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Workplace accessibility rules rolling out - federally regulated sector.


Workplace accessibility rules rolling out - federally regulated sector.

Canadian HR Reporter

By Marcel Vander Wier

Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, passed third reading in the House of Commons and awaits royal assent. The legislation aims to ensure Canada is barrier-free by 2040. A total of $290 million over six years has been pledged for its implementation. 

“The time to propose a new system that would help address the barriers to inclusion faced every single day by Canadians with disabilities has come,” said Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough in the House of Commons.

"The act will create the framework to transform how the Canadian government and federally regulated sector address barriers to accessibility.Too many people continue to face barriers in terms of inclusion and access. There are thousands of Canadians with disabilities — a vast and largely untapped pool of talent — who are available to work and want to join the workforce,” said Marielle Hossack, press secretary for Qualtrough. “All Canadians deserve the same opportunities and chances at success.”

The act requires accessibility and barrier removal in employment, built environments, information and communication technologies, procurement of goods and services, delivery of programs and services, as well as transportation.

While the legislation sets regulations only for the federally regulated sector, all employers would be wise to become as accessible as possible, said David Lepofsky, a lawyer and accessibility advocate in Toronto. “Employers need to look at this and realize status quo is no good. That’s not to say everything is bad, but there’s just too many barriers, and the old way of thinking is wrong,” he said.

National model standards

The legislation will create three new bodies: a chief accessibility officer to oversee implementation; an accessibility commissioner responsible for enforcement and compliance; and a Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO) that will develop and revise standards.

Led by a board of directors comprised of mostly persons with disabilities. In an effort to establish Canada as a national and global accessibility leader, the body will provide opportunities for the disability community and industry to collaborate on standards development.

Effect on employers

The act requires employers under federal jurisdiction to comply with the accessibility regulations — including the development of multi-year plans that must be made public for feedback. It also legislates monetary penalties for employers that fail to comply.

“With such a fluid workplace, if an employer said right now, ‘forget 2040, I want my workplace fully accessible in the next five to seven years, let’s get a plan together’… They could get there... and they could be way ahead of this act" said Marielle Hossack. “By making workplaces and employment practices inclusive, employers open the door to talent, innovation and creativity.”