continually evolving, adding the focus was on starting immediate conversations around accessibility rather than mandating when they may come to an end.

Qualtrough described the bill as “enabling legislation” which requires “permissive language” in order to be most flexible. She said 74 amendments proposed during parliamentary hearings were eventually adopted.

Advocates, however, said primary concerns they voiced went largely unaddressed despite having support from all three opposition parties.

They said they’re looking to the Senate to strengthen the bill, but Qualtrough said the legislation in its current form already represents significant progress.

“Everybody recognizes that this is a massive step forward,” she said. “People have views on how much further we should have taken it, and they’re entitled to those, but I am holding my head up high around what great law this will be and how fundamentally this is a game-changer for the disability community.”

The very flexibility Qualtrough touts as an asset strikes Peters as its greatest weakness.

“We exclude people in this country,” she said. “We exclude people by design, we exclude people by our policies, and this legislation is failing to prevent that.”



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