Does Canada’s Accessibility Laws Truly Make Canada Accessible?

Chrysteine Valino,
January 10, 2020
Laws are implemented to set up standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect rights. Certain laws serve purposes that further expand the ideas in those 4 main categories. Laws surrounding accessibility are still new, the oldest is AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) which was implemented in 2005.

In a 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, it was revealed that 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over have a disability. This is 22% of the population which earns less than a Canadian without disabilities, 12% less for milder disabilities and 51% less for more severe disabilities, making them more likely to live in poverty. The Government Of Canada realized this problem and implemented a new act called ‘The Accessibility Canada Act’.

The legislation was made to ensure a barrier free Canada and benefit everyone by removing barriers to accessibility or any areas under the federal jurisdiction. This gives the government the right to work with stakeholders and people with disabilities to design more accessibility friendly regulations. These acts ensure a barrier free Canada with continuous bills passed under its name. One of the bills was ‘Bill C-18.

Bill C-18 consists of 11 parts and parts 3-5,7,8, talk about and implement laws for accessibility. Part 4 talks about the Duties of Regulated Entities which goes into detail about the planning, consultation and report with people with disabilities, in order to identify the problems about regulated entities. Many laws were passed to make Canada barrier free which allowed people with disabilities to have more rights and the people around them to be more aware.

To add to this, Ontario implemented another law called Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and applied to all levels of government, nonprofit, and private sector business in Ontario. Ontario is one of 4 provinces to implement a province specific act. This act is made up of 5 different standards that are required to be fulfilled by corporations. If standards aren’t met, penalties are given out, a maximum of $100 000 can be fined in a day.

With so many laws implemented, shouldn’t accessibility be everywhere in Canada? The answer to this is yes and no. Many organizations and public places abide by the rules given. Even before a building or place can be open to the public, regulations on accessibility are implemented and inspected.

The problem with this is that the system often fails. Regular inspections happen in public places but they frequently only check for certain things like the push button for wheelchair users. These inspections rarely consider the distances between the staircases in case an emergency happens or if the push button actually works. The problem isn’t that there aren't regulations being made but it is the idea that certain features are there which makes it accessible without considering it’s practicality. An example of this is a mall with staircases on each floor in case of an emergency, but the layout of the mall makes the staircase follow a zigzag pattern. Where one staircase continues to the floor below it but to get to the next floor, you have to walk an extra 50 steps to reach the next staircase. This may seem like a small problem but if a wheelchair user encounters this emergency, it may determine the person's safety.

Accessibility shouldn’t compromise for the bare minimum, instead it should be set at the highest of bars. The laws are there, but it is up to us to follow, speak up and continue to do more than what is written. When this is achieved, Canada will truly be barrier free.  

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