Canada’s Proposed Federal Accessibility Legislation Summary Report

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Summary of Recommendations from 7 Not-For-Profit Organizations 


In 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau called for the development of new federal accessibility legislation to ensure Canada becomes fully accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. Creating this legislation will inform people and organizations subject to the new legislation to make their environments and services accessible for all people. Prime Minister Trudeau asked the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities to communicate with members of disability and Indigenous organizations nationwide in order to: a) examine barriers experienced by people with a diverse range of disabilities (e.g., physical, communication, sensory, intellectual); and b) propose recommendations to eliminate these barriers, prevent the creation of future barriers, and ensure that all good and services are accessible for people with disabilities.

The Minister invited proposals from organizations representing people with disabilities to develop partnerships with the goal of forming recommendations to advise the Government of Canada on: a) content to include in the new federal accessibility legislation; and b) effective implementation and compliance strategies. In gathering important input from their members, the funded organizations hosted a series of consultations and workshops (e.g., web-based surveys, online and telephone surveys, teleconferences, and face-to-face discussions). This process led to the submission of reports with recommendations from 8 organizations with input from their network of over 140 organizations. These individual reports detail barriers experienced by persons with a range of different disabilities, and provide recommendations on how to make Canada more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.

Spearheaded by Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Canada, 7 of the 8 organizations that prepared recommendations created this summary document to highlight common themes among the reports from the 7 organizations. The 7 organizations that participated in preparing this summary document include SCI Canada, Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, Native Women's Association of Canada, BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society, Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada, and Communication Disabilities Access Canada.

On March 28, 2018, the 7 organizations met to discuss their findings and recommendations for the proposed federal accessibility legislation. Collectively, these recommendations were produced after hearing from 141+ partner organizations, and 5400+ respondents, highlighting the national reach of the consultation process.  Each organization provided a detailed list of recommendations formed by members of their respective organizations.  This summary report highlights 10 of the commonly observed themes and recommendations. They are not presented in any order of priority. A sample of outlying recommendations is also included in this summary recommendation report. It is important to emphasize that this summary document does not replace the excellent, detailed set of recommendations contained in each of the 8 individual reports and the reader is encouraged to source each detailed report at:

Summary of Recommendations for Canada’s Federal Accessibility Legislation



Knowledge co-creation

Ensure that persons with a range of different types of disabilities and organizations that represent them are included in planning, implementation and monitoring of all policies, programs and services that are relevant for persons with disabilities (i.e., training and awareness sessions on the new federal accessibility legislation).

Recognize the intersectionality of multiple disability/minority identities

Target priority groups within the disability community who face multiple and intersecting discriminations and marginalization. In addition to physical, communicative, intellectual, sensory disability groups, resources should be directed towards women, children, racialized, and Indigenous people.

Provide sufficient funding to allow for continual involvement in legislative updates

Government funding sources (e.g., The Office of Disability Issues) must be provided with increases in funding to enable the disability and Deaf organizations to carry out their work in removing barriers and promoting accessibility.



Monitoring of compliance

In addition to action plans, progress reports, and scheduled reviews/audits, we recommend random unannounced audits to measure compliance with the legislation. Using a combination of monitoring techniques (e.g., audits and complaint based) will aim to maximize legislative compliance.

Refrain from hosting additional consultations until knowledge gained from previous and current consultations has been translated into action

Limit the number of future consultations/frameworks and issue a call to action that will create more accessible services and programs for people living with a disability based on what we know from the current results and recommendations

Encourage tailored legislation where possible

Recognize that people who have speech, language, and communication disabilities have unique accessibility requirements in addition to people who have mobility, sensory, intellectual, mental health, or learning disabilities by including the term communication disabilities in accessibility legislation and by providing specific guidelines, accommodations and supports to address their accessibility needs.

Promote culturally safe and trauma-informed legislation that accounts for the complex histories and experiences of people with disabilities and acknowledges accessibility requirements on community and individual levels.

Incorporate a minimum standard for legislative outcomes

Outcomes from the federal accessibility legislation must include minimum quality standards of implementation to further the goal of inclusion and removal of accessibility barriers. For example, the attitude of “any captioning is better than no captioning” is unacceptable because it does not set standards of quality for accessibility measures (only measurably good captioning is better than no captioning).

Outcomes must include standards and guidelines to implement accessibility accommodations and supports. Where support services are required such as captioning, CART, sign language and communication assistance, these service providers must be qualified and/or authorized by the user.

Promote legislation to work in synergy with pre-existing Laws and Acts

Accessibility rights are human rights. The new federal accessibility legislation must be integrated, not competitive, with existing legislation such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and provincial/territorial Human Rights Codes/accessibility legislations.

The new legislation should also follow international laws including regulations laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as Canada has committed to upholding these rights.

Develop an oversight committee/Ombudsman who will be responsible for engagement of stakeholders with disabilities

If the legislation creates a centre of expertise, the centre must be run by a majority of people with disabilities, Deaf Canadians, Indigenous peoples, or qualified organizations that represent their interests.



National Enforcement

Introduce enforceable accessibility standards to be used across the country, including mandatory use of universal design.
Introduce a standardized and inclusive definition of disability that is aligned with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities CRPD.
Implement standardized eligibility criteria, and standardized programs, services and benefits.

Create Ombudsman for monitoring/enforcement

The Government of Canada should create a position for a Federal Ombudsman for Disability Issues. Specific standards, policies and regulations around access and inclusion pertaining to citizenship and justice should be created and rigorously enforced.



Enforce financial penalties for non-compliance

Give authority to Ministers and Government agencies to order, and issue orders.

Incorporate a scaled back approach to address non-compliance (i.e., education, guidelines and resources). Impose monetary penalties if necessary. 

Develop a mechanism that will hold Ministers and Government agencies responsible for their compliance. Enforce penalties if necessary.



Federal Government provide exemplary access and inclusion

The Government of Canada should lead by example and provide extraordinary access and inclusion in all areas of operation across all federal departments.

Provide sensitivity training for government employees

Develop sensitivity training for all public service employees to better understand disability (including non-visible), in addition to common and complex support requirements. Training must also address knowledge gaps and improve the communication skills of employees. This will help employees provide quality, trauma-informed service delivery and increase opportunities for access to resources for all people with disabilities. 

Where applicable, incorporate inclusive language

Encourage Government to use more inclusive language that is not prescribed by government but is reflective of the language used by people with disabilities (e.g., move from disabled, to differently abled).

Modify and improve immigrant refugee protection

Ensure that the “excessive demand” clause of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is repealed; and in the interim period require the Minister to publicly report on the number of persons with disabilities who apply for, who obtain and who are refused permanent resident status.



Ensure ASL/LSQ becomes nationally recognized

The legislation should recognize American Sign Language and la Langue des Signes Québécoise as official languages equal to English and French.



Increase Opportunities for Accessible Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Accessible and affordable housing is made available for persons with disabilities.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities need to be fully included within Canadian society

Deinstitutionalize persons with intellectual disabilities from systemic oppression and medical institutions.

Improve Disability Tax Benefits

Include measures that would work to eradicate poverty among persons with disabilities such as guaranteed income, refundable tax credit, changes in eligibility for various federal programs, employment security, expansion of benefits to include respite care and paid leave, and funding for assistive devices.
Develop methods for transportation and/or telecommunications for persons located in remote communities where both costs of living, and poverty rates are higher.

Improve Funding/Opportunities for Service Providers and Employers

The Government of Canada should provide funding towards pilot testing, evaluating, and reporting the impact of: a) programs that enhance access and inclusion for people with disabilities; b) innovative measures that change attitudes towards people with disabilities and towards access and inclusion.

Create a national accommodation fund to provide funds to employers for adaptive devices and accommodation needs.

Provide equitable funding to Indigenous service providers to accommodate accessibility needs to the same standard of quality as mainstream federal service providers. 

Develop exclusions for who is applicable to receive funding

The legislation should create a federal funding mechanism to assist in removing, alleviating, or otherwise minimizing the costs of disability accommodation for all those goods, services, and businesses that will be affected by the legislation, with restrictions as to which bodies may apply for such funding, i.e., for-profit enterprises and government programs are not eligible to apply.



Ensure that people with disabilities have complete access to all services

Develop and implement policies, procedures and practices on ways to negotiate and provide communication accommodations and supports as required by a person with a disability within all service contexts. Priority needs to be placed on services where communication is critical (i.e., justice, healthcare, emergency) in face-to-face and telephone interactions.

Provide accessible voting stations

Ensure that the accessibility requirement in the Canada Elections Act requires all polling stations to be barrier-free, equipped with accessibility tools, have voting assistance, and provide the option to vote from home. The legislation must require election officers to report on the use of accessibility tools and measures taken to remove or prevent barriers.

Mandate widespread use of a variety of communication methods

Provide guidelines, policies and procedures to make print, internet, and e-communications accessible for people with disabilities. This includes plain language, application of universal design and layout, alternate formats, accessible websites as well as accessible forms, and procedures to take notes and use alternate signature formats.

Understand that all barriers to access and inclusion for people with disabilities need to be accepted as equal, and treated as such

Provide individualized accommodations and supports to assure comprehensive access to all goods and services.
Tools to address accessibility barriers and issues must address an individual’s accessibility needs not just “universal design”.

Employ a proactive approach to accessibility

The legislation should take a dual approach to building accessible societies by employing both proactive and outcome-based measures. Proactive measures, such as prescriptive action plans, should outweigh reactive measures, such as complaint systems. 

Improve and enhance opportunities for accessing information

Enhance accessibility to new technologies, as well as to information sources and communications.
There should be an “always open” portal offered through multiple mechanisms (i.e., online, call center) to assure all individuals have the opportunity to be involved in the compliance assessment process.


Mandatory accessibility training

Require all regulated and certified professionals (and other employees) either contracted by the federal government, or funded through federal agencies to take accessibility training.
All organizations that regulate and certify professionals must include a continued education credit for human rights and accessibility training in certification requirements. (For example: Law, Human Resources, Engineering, Technicians, etc.)

Ensure positive representation and increased presence of people with disabilities within Canadian media

That the Government of Canada support a project involving people with disabilities working within the communications and media industry to develop and implement standards and training to assure a positive, diverse, and strengths-based portrayal of people with disabilities.

Increase awareness of the barriers experienced by, and realities of, persons living with a disability

Seek out public speakers who have a disability (including non-visible) to represent the disability population to carry out public education, and who have the power to make change.

Improve current disability curriculum

Work with people with disabilities to develop educational resources for teachers and educators to use in classrooms throughout primary and secondary education that eradicates stigmas around disabilities. Based on the notable lack of awareness, particular focus should be placed on non-visible disabilities. This material should be integrated in curricula across provinces and territories.

Improve opportunities for, and quality of, post-secondary education for people with disabilities

That all levels of government work with post-secondary institutions to implement a nationwide education plan for students with disabilities that assures standardized financial assistance, disability definitions, and the provision of student support.

Ensure service providers possess a sufficient level of understanding regarding the needs of people with disabilities, thereby ensuring safe environments and interactions with individuals and groups

In addition to being respectful, a service provider is required to make additional accommodations so that services are accessible for a person whose disability impacts communication.
Federal service providers must take a trauma-informed approach to service delivery and demonstrate an understanding of intersectional barriers which may need accommodation.

Upon development of accessibility legislation, initiate methods to raise awareness of its existence

Ensure that the new accessibility law is understood among various stakeholders by providing resources to better understand- and raise awareness of- the legislation to ensure that stakeholders understand what is required to comply with the law.



Provide appropriate support to employers

Use and promote the use of appropriate language around disabilities. Encourage employers and educators to share their experiences in hiring or working with people with non-visible disabilities.
Invest in employer education campaigns to reduce stigma and raise awareness of diverse employment needs and support.
Provide appropriate support to Indigenous service providers so that they have the resources and infrastructures to employ Indigenous people with disabilities.

Provide appropriate support to employees

Provide successful and flexible hiring, skills development and retention practices and support for employees with non-visible disabilities to obtain and retain meaningful employment.
Improved hiring practices need to also be developed and implemented for racialized, gender diverse, women, youth, and Indigenous people with disabilities.

For more information contact Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada, (416) 200-5814

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