Kudos to Government of Manitoba for Listening and Committing to Act

Sep 20, 2018 - Manitoba -

This is a very good news story. Overdue for sure and not all that we might have hoped for but a very good news story indeed.

Barrier-Free Manitoba sent Familes Minister Heather Stefanson a letter yesterday commending her, her department and the provincial government for committing to take important steps forward to provide for the full and timely implementation of the landmark Accessibiity for Manitobans Act (AMA). We are hopeful that these commitments (or near commitments and confirmations) represent a significant breakthrough in our collective efforts to more fully realize the basic human rights of 200,000 Manitobans with disabilities.

While kudos go to the government, this progress was only made possible by the sustained effort and drive of our diverse disability communities and the incredible support so many have provided to BFM since 2008. This, of course, culiminated in BFM's June's Broken Promise campaign. 

The following 11 points were outlined in a letter we received last Friday sent by Jay Rodgers on behalf of Minister Stefanson.

    Recommitment that the government will have all five of the initial accessibility standards under the AMA in place before the next provincial election (October 2020).

    Confirmation that the Minister’s 2018-19 Annual Implementation Plan has now been posted

    Confirmation that a major marketing and communication push is underway to ensure that there is widespread awareness among private and non-profit organizations of their obligations to comply with requirements under the Accessible Customer Serve Standard by November 1, 2018.

    Confirmation that tools and resources are being developed and posted to help obligated organizations meet their compliance requirements under the Accessible Customer Service Standard, including free online training for all employers in Manitoba.

    Commitment of expectation that the Accessible Employment Standard will be finalized and in force before the end of October 2018.

    Progress reported on the development of the Accessible Information and Communication Standard and the drafting of the Terms of Reference for Development Committees for the Accessible Transportation and Accessible Public Spaces Standards (although no dates beyond 2020 are given for any deliverables).

    Expectation that a draft of the AMA’s Compliance Framework will be completed by the end of September 2018 (but with no further dates provided for the release of a final framework nor commitment to consult with disability communities before it is finalized).

    Assurance that the Deputy Minister, as Director of the AMA, is currently following up with public sector organizations that have not met expectations regarding compliance with the Accessible Customer Service Standard.

    Notice that resources are currently being prepared in conjunction with the Clerk of the Executive Council with recommendations on how other key departments can be mobilized to assist with implementation and enforcement of each standard as it comes into force.

    Commitment to complete a strategic and related action plan by the end of October to include deliverables and milestones to ensure that the remaining standards are in place by 2020.

    Commitment to have posted and made publicly available an updated and enhanced Government of Manitoba Multi-Year Accessibility Plan on or before the end of December 2018.

It has taken a lot to get to this point. Over the ten years of our initiative, we have worked with two different governments led by three different Premiers. We have worked with two different departments that had lead responsibility for the legislation that in turn were headed by five different Ministers and six different Deputies. Following a brief flourish leading up to and shortly following the passage of the AMA, we had grown increasingly concerned about the slow, weak and incomplete implementation efforts.

We are hoping that the government's letter of September 13, 2018 serves as the turning point - from weak and partial to robust and full implementation, from missing deadlines and expectations to meeting and exceeding them.

Frankly, this promising news could not have arrived any later. We now only are six weeks away from the looming November 1, 2018 deadline for over 35,000 private and non-profit organizations to comply with the AMA first accessibility standard, the Accessible Customer Service Standard. Unfortunately, most of the organizations still remain unaware of what is required of them. We are also five years into the AMA's implementation and only one of the first five accessibility standards been finalized. There is certainly a lot of catch up needed.

Indeed, much more work lies ahead to realize the AMA's promise of major progress toward full accessibility. A big part of this will depend on government investing the level of resources required. Another big part of this will depend on political will, leadership and commitment.

But last Friday's letter represents a major step forward. Thank you Minister Stefanson.

We are pleased to post for your review both the September 13, 2018 letter sent on behalf of Minister Stefanson and our September 19, 2018 letter sent in response.

Source: Barrier Free Manitoba