Accessibility Legislation a Way for Canada to Realize Its International Human Rights Commitments
Today Canada’s disability community welcomes the tabling of the federal accessibility legislation, by Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan. A key election promise in the 2015 election, Canadians with disabilities, nation-wide, have been deeply engaged in discussion about the new law for the past 18 months, and we are pleased that Minister Duncan has taken this important step before the House adjourns for the summer. By doing this, we now have the summer to study the legislation and ensure that it meets the standards we have recommended to Government.
In 2015, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) responded to the promised law by making it known that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Canada ratified in 2010, provides a roadmap for the government to follow for the achievement of robust accessibility legislation that will significantly improve disabled people’s enjoyment of our human rights. CCD is a human rights and social justice organization of people with all disabilities that champions the voice of people with disabilities, advocating for an inclusive and accessible Canada as described in the CRPD. “We have been clear from the beginning of the process that we have no appetite for a “light accessibility law,” states Jewelles Smith, CCD Chairperson, who went further to say: “This new law must be robust and comprehensive to achieve what it sets out to do and we look forward to the opportunity to review and work with Parliamentarians as needed to ensure this vital objective.”
The days of voluntary guidelines on accessibility are over. CCD is hopeful that the federal government has taken our advice, and that of the thousands of Canadians who have been consulted about this legislation, all of whom said emphatically that enforceable legislation with teeth that can eliminate the many barriers that people with disabilities experience daily is needed. When we review the legislation, we will be looking for robust new mechanisms to address barriers in transportation, telecommunications, banking, accessible democracy, employment, as well as issues affecting Indigenous people with disabilities, and girls and women with disabilities, among other things.
The tabling of legislation is an important step in a long process and CCD reminds the federal government of the principle “NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US,” which underscores the imperative that people with disabilities be involved integrally in every step of the roll out of accessibility legislation. “Recruiting experts with disabilities as staff for the House of Commons committee to study the bill would demonstrate a commitment to co-creating this law with people with disabilities,” states Barry McMahon, chair of CCD’s Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada.
CCD was the secretariat for the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada, which consulted over a thousand Canadians with and without disabilities about what they wanted to see included in the legislation. In the coming months, CCD will be drawing upon what it has learned through its experience with the Alliance project and its past research on disability legislation to provide input to the government concerning how its accessibility legislation can implement the CRPD.
Legislation is a recognized mechanism for implementing the CRPD which in Article 4, explains that countries shall "(a) … adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention; [and] (b) … take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to … abolish existing laws … and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities..."
For further information contact:
Chairperson, Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada