A Big Step Towards Inclusive Communities: The Accessible Canada Act

©Library of Parliament: Roy Grogan, 2003

Standing with our allies in the Family Movement, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) and Plan Institute are encouraged by the recent introduction of Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act – Canada’s first-ever piece of federal legislation aimed at improving accessibility for people with disabilities. By requiring organizations under federal jurisdiction to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility, this legislation represents a significant step towards full inclusion for people with disabilities in Canada.

Federally regulated bodies include:

  • Parliament, including the Senate, the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Protective Service.
  • All Government of Canada Departments, Crown Corporations and Agencies.
  • The federally regulated private sector, including organizations in the transportation sectors, broadcasting and telecommunications services, and the banking and financial sectors.
  • The Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

A key principle of the proposed legislation is respecting the philosophy of self-advocates: “nothing about us, without us.” For years, people with disabilities have said that full participation and equality of opportunity can only be realized when they are meaningfully involved in the planning, development, and implementation of legislation, policies, and strategies that affect their lives. This will be the first time this practice and philosophy has been incorporated into federal law.

After participating in the consultation process that led to the tabling of Bill C-81, we are grateful that the Government of Canada listened to the feedback, concerns and ideas that were shared by people with disabilities and families. This outcome is an important reminder of the power we have as families working together to ensure that all citizens are able to live good lives and make contributions to our communities.

When parliament resumes this fall, we look forward to continuing this robust discussion about accessibility and inclusion as the Bill works its way through legislative review. This Bill has many promising components, and we believe the final legislation will make real progress for Canadians accessing services and resources under federal jurisdiction.

We also hope that, as more Canadians experience the benefits of this legislation, organizations that are not federally regulated will feel compelled to make improvements as well. While it’s true this legislation won’t change everything overnight – indeed we still have significant work ahead of us – we view it as a big step in the direction we need to go together.