From the BlogSubscribe Now

Big Win for Blind Shopper in First U.S. ADA Web Accessibility Trial

Law Office of Lainey Feingold, June 13, 2017

On June 12, a judge in the federal District Court in South Florida made history. That history came in the form of a court order in a lawsuit filed by blind Florida resident Juan Carlos Gil against regional grocer Winn-Dixie.

The lawsuit argued that the Winn-Dixie website wasn’t accessible. Mr Gil could not read the store’s online coupons using his screen reader or use other features on the site.

After a two-day trial the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff (Mr. Gil). That order is historic because it is believed that this is the very first trial in an ADA case about website accessibility against a private company, known legally as a public accommodation. Read the Seyfarth Shaw blog post that identified the historic nature of this trial.

The judge ruled that it did not have to decide if the Winn-Dixie website was covered by the ADA in and of itself, because the website was “heavily integrated with Winn-Dixie’s physical store locations and operates as a gateway to the physical store locations.” [As you can read in the Digital Accessibility Legal Updates on this site, other courts have already ruled that websites are covered by the ADA even without any connection to a physical place.]

I am pasting here the text of the court’s conclusion, and the requirements the court imposed on Winn-Dixie on June 12. (In addition to what is below, the Court also set up a procedure for Mr. Gil to request his attorneys’ fees be paid by Winn-Dixie, an important aspect of a case when a plaintiff wins an ADA lawsuit. You can also read the full PDF version of the Court’s 13 page order.

After reviewing the facts and legal arguments made by both sides, the judge reached his conclusion:


Winn-Dixie has presented no evidence to establish that it would be unduly burdensome to make its website accessible to visually impaired individuals. To the contrary, its corporate representative unequivocally testified that modifying the website to make it accessible to the visual impaired was feasible. Remediation measures in conformity with the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines will provide Gil and other visually impaired consumers the ability to access Winn-Dixie’s website and permit full and equal enjoyment of the services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations provided through Winn-Dixie’s website. Gil has proven that he is entitled to injunctive relief. Robert N. Scola, Jr., United States District Judge in Gil v. Winn-Dixie”

Then the judge told Winn-Dixie what the company needed to do. The following text is verbatim from the court order:

Terms of Injunction

The parties shall meet and confer to attempt to agree on the time periods for the following terms which shall be included in the injunction and shall file a joint report with their positions by no later than June 30, 2017. Any terms about which the parties agree shall be in regular font. For terms about which the parties disagree, the Plaintiff’s proposal shall be presented in underlined font and the Defendant’s proposal shall be in bold font. Any additional terms requested by either party shall also be included in the joint report.

Pursuant to the terms of this Order and Injunction, Winn-Dixie, Inc.:

  • 1. Shall not, no later than __(date)__________, deny individuals with disabilities, including the Plaintiff, the opportunity to participate and benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations provided through its website http://www.winndixie.com. The website must be accessible by individuals with disabilities who use computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.
  • 2. Shall not, no later than __(date)__________, provide individuals with disabilities, including the Plaintiff, an unequal opportunity to participate and benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations provided through its website http://www.winndixie.com. The website must be accessible by individuals with disabilities who use computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones.
  • 3.No later than ________(date)_______, shall adopt and implement a Web Accessibility Policy which ensures that its website conforms with the WCAG 2.0 criteria.
  • 4.No later than __(date)__________, shall require any third party vendors who participate on its website to be fully accessible to the disabled by conforming with WCAG 2.0 criteria.

Congratulations to Mr. Gil and his lawyers for this important victory in the quest for full digital equality for disabled people. Although this court order is binding only on the parties in this case, organizations everywhere should take notice. Wouldn’t it be better to start your accessibility initiative today, and not wait for the lawsuit?

Original at http://www.lflegal.com/2017/06/winn-dixie/

The Federal Government Releases Report of Its Public Consultation on What the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act Should Include Lots of Good Content But Some Areas Where The Federal Report Falls Short

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 13, 2017

SUMMARY

On May 29, 2017, the Federal Government released a detailed 63-page report on what its promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include, according to the feedback the Federal Government received during its public consultation. It held public forums and roundtables across Canada, and an online survey, from the 2016 summer through the 2017 winter. According to this report, the Federal Government heard from many people and organizations, including from many people with disabilities.

Much of the Report’s content is quite helpful and encouraging. It commendably found that people with disabilities across Canada face too many accessibility barriers. These require concerted new Federal Government action, including new federal accessibility legislation. The Federal Government recognizes in this report that it has a unique role to play in leading Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities, and that federal legislation has a key role to play.

According to the public feedback that this report documents, federal accessibility legislation should address all of the areas and organizations the Federal Government can regulate. It should address all disabilities and all kinds of accessibility barriers. The feedback which the Federal Government reported receiving overwhelmingly parallels the message we have received and echoed over the past two decades, which drove the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It similarly parallels the messages from people with disabilities in Manitoba as they successfully campaigned for the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013, and the message from people with disabilities in Nova Scotia who successfully campaigned for Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act 2017. It also parallels the message from people with disabilities in other provinces like British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, as they press their provincial governments for strong accessibility laws.

In several places, the report directly or indirectly acknowledges the need for federal accessibility standards. It acknowledges a strong message that federal accessibility requires effective proactive federal enforcement. Its enforcement should not be left to individual people with disabilities to individually battle accessibility barriers, one barrier at a time, and one organization at a time. This is a refreshing change from the troubling contrary message that Ontarians with disabilities have too often heard from the Ontario Government regarding the AODA’s enforcement, despite earlier and repeated Ontario Government promises to effectively enforce the AODA.
The Federal Government’s report commendably identifies the need for the Federal Government to make technical assistance available to obligated organizations. This would help obligated organizations know what they need to do to become accessible.

The report recognizes feedback emphasizing that federal accessibility legislation must have teeth. It must make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

The report found that federal legislation cannot address it all, due to the limited reach of the Federal Government under Canada’s Constitution. The report’s clear implication is that each province also needs to enact strong accessibility legislation to address recurring disability accessibility barriers that are within provincial jurisdiction. Provinces like British Columbia (whose Liberal Government was sitting back and waiting to decide whether to develop a BC Disabilities Act until the Federal Government acted) should sit back no longer. From the report, it appears that the Federal Government commendably intends to share the feedback it received with the provinces. We will all benefit if the Federal Government adds its voice to that of people with disabilities to call for each province to promptly pass strong provincial accessibility legislation.

The report recognized, as does our August 2016 Discussion Paper, that the Federal Government has room to help at the provincial level, by creating national model accessibility standards that provinces could choose to adopt for their jurisdiction. The report states:

“The new legislation should lead to more consistent experiences of accessibility across Canada:

Participants want to see all levels of government work together to improve accessibility in all areas.

New legislation should lead to the development of accessibility standards that other governments in Canada could adopt.”

However, as our detailed analysis of the report below shows, the Report has some important deficiencies. In summary:

a) The report misses some key requirements for strong and effective national accessibility legislation, for which people with disabilities pressed during the consultation. Below, at the end of our analysis, we set out a summary of key ingredients that strong federal accessibility legislation needs to include, as detailed in our August 2016 Discussion Paper.

b) Some of the report’s conclusions fly in the face of any feedback we have received, and are impossible to square with the needs of people with disabilities.

c) In this regard, some of the report’s conclusions about which we are concerned seem in key ways to parallel the prior conclusions and directions that the Federal Government embedded in its pre-consultation Discussion Guide. This may lead some to wonder whether some of the conclusions are repetitions of where the Federal Government was thinking of going, before it started this consultation.

In this Update, we set out:

* Our detailed analysis of the Federal Government’s report’s contents that concern us;

* a summary of our August 2016 Discussion Paper on what the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include, and

* the Federal Government’s May 29, 2017 news release about its Consultation Report.

To read the Federal Government’s report on its public consultation on promised federal accessibility legislation,, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05292017-Federal-Accessibility-Legislation.docx To read the Federal Government’s summer 2016 Discussion Guide for this consultation, released last summer, visit http://www.esdc.gc.ca/en/consultations/disability/legislation/index.page

To read the Discussion Paper on what the Canadians with Disabilities Act should include, which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky made public in August, 2016, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/august-19-2016-discussion-paper-on-a-Canadians-with-Disabilities-Act-by-David-Lepofsky.docx We encourage you to forward this Update to your Member of Parliament in Ottawa. Urge them to ensure that the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act will address the issues in this analysis, and not just those conclusions in the Federal Government’s consultation report.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Have you taken part in our Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our Picture Our Barriers campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We encourage you to use the Governments toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliances YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

MORE DETAILS

AODA Alliance Analysis of Points of Concern in the Federal Government’s Otherwise Commendable May 2017 Report on Its Public Consultation on the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act

This is an analysis of those parts of the Federal Government’s May 29, 2017 Consultation Report about which we have concerns. It would be easy for the Federal Government to design an effective Canadians with Disabilities Act in accordance with the majority of the report, which is commendable, while avoiding the parts of the report which we critique below.

* As in the case of some earlier statements by the Federal Government, the Report uses unnecessarily weak language to describe the aim of national accessibility legislation, as

“new legislation that would help remove barriers and prevent new barriers from being created”.

At the end, the Report similarly dilutes the Federal Government’s objectives, as follows:

“The ideas and recommendations provided through this historic consultation process have laid the foundation for the legislation and have set us on the path to improve accessibility for all Canadians.

Together, we will make Canada more accessible!”

Our Response:

People with disabilities raised concerns about similar weak language in the Federal Government’s summer 2016 Discussion Guide for this public consultation. We have emphasized that the goal of this legislation must be to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities, in so far as the Federal Government can. helping remove and prevent accessibility barriers, or making Canada more accessible or improving accessibility, are far weaker goals. As our August 2016 Discussion Paper emphasizes, Canadians with disabilities need and deserve much more from this new federal legislation. Our August 2016 Discussion Paper states:

“The CDA’s purpose clause must avoid terms that are too weak. It is not good enough to aim to improve accessibility. Unfortunately, the Federal Government’s Discussion Guide on the CDA uses the extremely narrow and inadequate phrase “improve accessibility and remove barriers” in describing the CDA’s purpose. It states:

“The overall goal of the legislation is to increase the inclusion and participation of Canadians in society and promote equality of opportunity by improving accessibility and removing barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction.”

Just one new ramp, installed somewhere in Canada, or just one retrofitted website, entirely fulfils that feeble goal. Moreover, achievement of accessibility requires both removing existing barriers and preventing new barriers.

It is grossly insufficient for the CDA to aim just to make Canada the most accessible country in the world. That only requires Canada to be slightly better than other countries, no matter how inaccessible they are. It would leave people with disabilities forever frozen out of much of societys mainstream. Canadas Charter and human rights laws require much more.

The only relevant question is how long Parliament should give Canada to reach full accessibility. Thus, the CDA’s purpose clause should set the deadline by which Canada should become fully accessible to people with disabilities, insofar as Parliament can advance this goal. If it sets no deadline, then full accessibility is relegated to the indefinite future. Human nature dictates that government and private organizations achieve the most when facing deadlines.

In 2005, Ontarios AODA commendably set 2025 as the full accessibility deadline. That is pivotal to the AODAs implementation and to assessing its effectiveness.

The Ontario Government, obligated organizations, people with disabilities, the public and the media can ask if Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. They can ask whether a proposed AODA accessibility standard ensures that full accessibility in the area it regulates will be achieved by 2025. If it doesnt, it is clear that more is needed.

The deadline must give obligated organizations enough time to reach full accessibility. It should not be so distant to encourage procrastination. It should necessitate immediate action on readily achievable barrier-removable and prevention. It should counteract large organizations tendency to bog down in delay and bureaucracy.”

* Two of the Report’s statements about feedback received clash with and don’t acknowledge what our August 2016 Discussion Paper on the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act proposed. The Federal Government’s report includes:

“Finally, participants talked about how the Canadian Transportation Agency, the organization responsible for transportation standards, could be given more authority in certain areas, such as looking into issues proactively.”

The Federal Government’s report also states:

“Most participants recommended that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission be given additional powers to ensure that the accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting products and services continues to improve over time.”

Our Response:

Giving the CTA and CRTC a further mandate on accessibility is a formula for failure. Each federal agency has had mandates in this area. Neither has deployed those powers as effectively as they should have done. Both agencies have processes that are not conducive to ensuring success for people with disabilities, especially when running up against huge corporate giants such as Air Canada, a national TV network, or Bell Canada. Our Discussion Paper on the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act said the following, which the Federal Government’s Report should have echoed:

“There should be one federal agency for all CDA relief. People with disabilities shouldn’t have to chase around the Federal Government, to find out which agency or combination of agencies will enforce accessibility. Now if people with disabilities file a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, they can find that all or part of it gets punted to another regulatory agency, like the CRTC or the Canada Transportation Agency. This is an unfair gift to organizations that seek to avoid timely justice, by dragging out proceedings, throwing barriers in the way, and wearing down victims of barriers.

The proposed new Canada Accessibility Commissioner should have lead responsibility for all accessibility standards development and all CDA enforcement. The Federal Government’s CDA Discussion guide implies that this may not be the case. Accessibility jurisdiction might be left in part with some federal agencies such as the Canada Transportation Agency. It states:

“It is envisioned that, by taking a proactive and systemic approach to improving accessibility and removing barriers, legislation would complement the laws that already exist in Canada to protect the human rights of Canadians with disabilities and build on existing federal accessibility standards and regulations.”

Before hearing from the public on this issue during its CDA consultations, the Federal Government shouldn’t pre-decide that transportation accessibility will be left with the Canada Transportation Agency, or that accessibility of telecommunication services will be left to the CRTC. If despite the foregoing, Parliament leaves any accessibility jurisdiction with those other regulatory agencies, then it should ensure that:

a) All those regulatory agencies have the fullest range of remedial powers, at least as broad as the Canada Human Rights Tribunal’s.

b) Those agencies must have an explicit duty to create and effectively enforce accessibility standards within their mandates, along time lines the CDA sets, similarly securing people with disabilities’ input into the standards.

c) Those agencies should be required to give strong weight to accessibility when discharging any discretionary powers.

d) A stronger accessibility standard made under the CDA and enforceable by the Canada Accessibility Commissioner should take precedence over any weaker accessibility rules or standards made by any other federal agency, such as the Canada Transportation Agency.”

We question the Federal Government report’s claim that most participants recommended expanding CTA and CRTC powers on this issue. We know of no disability organizations or individuals with disabilities who preferred giving more power to the CTA and CRTC, rather than giving this power to the new Canada Disability Commissioner that we propose be established. We know of no people with disabilities who would prefer to have to run around the Federal Government from one agency to another, trying to find out which can enforce their accessibility rights in a particular case. No one has given us such feedback. We held an open online consultation for months on our Discussion Paper before we finalized it. No one opposed the recommendation on point in our Discussion Paper, quoted above, either before or after we finalized that Discussion Paper in August 2016. No member of the disability community voiced a preference for giving more power on accessibility to the CTA and CRTC, rather than providing people with disabilities with one-stop-shopping at one independent federal agency, the Canada Disability Commissioner we recommend.

We were present during public consultations on federal accessibility legislation held in Toronto and in St. John’s Newfoundland, and more recently in Charlottetown PEI, the latter publicly-funded public forum which was organized by the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada

It may be that the Federal Government received feedback that more regulatory powers are needed to ensure full accessibility in public transportation and in radio, television and telecommunication services. One could express this without expressing an overt choice between empowering a new Canada Accessibility Commissioner to address these, rather than the existing CTA and CRTC. We find it hard to imagine that there was broad preference in the disability community for splintered federal implementation and enforcement, rather than one-stop-shopping, in circumstances where we never heard a word about it, directly or indirectly.

In addition, we are concerned that federal regulatory agencies like the CTA and CRTC may be too close to the industries they regulate, and not close enough to the concerns of people with disabilities for whom they have had a mandate for years. They also lack proven expertise in disability accessibility.

* The Report states:

“Making sure the legislation is improving accessibility

Overall, participants recommended that the Government of Canada should regularly report to Canadians how well the legislation is working and what needs to be improved. They want this work to be done by experts, Canadians with disabilities, and disability stakeholders. The results should be made public.

Participants also told us that reporting should take place regularly, possibly on an annual basis.

Some participants noted that reporting could happen more often during the first years of the legislation, and less frequently after it has been in place for several years.”

The report also states:

“Participants also shared their ideas about what should be included in the Government of Canada report. For example, the report could:

look at how the legislation is improving the lives of Canadians with disabilities;

report on which organizations are following the legislation;

report on complaints about the legislation and what actions the Government of Canada has taken to make sure organizations follow the legislation; and

compare how Canada is doing on accessibility to other countries.

It should be comprehensive but focus on the outcomes and results. Should also be easy to understand.

Anonymous”

Our Response:

These measures can be helpful. But many years of experience in Ontario shows that no matter how detailed be the Government’s reporting requirements, the government of the day tends to issue self-congratulatory reports. These do not give an independent, fair and balanced perspective. Ontario experience amply shows that by far, the most useful reports are those rendered by the periodic Independent Reviews, mandated by the legislation.

* The Report states:

“CONCLUSION

The time to create new legislation to improve accessibility for all Canadians with disabilities is now.

The Government of Canada is in a unique position to bring about real change to the lives of Canadians with disabilities. While new legislation alone cannot remove all barriers, there is recognition that complementary supports and programs will be necessary to create new opportunities of full citizenship and participation for persons with disabilities and to help change the way people think about accessibility.

Coming out of the consultations, there is emerging consensus about what the new legislation should look like and the role of the Government of Canada. The legislation should both develop detailed policies for organizations on how to improve accessibility, while also supporting them in removing all barriers for their employees and customers. The Government of Canada should be a leader, both in practice and in supporting organizations to be successful. The Government of Canada should also set ambitious goals with clear and measurable targets.

As covered in this report, we heard what Canadians want in the legislation. We heard the call for the Government of Canada to be a leader. We heard the desire for a principled approach and widespread systemic change. We heard the need for complementary programming and supports. We can get there, but it will take time, hard work and proper support.”

Our Response:

It is great that in its report, the Federal Government again acknowledges its unique position to make significant change for the better in the lives of people with disabilities in Canada, and recognizes that federal legislation is a key way to do so. However, this summary does not emphasize the central role that must be played by strong, effective, detailed and comprehensive federal accessibility standards. The report makes several references to accessibility standards, but seems to place more emphasis on requiring obligated organizations to announce accessibility policies and plans, and for the Federal Government to enforce these. There is still time for the Federal Government to ensure that the creation and enforcement of strong federal accessibility standards is central to this legislation. Our August 2016 Discussion Guide included:

“As a core, indispensable ingredient, the CDA should require the Federal Government to develop, enact and enforce all the mandatory, enforceable accessibility standards needed to ensure that as far as it can, the Federal Government leads Canada to become fully accessible to all people with disabilities by the Acts deadline. Barrier-Free Canadas 14 Principles include:

4. The Canadians with Disabilities Act should require Canada, including organizations to whom it applies, to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations

9. As part of its requirement that the Government of Canada lead Canada to the goal of full accessibility for Canadians with disabilities, the Act should require the Government of Canada to make regulations needed to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Canadians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities and obligated organizations, before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy to which the Act can apply. The Act should require the Government of Canada to make all the accessibility standards regulations needed to ensure that its goals are achieved, and that these regulations be independently reviewed for sufficiency every four years after they were enacted.

Accessibility standards are mandatory, enforceable regulations that the Federal Government would enact to specify in detail exactly what an organization must do, and by when, to become fully accessible. Good accessibility standards dramatically reduce the need for people with disabilities to battle foreseeable, recurring accessibility barriers one at a time, one obligated organization at a time, through innumerable human rights/Charter challenges. They make it easier for obligated organizations to know what they must do, and to undertake orderly accessibility planning. They can save obligated organizations time and money. Instead of each organization reinventing the accessibility wheel, hiring accessibility consultants and seeking legal advice, a good accessibility standard shows them the way.

The Ontario Governments duty to create accessibility standards is a core AODA responsibility. Section 6(a) of the AODA provides that an accessibility standard shall “set out measures, policies, practices or other requirements for the identification and removal of barriers with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures, premises or such other things as may be prescribed, and for the prevention of the erection of such barriers” along timelines the standard sets.

The CDA should require that an accessibility standard must identify barriers that must be removed or prevented, and must specify what action an obligated organization must take. It is not enough for an accessibility standard to say that an obligated organization should have regard to accessibility or consider accessibility or plan for accessibility.

The Federal Government’s CDA consultation Discussion Guide proposes that two options for this legislation, which aren’t mutually exclusive, include:

a) enacting specific accessibility requirements that set out what steps organizations must take to become accessible, and/or

b) setting accessibility results organizations must achieve, leaving it to each organization to plan on how to achieve those goals.

Ontario’s extensive experience shows that the dominant requirement should be setting detailed requirements for specific accessibility action. From 2001 to 2015, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which preceded the stronger AODA, principally required public sector organizations to make annual accessibility plans. This accomplished little. Obligated organizations understandably get frustrated. Each must waste money, duplicating effort to figure out what to do.

This problem recurs under some AODA accessibility standards. For example, Ontario accessibility standards require the goal of accessible electronic kiosks, accessible counter heights in public service areas for getting customer service, and accessible playground equipment (all when new kiosks, counters or playgrounds are created). However, the accessibility standards don’t spell out what accessibility features should be incorporated in new electronic kiosks, or how high to make a new public service counter, or what accessibility features to include in new playground equipment. Each organization must wastefully hire consultants, and hope they get it right. The 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report concluded:

“One of the most common pieces of feedback received by the Review focussed on the difficulty of interpreting the meaning of the standards under the AODA. Both the public and private sectors said they had problems understanding their obligations because the standards are often not clear enough or specific enough about what is required. Public sector organizations, while doing their best to comply, are often uncertain about what exactly compliance with the standards requires. The fact that the standards have been framed very generally means that it is hard to know when they have been met. For example, the standards do not offer reference points for several general obligations, such as what it means to provide accessible formats or incorporate accessibility features into procurement. This leaves organizations to depend on guesswork or expensive consultants and lawyers to determine what compliance entails.”

Some Ontario accessibility standards provide needed and helpful specificity. For example one specifies the rule for website accessibility. Others lack this. For example, Ontarios 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard tells obligated organizations to develop a policy on accessible Customer Service, to train staff on it, and to have a customer feedback mechanism. With few exceptions it doesn’t list the barriers to Customer Service that need to be addressed, nor does it say what to do about them.

CDA accessibility standards should impose requirements that are at least as stringent as the Canada Human Rights Act, the Charter of Rights, or both. Otherwise, obligated organizations will be frustrated to find that they did what the CDA required, only to learn that they have further Charter and/or human rights accessibility duties. It would frustrate the CDA’s goal of relieving people with disabilities of the burden to battle barriers, one at a time, if an accessibility standard directs obligated organizations to do less, or take longer, than the Charter and human rights laws permit.

Regrettably, neither Ontarios nor Manitobas accessibility law requires accessibility standards to meet a human rights yardstick. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, some Ontarios accessibility standards counterproductively fall short of Ontario Human Rights Code requirements. They too often direct organizations to do less than the Ontario Human Rights Code requires. Stronger legal medicine is needed to controvert this, than the AODA’s commendable s. 3, which requires that the AODA doesn’t diminish accessibility duties under other laws.

The CDA should require the Federal Government to make all the accessibility standards needed to achieve the CDA’s purposes. Section 7 of the AODA commendably has a similar requirement.

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, the AODA’s weak precursor, permitted the Ontario Government to create accessibility standards, but didn’t require it to do so. None were created over the four years before the AODA superseded it.

The CDA should establish an independent safeguard to ensure that the Federal government acts in a timely way to direct development of needed accessibility standards.

Ontario experience illustrates this need. The AODA includes no such safeguard. Ontarians with disabilities pressed the Ontario government for at least five years to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard needed by 334,000 students with special education needs. Over a decade ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission amply documented many widely-known education accessibility barriers. Yet in mid-2016, Ontarians with disabilities had no recourse from the Ontario government’s five-year long refusal to decide whether to create an Education Accessibility Standard.”

Summary of Recommendations in Our August 2016 Discussion Paper on What the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act Should Include

a) The CDA’s purpose should be to ensure that, as far as Parliament can promote this, the Federal Government will lead Canada to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by a deadline that the law sets. It should effectively implement disability equality rights in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act, and the CRPD, without individuals having to battle barriers one at a time, one organization at a time, via human rights/Charter claims. A goal of merely “improving accessibility” is far too weak.

b) The CDA should ensure that all federally-regulated organizations, including all recipients of federal funds, provide accessible goods, services, facilities and employment. It should establish clear, broad, inclusive definitions of disability and “barrier”.

c) The CDA should put the Government of Canada in charge of leading Canada to full accessibility. It should create an independent Canada Accessibility Commissioner, reporting to Parliament, to lead the Acts implementation/enforcement, and to be Canada’s national accessibility champion. The CDA should ensure its effective enforcement.

d) The CDA should require the Federal Government to create all the mandatory, enforceable accessibility standards needed to lead Canada to full accessibility. It should create a prompt, effective, open process for developing and reviewing accessibility standards.

e) The CDA should ensure strong centralized action on disability accessibility among Federal Regulatory Agencies.

f) The CDA should ensure that the strongest accessibility law always prevails, and that no Federal laws authorize or require disability barriers.

g) The CDA should ensure that public money is never used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate accessibility barriers.

h) The CDA should ensure a fully accessible Federal Government, accessibility of all courts within federal authority, and federal elections that are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities.

i) The CDA should mandate a national strategy for expanding international trade in Canadian accessible goods, services and facilities.

j) The CDA should require interim measures to promote accessibility pending development of CDA accessibility standards.

k) The CDA should ensure that efforts at educating the public on accessibility dont delay CDA implementation and enforcement.

l) The CDA should mandate the Federal Government to assist and encourage Provincial and Territorial Governments to enact comprehensive accessibility legislation. It should mandate the Federal Government to create national model Accessibility Standards which provinces, territories and other organizations can adopt.

m) The CDA should set timelines for Federal Government CDA implementation/enforcement, and require periodic Independent Reviews of progress.

Federal Government May 29, 2017 News Release

Originally posted at: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2017/05/government_of_canadashareswhatwelearnedbyaskingwhatdoesanaccessi.html News Release From Employment and Social Development Canada

Canadians answers will shape new planned federal accessibility legislation.

May 29, 2017 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada

Thanks to the participation of thousands of Canadians, we are one step closer to a truly accessible Canada.

Today, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, released a report entitled, Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned from Canadians. The report summarizes the input received following Canada-wide consultations to inform the development of new planned federal accessibility legislation.

Over 6,000 people participated, both online and in-person, in the largest and most accessible consultation process on disability in Canada in the past 20 years. These consultations included 18 public meetings and 9 thematic roundtables where Canadians from across the country shared their personal stories and their challenges, successes, hopes and aspirations for a more inclusive society.

The report summarizes what the Government of Canada learned from consulting with Canadians, experts, stakeholders and community organizations, and provides valuable insight on the barriers that Canadians with disabilities face in their daily lives.

There is emerging consensus from participants in the consultation about what the new legislation should look like and the role of the Government of Canada, namely:

The legislation should lead to the development of detailed standards for federal organizations on how to improve accessibility, while also supporting them in removing barriers for their employees and customers;

The legislation should include strong compliance and enforcement mechanisms;

Its understood that new legislation alone cannot remove all barriers and there is recognition that complementary supports and programs will be necessary to create new opportunities to ensure participation for persons with disabilities and to help change the way people think about accessibility; and

The Government of Canada should be a leader, both in its own practices and in supporting organizations to be successful, and also set ambitious goals with clear and measurable targets.

The report is being released today as part of National AccessAbility Week, a week to celebrate, highlight and promote inclusion and accessibility in communities and workplaces across the country.

Quotes

Canadians from across our country joined together to tell us about their vision of an accessible Canada. The time to create new legislation to improve accessibility for all Canadians with disabilities is now. The journey is far from over, but we are one step closer to ensuring all Canadians have the opportunity to succeed right from the start. I would like to thank all that have shared stories and helped us learn about daily challenges faced and the changes that will help us to build a more inclusive Canada.
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Quick Facts

* The Government of Canada held consultations between July 2016 and February 2017.

Between 2011 and 2015, disability-related complaints represented just over half of all the discrimination complaints received by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), approximately 14% of Canadians aged 15 years or older reported having a disability that limited them in their daily activities. There are approximately 411,600 working-aged Canadians with disabilities who are not working but whose disability does not prevent them from doing so; almost half of these potential workers are post-secondary graduates.

* An analysis of data from the 2012 CSD found that, approximately 2.1 million Canadians aged 15 years or older are at risk of facing barriers in the built environment and/or in relation to information and communications.

Related Products

* Backgrounder

Associated Links

* Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned * National Accessibility Week
* #AccessibleCanada
* Consulting with Canadians

Contacts

Ashley Michnowski
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities 819-934-1122 / TTY: 1-866-702-6967
Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
819-994-5559
media@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

Is your Company’s Website Accessible to the Disabled? You’d Better Hope So

By Mark Pulliam
June 11, 2017, 4:00 AM

The Americans With Disabilities Act produced tangible benefits. Signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, the ADA banned employment discrimination against the disabled and eliminated unnecessary physical barriers to commercial and government buildings. But in the quarter-century since it was enacted, the law has also had countless unintended consequences mutating definitions of what constitutes a physical or mental disability, senseless mandates, astronomical compliance costs for business owners and, perhaps most damaging of all, waves of abusive litigation.

Indeed, ADA lawsuits are now as common as sex-discrimination lawsuits, with more than 26,000 new claims filed against employers each year. The latest litigants have their sights on the most innovative segment of our domestic economy: e-commerce.

In this trend, people sue businesses because their websites aren’t sufficiently accessible to the disabled because the websites lack assistive technologies for the blind or hearing-impaired, say. It began in 2000, when Bank of America became the first entity to settle a web-accessibility lawsuit. Safeway and Charles Schwab soon followed suit. In 2008, Target paid $6 million to settle a class-action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind, and nearly $4 million more to cover the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and other costs. More than 240 businesses across the country have been sued in federal court over website accessibility since the beginning of 2015. Similar litigation has been brought against universities on the grounds that the free online courses they offer aren’t captioned for deaf users, and against ride-sharing services because their smartphone apps lack text-to-speech capability for blind users.

“Applying Title III to websites and to online content in general is highly problematic, because websites are connected to the global economy.

Though the ADA was enacted before websites were ubiquitous, many courts have interpreted the term “public accommodation” in the act’s Title III to encompass Internet companies. But clear rules for applying the ADA to websites have yet to be established. For instance, the courts are divided about whether all commercial websites are subject to the ADA, or just those associated with brick-and-mortar businesses. Under President Obama, the Department of Justice took the broader position, but it didn’t issue any actual regulations providing specific guidance to businesses. Those are now expected in 2018. In the meantime, millions of businesses with websites have the worst of both worlds: mandates without directions.

According to the demands of disabled users, in order for a website to be accessible, it must use fewer pictures, present text in a format that is compatible with text-reading software and employ design that allows for easy navigation. But the features that make a website more accessible for one disabled group are bound to be objectionable to another.

They may also conflict with other needs. Consider bank websites, which often employ timers that will shut down an online session for security reasons after a particular time period is exceeded. Such “timeouts” could present problems for some disabled users, but eliminating them in the interest of accessibility could impair security for all.

In the process of making a website accessible, questions invariably proliferate. Do certain color combinations violate the ADA because they confound the colorblind? Are certain layouts inaccessible if they’re confusing to users with a limited field of vision? Do the accessibility requirements apply only to the websites themselves, or do they also apply to Web content, such as advertising on a third party’s website? Will website hosts be responsible for the compliance of third-party sites? Must archived Web content be revised to comply? What about mobile apps? Do temporary technical bugs in an otherwise compliant website constitute a violation? What physical and mental conditions will require accommodation? So far, Web accessibility lawsuits have concerned the vision- and hearing-impaired, but future cases could be brought on behalf of plaintiffs diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, narcolepsy, cognitive impairments, paralysis and many other conditions.

What’s more, guidelines that make sense for a Fortune 500 company aren’t necessarily appropriate for a small or medium-size business. The cost of having a knowledgeable consultant reconfigure or even audit a website could be prohibitively expensive. Merely reviewing a website’s code and metadata to determine its compatibility with a blind user’s screen-reading software can cost $50,000.

In other words, applying Title III to websites and to online content in general is highly problematic, because websites are connected to the global economy. Making websites accessible to all is a far more complicated endeavor than modifying the premises of a business to accommodate disabled customers or disabled employees.

The litigation approach to enforcement that has developed under the ADA is a proven disaster, and one that should not be inflicted on the burgeoning digital economy. Lawmakers need to recognize that predatory litigation accomplishes nothing but the enrichment of a small number of opportunist lawyers and their clients. At a minimum, before bringing a lawsuit, accessibility claimants should be required to provide notice of alleged violations and give businesses a reasonable opportunity to comply. Advocates for the disabled may oppose such reforms, but responsible legislators must not cower before vocal special-interest groups.

Congress should either exempt websites and their related content from the requirements of the ADA, or enact detailed guidelines for the accommodations required by the law. If Congress won’t act, the Department of Justice or another federal agency should issue reasonable regulations. In the interim, courts should hold in abeyance all lawsuits filed against allegedly noncompliant websites. Exposing businesses to potentially ruinous litigation in the absence of specific rules is an affront to the rule of law.

The ADA has produced endless lawsuits at astronomical cost. We cannot allow our most innovative form of technology, e-commerce, to be sacrificed on this altar of wishful thinking. In our digital age, the law needs to do some accommodating of its own.

Mark Pulliam is a contributing editor at the Library of Law and Liberty. He practiced law in California for 30 years. This piece has been adapted from the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

Original at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-pulliam-ada-websites-20170611-story.html

More Canadians Seeking Disability Benefits Have Denials Overturned on Appeal

Jordan Press,
The Canadian Press, June 4, 2017

OTTAWA Nearly half the Canadians who seek to have decisions denying them access to Canada Pension Plan disability benefits are successfully appealing the rulings a statistic that is giving experts cause for concern.

The figures illustrate what has happened in the year since Canada’s auditor general excoriated the government for its handling of CPP disability appeals, which provides stipends to Canadians who are unable to work due to disability.

Michael Ferguson’s February 2016 report on the $4-billion disability benefits system found that some one-third of applicants who were originally denied benefits were later found to be eligible, based on the initial evidence.

Two-thirds of those who took their appeal to the social security tribunal ended up winning, raising questions about why they were denied in the first place.

Figures provided to The Canadian Press show that in the last fiscal year, which closed at the end of March, 44.5 per cent of appeals were upheld when federal officials took a second look at the files an increase from the figures identified in Ferguson’s report, which examined a longer period of time.

Among those that took their case to the tribunal, about 45 per cent ended up being successful between April 2016 and March 2017, based on data provided by Employment and Social Development Canada.

Experts involved in the system say the data suggest there is an adjudication issue within the department that the federal government needs to address.

“That tells me the adjudication process is seriously flawed,” said Allison Schmidt, a Regina-based pension disability case manager and a vocal critic of the system.

Schmidt said she has seen a number of cases where medical adjudicators those responsible for deciding whether someone is eligible for the benefit make decisions without all the information, simply to meet deadlines.

The department said there could be a number of reasons for the high rate of appeal, including extra information that wasn’t available when the initial decision was made, or changes to a person’s medical situation.

“The key priority is to ensure that the most appropriate decision is made,” the department said in a statement.

The concern that Schmidt and others now have is the pace at which change is going to come to the department.

ESDC promised in the wake of Ferguson’s report to create a quality assurance framework to ensure officials are making decisions based on the same criteria.

An overturn rate of between 10 and 20 per cent would be understandable, Schmidt said.

The department said it is piloting new tools this year to ensure there is consistency nationally in how applications are assessed. The tools will then be rolled out nationwide next year, but won’t be fully implemented until 2019 at the latest.

Changes to the paper application itself, which Ferguson said was overly complicated and lengthy, will be tested later this year. A web-based application won’t be online until September 2019.

The department has also made other changes aimed at more quickly making decisions on applicants with terminal illnesses to ensure their files are handled within five days of arrivals, and 30 days for those with grave medical conditions.

Original at http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/disability+appeals+point+problem+experts/13425390/story.html

Social Robots Improving the Lives of People with Autism

Jun 12, 2017

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disabilities in which communication can be hindered in social interactions both verbal and non-verbal. There is a wide spectrum within the effects autism has on a person including intellectual disabilities, physical and mental health issues such as seizures, ADD or ADHD, anxiety and phobias.

robotsWhen placed in a social setting with those without autism, people who do not understand autism may jump to the conclusion that this person is socially awkward, lacks emotion, doesn’t understand humor, or the other nuances of communication learned through time. Social settings can include everything from small talk at the register, expressing empathy to someone’s problems, workplace dynamics, meeting new people, and countless other interactions.

Where most people without autism might struggle to understand underlying tones or meanings in conversation based on language, vocal inflection, facial expressions and body movements, people with autism simply may not register such nuances and behaviors and thus miss the mark when trying to communicate ideas, feelings, or instructions.

Enter the social robota companion robot designed to help adults with autism navigate the social river of the workplace. The robot companion will tell essentially translate for people with autism whether or not there is sarcasm or an implied meaning, whether the person they met appears to like them or not, whether an instruction was literal or a joke, what the emotions on someone’s face convey. The idea is that this will benefit them in the workplace, but could go further into the outside world.

The concept of the social robot is not to force people with autism to change or conform against their abilities, but to have the environment around them changed or explained in a way that they can understand. Through use of the social robot, the person with autism will be able to have more meaningful interactions and more active role within the workplace. Because people with autism often have other abilities such as a higher attention to details or an ability to do repetitive work, the hope is that with the social robot helping them understand their role within a company, they will also be able to climb the social ladder more easily to earn better job positions and trusted with more responsibility. When people with autism succeed, our workplace and society succeed as well.

Original at http://globalaccessibilitynews.com/2017/06/12/social-robots-improving-the-lives-of-people-with-autism/

‘Fixing Society’ Involves Boosting Accessibility Laws

Four million Canadians have disabilities, advocate says
By: Kevin Rollason
Posted: 06/8/2017

The world would be a different place for people who have disabilities if Toronto lawyer David Lepofsky has his way.

Lepofsky said the biggest changes would happen if governments could be convinced to create better laws to guide accessibility.

“What we’re trying to do is fix society,” Lepofsky said on Thursday.

“The world has been designed as if the only people living in it successfully are people without disabilities. The buildings around us, public transit, stores, education systems, are all designed like people said, ‘Let’s design things so people with disabilities can’t use them.’

“Our challenge is to get people to stop doing this. To design a world where public transit and living and education are fully inclusive.”

Lepofsky, who has impaired vision, said governments across the country need to write laws on accessibility standards, allow plenty of time for businesses to meet them, and include fines only for those that refuse to make changes.

He said not only does it make sense for private businesses to create more accessibility for people living with disabilities, it also makes business sense.

“There are four million-plus Canadians with disabilities,” Lepofsky said.

“I say that’s way bigger than (the population in) a lot of provinces in Canada right now. Around the world, there are a billion. In Ontario, one out of every six students has special education needs.

“Those numbers are huge, but not the whole picture because everybody gets a disability someday. Do businesses really think they don’t need them as customers? That’s not a formula for business success.”

Lepofsky is in Winnipeg this week to speak during Manitoba Access Awareness Week. He spoke on Wednesday at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights about accessibility rights legislation and he is speaking at West Kildonan Collegiate today about accessibility in education.

Lepofsky has advocated for the rights of people living with disabilities since the late 1970s.

He won two landmark human rights cases which resulted in the Toronto Transit Commission having to implement the announcement of all subway, streetcar and bus stops to help people with impaired vision.

Lepofsky has been chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance since 2009 and was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1995 and the Order of Ontario in 2007.

He said it was a good step for Barrier-Free Manitoba to provide comments earlier this year on the province’s proposed accessible employment standard.

Barrier-Free Manitoba has made 19 recommendations to strengthen the standard as the province moves towards its goal of making the labour market fully accessible by 2023.

These include having the accessible employment standard come in force by 2019 for the provincial government, the year after for designated public-sector organizations and the third year for all other obligated organizations, and that all companies which employ 20 or more people have in place in writing its policies related to accessible employment.

Lepofsky said businesses shouldn’t fear changes that need to be made to help people living with disabilities.

“Do it right, and businesses make more money and government makes more taxes,” he said.

“We don’t want to regulate the hell out of everyone. We just want to make it better.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Original at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/fixing-society-involves-boosting-accessibility-laws-427356093.html

Creating New National Accessibility Legislation: What We Learned

Message from the Minister

As Canada’s first-ever Minister responsible for persons with disabilities, I had the honour of leading Canada’s largest and most accessible consultation on disability issues ever.

In the summer of 2016, I began asking Canadians all across the country, “What does an accessible Canada mean to you?” What we learned, summarized in this report, will help us create new federal accessibility legislation.

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

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

I also worked hand-in-hand with disability organizations and national Indigenous organizations across Canada to ensure that everyone who wanted to participate had the opportunity to do so.

Through the consultations, Canadians from across our country shared their personal storiestheir challenges, successes, hopes and aspirations. I heard from youth who wanted equal access to education, I heard from parents with dreams of their children being self-sufficient and I heard from young adults frustrated with their ability to access public services. Yet there was one common theme: They each faced a barrier that limited their ability to be fully included.

I recognize that new federal legislation will not address every barrier that Canadians with disabilities face. In fact, many issues raised were beyond the reach of federal jurisdiction. I do, however, share the same hope and optimism of the thousands of those who participated on how the Government of Canada can be a leader with this new legislation and how this new legislation can bring about real change for Canadians with disabilities.

Moving forward, we’re going to take what we learned through this historic consultation process to develop new federal accessibility legislation that will provide all Canadians a better chance to succeed in their local communities and workplaces. We will also share what we learned with all levels of government and encourage them to join us in our journey to make a more accessible Canada.

This consultation process was a very important step forward towards inclusion, but it is only the beginning of a journey to reach our goal of a truly inclusive Canada. Thank you to all who participated.

Together, we are making history.

Why Canada needs accessibility legislation

“We need people to dream about a better world. How this government responds to your views about what’s importantnot just over the next couple of years, or the next election cycle, but for the next decade and generationwill help us remain focused on what really matters.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Accessible Canada National Youth Forum

“When we talk about an accessible Canada, what we’re really talking about is creating an inclusive society where all Canadians have an equal opportunity to succeed, and are equal participants. Together, we can make it happen.”
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
As Canadians, we all benefit from accessibility when we and our family members, friends, neighbours, classmates and co-workers are able to fully participate and contribute in our communities and workplaces without barriers. These barriers, however, continue to exist today and limit the social, political and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities across Canada.

Examples of these barriers include:

  • negative attitudes or beliefs about what a person with a disability can or cannot do;
  • buildings and spaces that cannot be accessed or are not easy to navigate;
  • information that is difficult or impossible to access, read or understand either due to technology or the way it is presented;
  • computers, equipment and web applications that are difficult or impossible to use; and
  • rules and practices that leave individuals out.

Currently, one in seven Canadians has a disability, and that number is expected to grow with an aging population. It is clear that these barriers to accessibility can no longer be ignored. This is why the Government of Canada is working towards new legislation to help address these barriers and strive towards a more accessible Canada.

Our discussion with Canadians

In November 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Minister Carla Qualtrough to engage Canadians directly about what is needed in new legislation that would help remove barriers and prevent new barriers from being created for persons with disabilities.

In June 2016, Minister Qualtrough began her discussion with Canadians by launching a new website, Accessible Canada, where she asked all Canadians to think about what accessibility means to them and what it could mean for their communities. Between June 2016 and February 2017, over 6,000 Canadians and over 90 organizations shared their ideas about an accessible Canada, marking the largest and most accessible consultation on disability issues that Canada has ever seen.

The consultations reflected the spirit and hope that Canadians have toward the proposed legislation and strove to honour the disability community’s principle of “nothing about us without us.” Canadians were encouraged to share their ideas and were offered many different opportunities to do so.

  • Over 4,300 people answered questions online and over 200 people shared their ideas via letters, emails, videos or phone.
  • Over 90 reports were provided by disability organizations, unions, businesses and other levels of government.
  • Over 1,400 people participated in 18 meetings held across Canada.
  • One hundred and fifteen youth from across the country attended a one-day Youth Forum hosted by the Minister. These young leaders with disabilities worked together to share their ideas. The Prime Minister also attended and hosted a question and answer period with participants.
  • Over 110 experts attended thematic roundtables hosted by the Minister on disability issues. At these meetings, specific accessibility topics were discussed such as how to make public spaces, transport and customer service more accessible.

Graph 1: Characteristics of online participants
Graph 1: Characteristics, by percentage, of online participants. Details immediately follow.
The three pie-charts in Graph 1 show who participated in the online consultation.

  • Gender: Female (69%), male (27%), another gender identity (2%).
  • Rural (14%) / Urban (84%) /
  • Disabled (52%) / Visible Minority (15%), Indigenous (4%).
  • 6425 People responded to the online consultation.

“Normally, when I go to events, I need to worry about whether I can participate, enter the room, have space for my scooter or sit at the table. I have to call in advance and make back-up plans and my own arrangements. With these consultations, I didn’t have to question or worry. They were accessible and I felt welcome.” Anonymous, Ottawa

“This consultation was the first time in more than 20 years that I was able to use my language of choice, Langue des signes quebecoise, to communicate with my government.” Anonymous, Whitehorse
Throughout the consultations the Government of Canada asked a number of important questions, including:

  • What should be the goal of the new legislation?
  • What accessibility barriers should be included?
  • How do we make sure the new legislation is being followed?
  • In addition to the new legislation, how should we better promote accessibility?
  • How do we ensure that all Canadians are informed on a regular basis if the new legislation is working, or if it needs to be improved?

For nine months, we listened. For nine months, Canadians shared their ideas and their experiences about what concerns them. For nine months, we heard what makes them hopeful and what they think we, as a country, need to do to create an accessible Canada.

This is what we learned.

What we mean by accessibility and disability

“Accessibility is the complete ability to join in, participate or attend the activity or conversation as much as anybody else of my age in my community.” Anonymous

Participants expressed the importance of how the Government of Canada uses “disability” and “accessibility” broadly in the legislation so that everyone with a disability is included. They indicated that the meaning of “disability” should include a full range of abilities and limitations, including “invisible” disabilities, such as learning disabilities or mental health issues, and episodic disabilities, such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy.

Participants also indicated that anything that prevents or limits persons with disabilities from being fully included, or able to do the same activities as persons without disabilities, should be considered a “barrier.” This would include barriers that are physical, such as an inaccessible washroom, and barriers that are not, such as a hiring practice that intentionally or unintentionally limits access to employment.

“My definition of ‘barrier’ is anything that impairs or prevents access, physically or mentally, to any physical movement, learning and/or acceptance by others. Ergo, ‘accessibility’ successfully counters or eliminates the barriers.” Pat Almond, Alberta

Consulting directly with individuals

During the consultations, participants said that for generations Canadians with disabilities have been excluded from many areas of daily life. One of the most significant areas of exclusion has been around personal decision making. This includes being given the opportunity to have a choice regarding personal matters such as where to live, what medical procedures to have, how to save and spend money, whom to marry and whether or not to have children. Canadians with disabilities have also been excluded from government programs, policies and laws that impact their lives.

Participants were hopeful that new accessibility legislation will address these concerns of exclusion and ensure their future participation in government decision making. They shared a variety of ideas on how this could be done, such as:

  • participating on advisory committees;
  • attending public meetings;
  • completing online consultations; and
  • providing feedback to people and organizations about their experiences.

It was made clear: Canadians with disabilities must be consulted from the outset, and that this consultation must be done directly, regularly and meaningfully, not only in the development of Government of Canada priorities, services and policies, but also in making sure the new legislation is successful. Canadians with disabilities never again want to be excluded from decisions that impact their lives.

“Input from all stakeholders (for example, persons with disabilities, caregivers, allies, family members, etc.) should be required and happening! As we often say in the Disability Action Hall, ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ please.” Anonymous
While some participants indicated they were First Nation, Inuit or Metis, many participants said that we needed to have more conversations with Indigenous Canadians. The Government of Canada recognizes the need to continue this conversation regarding the barriers faced by Indigenous Canadians and their ideas on how to improve accessibility.

Ideas and key findings

Whether online, by mail or in meetings, participants showed hope and excitement for new accessibility legislation that would improve the quality of life for Canadians with disabilities.

While there was agreement on many overarching ideas, there were often different opinions about how the new legislation could work. For example, some ideas that were shared reached beyond the responsibility of the Government of Canada and its new accessibility legislation. These ideas were for cities, communities, organizations and business that mostly fall within provincial or territorial laws.

Participants also discussed areas where the federal, provincial and territorial governments share some responsibilities. For example, participants discussed how accessibility interacts with issues of poverty, housing, education and health care. These ideas spoke to the demand for an “all of Canada” approach to accessibility. It was committed that what was learned from the consultation will be shared across all levels of government.

Participants shared many personal stories about barriers they face and about how often these barriers are made worse by a lack of understanding or the lack of availability of services. They also shared stories about facing the same barriers again and again and having to find their own solutions. Many participants noted that they are tired of having to struggle to have barriers removed and frustrated that barriers often stop them from fully participating. Alternatively, some participants noted a strong feeling of being included in their communities and shared stories about the important roles of family, friends and neighbours.

Every participant was clear: It is not acceptable for Canadians with disabilities to be excluded from any aspect of life. Regardless of age, gender or where they live, we learned that participants share many similar ideas about what an accessible Canada means to them and how to achieve it.

Key messages heard

Here are some of the important messages we heard:

The new legislation should be ambitious and bold:

  • Accessibility is a human right and should apply to all areas of daily life.
  • New legislation should take a principled approach recognizing full citizenship, and helping Canada achieve its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • New legislation and complementary programing should be properly resourced to support the goal of a truly accessible Canada.

The new legislation should lead to more consistent experiences of accessibility across Canada:

  • Participants want to see all levels of government work together to improve accessibility in all areas.
  • New legislation should lead to the development of accessibility standards that other governments in Canada could adopt.
  • New legislation should build on existing standards that are already working well.

“The key to success would be to engage provincial and municipal governments and have the legislation adopted as a practicing standard, similar to building codes. Rather than developing their own, other levels of government can simply state that they are adopting the national legislation as their basis. It doesn’t help a disabled person to know they can get around in a federal building if they encounter numerous barriers on their way there.” Anonymous

The new legislation should apply to all areas under the control of the Government of Canada, including:

  • buses, ferries or air travel across provincial and international borders;
  • the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors;
  • the banking and financial sectors;
  • federal lands, including parks and First Nation reserves; and
  • the Government of Canada as a law- and policy-maker, employer, service provider, builder and buyer.

The Government of Canada should be a leader in accessibility by:

  • hiring and supporting employees with disabilities;
  • ensuring that all Government of Canada services and programs are accessible;
  • using only buildings and public spaces that are accessible and that persons with disabilities can access;
  • ensuring that the goods and services purchased by the Government of Canada can be used by persons with disabilities; and
  • establishing a process where all Government of Canada laws and policies are reviewed, taking into consideration persons with disabilities.

No organization should be excluded from the new legislation

  • No organization should be excluded from having to follow the new accessibility legislation.
  • Participants did note that accessibility regulations may need to be different for some groups or organizations. For instance, there may need to be slightly different rules for organizations like airlines or banks due to international standards and/or other extenuating circumstances.
  • Participants did recognize that the development and implementation of some standards will take longer than others.

“We need all organizations to be covered by this legislation. It is no longer reasonable to allow several levels of government to decide what Canadians need. Accessibility must become a federally regulated legislation to ensure that all Canadians have the same right to access under the law. The current approach is too piecemeal.” Gail Paton, Ontario

There was no consensus on a single area of accessibility being more important than another

  • Most participants saw all types of accessibility as interconnected and equally important.
  • Among those who identified a priority, employment and job retention were the most important issues.

Participants are not only eager to help develop the new legislation, but they also want to help implement and make sure people follow the legislation:

  • There was consensus that new legislation should not only be strongly enforced but also contain penalties.
  • Most participants also saw the legislation as an opportunity to empower persons with disabilities with new leadership roles.

“The federal government needs to put some ‘teeth’ into disability legislation, to police provincial and municipal compliance with regulations, and should also provide paid advocates to help the disabled ensure that their voices are heard.” Anonymous

We must change how people think about accessibility and Canadians with disabilities if we are to secure a lasting and positive change

  • Changing how people think about accessibility and fellow Canadians with disabilities is vital to achieving lasting improvements.
  • Employers and children/youth were frequently identified as priority groups to engage in order to change existing attitudes.

Beyond these key messages heard, participants, experts and community partners shared their views on specific areas in which the legislation could affect change, how to ensure the legislation is followed, and how to change the culture of how persons with disabilities are perceived. These topics are explored in more depth in the following sections.

Areas of focus moving forward

All areas of life are connected and need to be made accessible if people are to be fully included. However, when participants were asked to choose one area of accessibility for the Government of Canada to focus on, the top six priorities were:

  • employment;
  • access to buildings and other public spaces through a built environment;
  • transportation by air, train, ferry and buses;
  • program and service delivery;
  • information and communications; and
  • procurement of goods and services.

Graph 2: Which areas are the most important for improving accessibility
Graph 2: Characteristics of improving accessibility, by percentage. Details immediately follow.
Graph 2 shows the results to the question: “Which areas are the most important for improving accessibility?”

  • Thirty-nine percent say that employment (for example, fair hiring practices) is the most important, followed by built environments (32%), transportation (28%) and program and service delivery (26%). All of the six areas are important (22%), information and communications (21%), procurement of goods and services (9%) and I don’t know (3%).
  • 1,513 people responded to this question

The following provides more detail regarding what was heard and how the Government of Canada can improve accessibility in these six key areas:

Access and transition to employment

Participants talked about the importance of workplaces that address barriers and allow persons with disabilities to obtain a first job, succeed in their work and get promoted as leaders. Participants also emphasized that employers need to understand that workplace adjustments can often be a smart investment that helps all employees, and their business or organization, succeed.

Existing requirements for employers to make their workplaces more accessible were noted to be positive (for example, Employment Equity Act and the Ontario Employment Standards). However, participants and stakeholders emphasized that more needs to be done. For example, there could be more detailed requirements to ensure that recruiting and hiring processes are accessible. Further, new requirements could be made to support an employee’s return to work if they acquire a disability while employed.

We also heard that more could be done to make sure that workplace policies do not result in more barriers to accessibility including making sure employers understand the value that employees with disabilities can bring to the workplace.

There was also strong recognition that employers need to be better supported in this area.

“There are thousands of persons with disabilities who also have university degrees. Yet, it is very difficult to get hired by any employer, including the federal government.” Anonymous

Access to buildings and public spaces

When people think about accessible buildings, they often only think about physical disabilities and the need for ramps, elevators and accessible washrooms.

Participants made it clear that all disabilities need to be considered when looking at the accessibility of buildings and public spaces. This includes other impairments or limitations, such as those related to vision, hearing or intellectual disabilities. This broader recognition of how persons with varying impairments or limitations interact with their built surroundings was seen as a key consideration in moving towards “universal design.”

It was agreed that new buildings and spaces must be made accessible from the start while also working to make older buildings and spaces more accessible.

When discussing current building standards, participants shared concerns that the current building codes are only minimum requirements and that even these are not always being met. There was discussion on whether the Government of Canada should try to improve existing building codes or try to push builders to go beyond the minimum requirements with a program that recognizes builders who exceed them.

Participants also emphasized that government funding towards infrastructure projects should only be spent on projects that will be accessible.

Access to travel by air, train, ferry and buses

Transportation is an important part of all Canadians’ daily lives. It is how we get to work, go to a doctor’s appointment, go to a shopping centre, go on a vacation and visit family and friends. Without access to transportation, Canadians can become isolated and made more vulnerable.

The Government of Canada is responsible for travel by airplane, rail and some bus and ferry services between provinces and territories and internationally. Most other travel within a city or a province, whether by bus, streetcar or train, is the responsibility of other levels of government. As previously mentioned, the Government of Canada will share this feedback with other levels of government.

Participants noted that they want the legislation to ensure that every part of their journey is made more accessible. This includes all steps between leaving home and arriving at a final destination.

Participants also noted that existing standards for transportation could be made more clear and responsive to the needs of persons with disabilities.

Finally, participants talked about how the Canadian Transportation Agency, the organization responsible for transportation standards, could be given more authority in certain areas, such as looking into issues proactively.

Customer service

Many participants conveyed that Canadians with disabilities do not always receive an equal quality of service. For example, Canadians with disabilities often encounter barriers at service counters, when talking to customer service personnel over the telephone or when communicating with organizations online.

Participants discussed how Canadians with disabilities have challenges communicating with customer service staff and often receive documents in formats that are not accessible. Specifically, participants said there is often a lack of sign language interpretation, and that persons who have difficulty speaking or who use a communication device are often not understood.

Participants also said customer service staff do not always understand how to serve Canadians with different types of disabilities. It often becomes the responsibility of the person with a disability to propose a solution.

When facing customer service issues, Canadians with disabilities are often offered alternative options of lower quality. Canadians with disabilities, however, want to be offered real choices and to have the opportunity to decide how services are provided to them. It is clear that they want opportunities to let businesses and organizations know when they have service issues and where improvements can be made.

Accessibility of computers, smart phones and other technology

Participants discussed the importance of information and communication technologies in their daily lives. Many agreed that the Government of Canada should use standards for information and communication technologies for all digital content, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Telecommunications and broadcasting, and the way all businesses use these products and services, are always changing. Canadians with disabilities are concerned that both devices and content will not be accessible for their needs. Most participants recommended that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission be given additional powers to ensure that the accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting products and services continues to improve over time.

“Why can I only check-in for a flight using the desktop version of a website? Why aren’t mobile versions and apps accessible and either zoomable or useable by my screen reader?” Anonymous, Vancouver

Businesses talked about the challenges of making some products and services accessible when technology changes so quickly. They also raised the fact that much of the technology used in Canada is made outside of Canada.

Businesses want to know how accessible their products and services are, but they made it clear that any new standards should work with existing laws. They pointed out that new standards for accessibility can encourage businesses to make their products and services better. If standards are too restrictive, however, it can make it difficult for businesses to innovate.

Purchasing goods and services that are accessible to everyone

Participants want the new legislation to ensure that the Government of Canada only purchases goods and services that can be used by persons with disabilities.

Although the Government of Canada may have to invest more money upfront to ensure goods and services are accessible from the beginning, this is less expensive than addressing any accessibility costs after goods or services have already been purchased. Participants thought that the purchase of computers and technology is an area where government spending creates some of the biggest barriers for persons with disabilities.

The standards used by the European Union and the United States for buying computers, phones and other technology were pointed out as good examples for the new legislation.

Ensuring the new legislation is working

There was broad agreement amongst participants that the Government of Canada should be able to monitor how well the legislation is working and make changes to improve the legislation, if needed. Many expressed frustration that current laws are not reviewed frequently enough to improve accessibility.

Monitoring the progress of organizations in following the new legislation

Participants were asked about the ways the Government of Canada could monitor organizations to make sure they are following the new legislation. Most thought that a range of tools should be used and that Canadians with disabilities should be involved in the monitoring process. These tools included:

  • Action plans The legislation could require organizations to make action plans that describe how they will improve their accessibility over time.
  • Progress reports The legislation could require organizations to report on what they are doing to improve accessibility.
  • Reviews The legislation could describe how the Government would check the action plans and reports that organizations provide.
  • Complaints The legislation could describe how Canadians could make complaints if they think that an organization is not following the legislation.

Participants also recommended that the process to notify the Government of Canada when the legislation is not being followed should be simple and anonymous, if anonymity is desired.

“The complaint mechanism needs to be very clear and very accessible to allow the most vulnerable members of our community to still access it without trouble.” Anonymous

Graph 3: What monitoring mechanism do you think should be considered for the law
Graph 3: Types of monitoring mechanisms by percentage. Details immediately follow.
Graph 3 shows the results to the question: “What monitoring mechanisms do you think should be considered for the law?”

  • Sixty-four percent say reviews and audits, followed by complaints mechanisms (58%), progress reports (46%), action plans (45%), suggested an enforcement mechanism (for example, monetary penalties, public reporting) (17%), and focus on preventative tools (to help people comply, for example, education) (8%). Five percent responded other and 6% responded I don’t know.
  • 1,235 people responded to this question.

To oversee and respond to individual complaints, participants communicated a desire for the Government of Canada to create a new government or non-government body that could act independently to ensure organizations are following the legislation. For example, people could make a complaint to or ask for help from a commission or “ombudsperson” when they identify that the new legislation is not being followed. This new body could then investigate the complaint to make sure the legislation is being following by individuals, organizations and the Government of Canada.

“There should be one federal agency for all federal accessibility standards and enforcement, the new Canada Accessibility Commissioner.” Barrier Free Canada

Supporting organizations that follow the legislation, penalizing those that do not

Participants shared that not enough has been done to make sure current laws are followed. It was emphasized that existing laws rely too much on persons with disabilities to make complaints, placing the responsibility on the individual.

Overall, participants want the new legislation to “have teeth” and require organizations to make real improvements for Canadians with disabilities.

There was strong support for using a range of tools to make sure new legislation is followed, including:

  • Recognition and incentives Organizations and individuals should be recognized or rewarded for their efforts when they succeed in improving access for persons with disabilities.
  • Mediation processes When an organization faces issues following the legislation, persons with disabilities and representatives from the organization and the Government of Canada could meet to find a solution.
  • Penalties If organizations are not following the legislation or making an effort to address issues, there should be fines and penalties.

Many participants supported the idea of making each organization publicly report on how well it is following the legislation. They saw this as a way to reward organizations that are doing really well and motivate those that can do better.

Graph 4: What enforcement mechanism do you think should be considered for the legislation
Graph 4: Types of enforcement mechanisms by percentage. Details immediately follow.
Graph 4 shows the results to the question: “What enforcement mechanisms do you think should be considered for the legislation (including ones not listed here)?”

  • Fifty-eight percent say monetary and other penalties (for example, fines) followed by mediation, training and other “soft” methods to help ensure compliance and public reporting of non-compliance (39%, respectively), orders that describe non-compliance (38%), criminal charges (27%) and revoking permits/licences (27%). Nine percent suggested another monitoring mechanism. Five percent responded other and 9% responded I don’t know.
  • 1,115 people responded to this question.

“I think it would be realistic to have a phase-in period for organizations to become compliant once the Bill is passed as law, and a gradual escalation process for organizations that are cited for non-compliance; beginning with informal mediation with a time period to become compliant, if the organization fails to conform to regulations after the set time period (without a reasonable rationale) then have their organization information posted/reported publicly with formal mediation and an order detailing areas of non-compliance with a secondary deadline to remedy the identified problems. If no actions are taken (without a reasonable rationale) to comply with the regulations, then penalties could be leveraged (whether they are in the form of fines, revocation of Charitable Status, etc…).” Alena Wickware, Ontario

“Financial support for actual removal of barrierssuch as changing physical environment or training programs for staff for attitudinal barriers.” Djenana Jalovcic, Ontario

Making sure the legislation is improving accessibility

Overall, participants recommended that the Government of Canada should regularly report to Canadians how well the legislation is working and what needs to be improved. They want this work to be done by experts, Canadians with disabilities and disability stakeholders. The results should be made public.

Participants also told us that reporting should take place regularly, possibly on an annual basis. Some participants noted that reporting could happen more often during the first years of the legislation, and less frequently after it has been in place for several years.

Participants also shared their ideas about what should be included in the Government of Canada report. For example, the report could:

  • look at how the legislation is improving the lives of Canadians with disabilities;
  • report on which organizations are following the legislation;
  • report on complaints about the legislation and what actions the Government of Canada has taken to make sure organizations follow the legislation; and
  • compare how Canada is doing on accessibility to other countries.

“It should be comprehensive but focus on the outcomes and results. Should also be easy to understand.” Anonymous

Graph 5: What kinds of things should this report look at?
Graph 5: Topics that should be addressed in the report by percentage. Details immediately follow.
Graph 5 shows the results to the question: “What kinds of things should this report look at?”

  • Sixty-six percent said outcomes/objectives achievements (for example, built environment, employment statistics, income, housing, transportation), followed by compliance (for example, how many organizations are not compliant, kudos to those that are, shame those that are not) (26%), monitoring and enforcement (for example, number of audits, fines, warnings) (24%) and innovation: identify new initiatives/strategies to reduce barriers (14%). Seven percent responded other and 2% responded I don’t know.
  • 1,129 people responded to this question.

Changing the culture

Often, Canadians are not aware of the barriers faced by persons with disabilities. In order to change the existing culture, everyone needs to contribute in some way to make Canada more accessible.

Suggestions made by participants on how to change the way Canadians think about persons with disabilities were wide-ranging. The overarching theme was that a variety of tools should be used to change the way we talk about disabilitychange the language, shift the conversation and talk about full citizenship and inclusion.

Ideas included raising awareness through media campaigns, leveraging key leaders to change how Canadians talk about disability and educating young Canadians with a new way of thinking around accessibility and persons with disabilities. Participants also emphasized that businesses and organizations need to be better informed in hiring, employing and serving persons with disabilities.

Graph 6: How can the Government of Canada raise awareness of and change attitudes in relation to accessibility
Graph 6: Ways to raise awareness and attitudes in percentage. Details immediately follow.
Graph 6 shows the results to the question: “How can the Government of Canada raise awareness of and change attitudes in relation to accessibility (in the short term and long term)?”

  • Forth-four percent said “launch advertising/awareness building campaign(s), followed by amend/create legislation/regulation (including changing the constitution) (28%), ensure that workplaces are accessible (including sensitivity training for employees) (15%), lead by example by having more PWD in government (including as role models and policy architects) (14%), programs should promote accessibility and participation in schools (13%), require better enforcement of accessibility requirements (10%), work with employers in all sectors to create more employment opportunities (9%), and make government services more accessible (including sensitivity training for client services (8%).
  • Twelve percent responded other (for example, increase program funding) and 1% responded I don’t know.
  • 2,339 people responded to this question

“The long-term goal is to create conversations in elementary schools to shift attitudes about persons with disabilities in the workforce. Children will grow up informed and accepting of persons with disabilities.” Anonymous

Participants and businesses shared the belief that focusing on attitudes about persons with disabilities in the workplace is very important. They also shared the concern that businesses and organizations need to be supported on how to best support persons with disabilities in their workplaces. Sometimes, all that is needed is a small change which can help a person with a disability find or keep a job. Participants thought that it would also help to celebrate or recognize businesses and organizations that are doing a great job at hiring and supporting workers with disabilities.

Participants often told us that many businesses or organizations want to improve the workplace environment for persons with disabilities but don’t know how.

Participants recommended that the Government of Canada support the creation of an organization that provides technical assistance on how to improve accessibility. Examples of technical assistance provided could include helping businesses build an accessible recruiting and hiring process, and providing businesses advice on how they can meet and exceed existing workplace and employment standards.

Participants also suggested that the Government of Canada could help businesses and organizations pay for changes that may be required under the new legislation. For example, improving accessibility may require a business to purchase an adaptive technology, change a website or install a new elevator. Other participants said that businesses and organizations should be made aware of the economic benefits of improving accessibility by increasing access to an existing labour force and consumer base.

“I do not think the burden should be just on persons with disabilities to take ‘leadership roles’; it should be the position of people who are already in power, politicians and government, to start pushing for change.” Youth Forum participant, Ottawa

Many participants also recommended that another way to change how Canadians think about accessibility and persons with disabilities is for the Government of Canada to lead by example.

Participants recommended that the Government of Canada could:

  • hire more persons with disabilities and make sure persons with disabilities have what they need to succeed;
  • support persons with disabilities to be promoted and become leaders within their organizations and communities;
  • ensure accessibility of Government of Canada buildings and websites;
  • make sure that the goods and services that the Government of Canada buys can be used by persons with disabilities; and
  • sign and work towards the implementation of the optional protocol of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

    Graph 7: Do you have suggestions for how the Government could help organizations to improve accessibility and remove barriers
    Graph 7: Suggestions on ways to help organization to improve accessibility and remove barriers in percentage. Details immediately follow.
    Graph 7 shows the results to the question: “Do you have suggestions for how the Government could help organizations to improve accessibility and remove barriers?”

    • Seventy percent said financial support and incentives (for example, subsidies that help organizations become compliant, tax breaks, rebates), followed by the creation of a centre of expertise on accessibility and barrier removal (28%), public recognition positive (for example, giving kudos on social media, awards, non-monetary, etc.) (23%), establish clear guidelines, evaluation methods and consequences to ensure compliance (15%), public education (for example, raise awareness around legislation and assistance available to organizations), consultations or other methods to engage with affected groups or individuals (for example, those with disabilities know best) (10%) and lead by example (for example, demonstrate through action, remove barriers, lead on accessibility, etc.) (5%).
    • Four percent said certification, 7% responded other and 3% responded I don’t know.
    • 1,259 people responded to this question.

    Conclusion

    The time to create new legislation to improve accessibility for all Canadians with disabilities is now.

    The Government of Canada is in a unique position to bring about real change to the lives of Canadians with disabilities. While new legislation alone cannot remove all barriers, there is recognition that complementary supports and programs will be necessary to create new opportunities of full citizenship and participation for persons with disabilities and to help change the way people think about accessibility.

    Coming out of the consultations, there is emerging consensus about what the new legislation should look like and the role of the Government of Canada. The legislation should both develop detailed policies for organizations on how to improve accessibility, while also supporting them in removing all barriers for their employees and customers. The Government of Canada should be a leader, both in practice and in supporting organizations to be successful. The Government of Canada should also set ambitious goals with clear and measurable targets.

    As covered in this report, we heard what Canadians want in the legislation. We heard the call for the Government of Canada to be a leader. We heard the desire for a principled approach and widespread systemic change. We heard the need for complementary programming and supports. We can get there, but it will take time, hard work and proper support.

    We thank each and every person who contributed and shared their ideas and stories with us. The ideas and recommendations provided through this historic consultation process have laid the foundation for the legislation and have set us on the path to improve accessibility for all Canadians.

    Together, we will make Canada more accessible!

    Original at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/planned-accessibility-legislation/reports/consultations-what-we-learned.html

Manitoba Accessibility Awareness Week kicks off June 4

More than a dozen events will focus on ways to improve accessibility in the province, with guest speakers flying in from Denver and Toronto.
David Lepofsky, a Toronto-based advocate, will be in Winnipeg for three talks during Manitoba Accessibility Awareness Week. By: Jessica Botelho-Urbanski Metro Published on Mon Jun 05 2017

An important event, Manitoba Accessibility Awareness Week (MAAW), kicked off Sunday, though you might not have heard about it from the provincial government due to a media blackout.

Patrick Falconer, who works with Barrier-Free Manitoba, called it “very unfortunate” timing to have MAAW happening during the Point Douglas byelection and its consequent media blackout period. Unfortunately, the event was already scheduled for June 4-10 nearly a year earlier.

The Accessibility for Manitobans Act became law in 2013 and accessibility standards in five areascustomer service, employment, information and communications, built environment and transportationwill be phased in over the next decade.

There’s much public education to do in the meantime, Falconer said, so events like MAAW ought to be well advertised.

Public sector bodies have until November 2017 to comply with the accessibility standard for customer service, while about 34,000 private and non-profit organizations have until November 2018.

“If we have criticism, it’s that we haven’t yet seen an effective communications strategy by the province in terms of this. And it’s going to be incumbent on them to make sure those 34,000 organizations understand why they’re being required to make these changes and what changes are required,” Falconer said. “It’s not a daunting task, but it’s a significant task to communicate with that broad a public.”

One of Ontario’s leading accessibility advocates, David Lepofsky, will be in town to share some knowledge surrounding his province’s struggles and successes implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the precursor to Manitoba’s similar act).

Having launched successful social media campaigns like #AODAFail to spur tweaks to Toronto architecture, Lepofsky will provide advice to local activists yearning to make an impact. He’s also gearing some of his focus on tips for the business community, who will have to implement accessibility standards in the coming years

“I’m trying to break the mold of (accessibility) not being a left wing or right wing issue. It’s not pro-business or anti-business,” Lepofsky said. “If you do (public education) right, then these guys don’t have to all hire consultants.”

For a list of the MAAW events schedule, visit http://www.accessibilitymb.ca.

Original at http://www.metronews.ca/news/winnipeg/2017/06/05/manitoba-accessibility-awareness-week-kicks-off-june-4-.html

‘So many barriers’: Forum discusses jobs and accessibility

Alliance aims to have people noticed for their abilities rather than their disabilities By Nicole Williams
CBC, Jun 1, 2017

Islanders shared accessibility issues on P.E.I. and how they want the federal government to improve things at a public forum Wednesday.

The Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada hosted a public forum in Summerside in their latest round public consultations happening across the country to collect feedback on upcoming legislation regarding accessibility.

Mental health issues added to P.E.I. disability support program How can P.E.I. be more accessible for people with disabilities?

“We’re trying to create a more accessible Canada,” said Dave Carragher, communications manager for the alliance.

Leroy Gamble was at the forum on behalf of his son who has a disability and is trying to find employment.

“They don’t look at people with disabilities,” said Gamble.

“One time we sent out 25 applications for employment and we didn’t get an answer from one.”

‘So many barriers”

Carragher said people with disabilities often struggle to get recognized by employers and find meaningful employment.

“We’re really concerned about helping people with disabilities get noticed, having their abilities being recognized rather than just their disabilities,” he said.

Dave Carragher, communication manager with The Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada, says those with disabilities need to be appreciate for their abilities.

Carragher said there are several factors that may lead employers to overlook applicants with disabilities, including assumptions about their capabilities or a lack of funding to make places of employment accessible.

“For employment, it could help with just providing more funding to make buildings accessible, or providing more funding to help people get to and from work,” he said.

Carragher is visually impaired and said he’s faced challenges finding employment because many places aren’t outfitted for accessible technology like screen readers, and in many cases Carragher has had to provide them himself because employers are unable to do so.

“I have to find my own job and then have to find my own technology to do that job,” said Carragher. ”

There are so many barriers for people with disabilities when it comes to employment.”

Other issues on the table

Anne Christopher has chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and said she’s concerned with disabled seniors not getting enough financial support from the government..

Christopher was receiving disability pay until she turned 65 but was switched over to a Canadian pension cheque, which is a smaller allowance.

“I don’t understand why I, at the age of 65 they lose disability. [Seniors] don’t lose their disability when they turn 65,” said Christopher of the added stress.

“Losing the disability and going down to a lower level of wages, then you have to rethink spending, how you’re going to deal with your finances.”

Public feedback

The alliance will have a report filed by the end of summer and then will be hosting consultations in the fall with government on exactly what legislation should look like.

As for how soon Islanders can see an improvement in P.E.I.’s accessibility, alliance project manager Jan Ditchfield said it will be a few more years before things start to take shape.

“Everything comes in time. It’s unfortunate that I can’t say, ‘Well, overnight it’s going to be completely different.’ I think we’re seeing changes already just by the fact that these conversations are happening,” said Ditchfield.

“I do think we’ll be looking at two years time I think you’re really going to start seeing the country shaping itself differently than it has in the past.”

Original at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-employment-accessibility-forum-1.4140586

Canadian Transportation Agency issues What We Heard Summary Report on accessible transportation

GATINEAU, QC, June 1, 2017
CNW

As part of the Regulatory Modernization Initiative, the Canadian Transportation Agency has issued a What We Heard Summary Report for its first phase of consultations on accessible transportation. The report highlights the key points that have emerged so far, such as the need for a clear, relevant and comprehensive set of rules for all modes of transport, and for those rules to be expressed in mandatory regulations rather than voluntary codes.

The accessibility needs of Canadians are varied and are increasing as the population ages and the percentage of Canadians with disabilities continues to grow. In a recent Government of Canada consultation on creating new national accessibility legislation, participants ranked transportation as third among key areas of focus for the Government of Canada.

To date, during this consultative process, the Agency has received over 190 submissions from disability rights organizations, industry, and other interested Canadians. Comments and proposals will be taken into consideration in the development of the regulation. As part of the consultation, the Agency will also be meeting with its Accessibility Advisory Committee on June 19, 2017, to get their views.

The report is being released during National AccessAbility Week. The week celebrates inclusion and accessibility in communities and workplaces across the country. Where accessibility of transportation comes into play, the Agency fulfills an important role for all Canadians with disabilities.

Quote

“Equal access to transportation services for persons with disabilities is a fundamental human right. The Agency is very pleased with the level of engagement and feedback we have received in our consultations on accessible transportation regulations. We look forward to continuing the discussion with our Accessibility Advisory Committee in June.”

– Scott Streiner, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency

Quick Facts

  • Since 1988, the Agency has been protecting the fundamental human rights of persons with disabilities to an accessible transportation network. The Agency does this by:
    ?administrating regulations and standards to advance the goal of removing obstacles to travellers with disabilities;
    ?resolving complaints about accessibility through facilitation, mediation or adjudication; and ?undertaking proactive audits of transportation service providers.
  • The first phase of consultations on accessible transportation will continue over the summer. Interested parties can submit comments at consultations@otc-cta.gc.ca.
  • Over the course of the rest of this year, the Agency plans to continue with the three phases of its consultations: ?Air transportation (on-going);
    ?Consumer protection for travellers (Fall 2017); and
    ?Rail transportation (Fall 2017).

About the Agency

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator with the powers of a superior court. The Agency has three core mandates: keeping the national transportation system running efficiently and smoothly, protecting the human right of persons with disabilities to an accessible transportation network and providing consumer protection for air passengers. To help advance these mandates, the Agency makes ground rules that establish the rights and responsibilities of transportation service providers and users and level the playing field among competitors. It also resolves disputes using a range of tools from facilitation and mediation to arbitration and adjudication and ensures that transportation providers and users are aware of their rights and responsibilities and how the Agency can help them.

http://www.otc-cta.gc.ca

SOURCE Canadian Transportation Agency

For further information: Media Relations, Canadian Transportation Agency, media@otc-cta.gc.ca, 819-934-3448

Original at http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-transportation-agency-issues-what-we-heard-summary-report-on-accessible-transportation-625725903.html