More than 600,000 people in B.C. have disabilities and advocates in the province have been working hard to bring the barriers found in buildings and public spaces, employment, information and communication technologies and transportation to the attention of the government – and it’s worked. The B.C. government will begin detailing a provincial accessibility act in the fall and held a first reading of Bill M 219, the British Columbia Accessibility Act, 2018, in May.
Leading the charge in B.C. is a group of volunteers from across the province who call their campaign Barrier-Free BC. They are thrilled that the Province of British Columbia is on its way to becoming the 5th Canadian jurisdiction to enact accessibility rights legislation – joining Ontario (2005), Manitoba (2013), Nova Scotia (2017), as well as the federal government which introduced Bill C-81, known as the Accessible Canada Act, last month (more on this in our next blog post).
Accessibility advocates across Canada are clear that there is a need for both provincial and federal legislation. The federal government says its legislation will “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in a variety of areas but those requirements will only apply to Parliament, government of Canada agencies, federally regulated private sector (transportation, broadcasting, telecommunications and finance), Canadian Forces and the RCMP. The accessibility of provincially regulated organizations, such as local businesses, nonprofits, and municipal governments, is left to the oversight of each individual province.
This spring, the B.C. government declared May 28, 2018 as Rick Hansen Day and announced a $10-million grant to help the Rick Hansen Foundation make “communities more accessible and inclusive.” With that funding, the Foundation is conducting free accessibility ratings of approximately 1,100 commercial, institutional, and multi-unit residential buildings and sites within BC. Once rated, these organizations can apply for funding of up to $20,000 to complete an accessibility improvement project.
BILL M 219 – 2018
BRITISH COLUMBIA ACCESSIBILITY ACT, 2018
HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, enacts as follows:
1 This Act may be cited as the Accessibility Act.
2 The purpose of this Act is to
(a) achieve accessibility by preventing and removing barriers that disable people with respect to
(i) the delivery and receipt of goods and services,
(ii) information and communication,
(iii) public transportation and transportation infrastructure,
(v) the built environment, so that all new construction is accessible,
(vi) education, and
(vii) a prescribed activity or undertaking;
(b) facilitate the timely implementation of accessibility standards with a goal of achieving an accessible British Columbia by 2024.
3 In this Act,
“accessibility plan” means a plan to address the identification, removal and prevention of barriers in the policies, programs, practices and services of a public sector body;
“barrier” means anything that hinders or challenges the full and effective participation in society of persons with disabilities including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice.
4 This Act will require public sector bodies to prepare annual accessibility plans to show how they are working to remove barriers within their organization.
5 This Act comes into force by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.