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Federal report shows Canada is far from meeting accessibility goals

Feb 21, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

Canada still has a long way to go to become barrier-free within the next 15 years, and federally-regulated organizations will need to prioritize specific actions that advance accessibility and disability inclusion to attain goals under the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), according to a new report released last week.

The federal report, compiled by Canada’s Chief Accessibility Officer, Stephanie Cadieux, offers the most comprehensive understanding to date of the progress being made under the ACA, which came into effect in 2019. It says that collective efforts to attain a barrier-free country by the 2040 deadline include more regulations, dedicated accessibility funding, better data and mandatory accessibility education and training for all employees working in the public sector and in federally regulated industries.

“In Canada, eight million Canadians aged 15 and over live with a disability, says Cadieux. “Worldwide, people with disabilities are the largest minority group, and the only group that anyone can become a part of at any time. It is not a niche issue. It affects us all.”

The ACA was compiled with seven priority areas, including the built environment, that have shown progress during the past fews years. But there is an urgent need for more regulations so that legal and policy commitments for accessibility are consistently met. Cadieux says she has spoken with many people who desire clarity on how to identify, remove and prevent barriers, which regulations can provide. As it stands, there exists only one legal obligation, with a second in development on information and communications technology.

Dedicated accessibility funding is another pressing need. Cadieux says removing barriers is regularly viewed as an optional or short-term investment. “I’m concerned that such decisions may be based on misperceptions about the cost of accessibility, how disability inclusion benefits only a few, or the amount of effort required to make change,” she says.

Without such funding, organizations face losing expertise and talent in their workplaces, having to retrofit built environments, and resolving complaints or legal challenges when services, programs and information remain inaccessible.

Lack of data is another flagged oversight, which can exclude analysis from persons with disabilities. Meanwhile, organizations often group those specific experiences with other diversity and equity groups.

Although more action is required to raise awareness, the report also shares efforts being made across government and federally regulated sectors. For example, persons with disabilities are being included in emergency response procedures. TELUS Communications has developed an evacuation plan specific to each individual employee who discloses a disability in an emergency response information form. These plans are reviewed regularly and shared with the employee’s manager and safety personnel.

The document notes how the government will continue to collect information through studies, research and organizations to monitor progress and build the case for accessibility.

The team will also work closely with Employment and Social Development Canada, which is responsible for the Federal Data and Measurement Strategy for Accessibility (2022-2027). “In collaboration with Statistics Canada, they have developed a publicly available accessibility data hub to share data related to accessibility at the national level,” the report states. “They are also defining ways to measure progress for each priority area under the Act.”

“No one organization or nation has yet gotten accessibility all right or all wrong,” says Cadieux. “That’s why consistent collaboration and the sharing of best practices, challenges, solutions, and lessons learned is so important to embedding accessibility into the way we live and work.

“It’s important to remember that no one is better positioned to provide this information than people with disabilities themselves and it is critical that they be consulted from the outset of any initiative and all along the way.”

The post Federal report shows Canada is far from meeting accessibility goals appeared first on REMINET.

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