Accessibility Commissioner's message

Accessibility Rules: it’s time to take action!

I'm honoured to have been appointed as Canada's first Accessibility Commissioner to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. I take my responsibilities under the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) very seriously.

The goal of the ACA is to create a barrier-free Canada. The disability community worked tirelessly for many years to get this law passed. The ACA is now in force and its first regulations are in place. Canada has begun its journey towards full accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.

The ACA applies to federal government organizations, which include federal departments and agencies, Crown corporations, the Armed Forces, the RCMP, the House of Commons and the Senate. It also applies to businesses that are regulated by the federal government, such as banks, airlines and phone companies.

The ACA requires these organizations to publish accessibility plans that explain how they are finding, removing and preventing barriers facing people with disabilities. Organizations must also set up ways to receive and respond to feedback about how they are carrying out their accessibility plans and about barriers people face. The deadlines for accessibility plans and feedback processes are fast approaching. Organizations will also have to publish reports on their progress in carrying out their accessibility plans and on the feedback they've received.

My mandate as the Accessibility Commissioner is to promote compliance with the ACA and the Accessible Canada Regulations. My team will do this in a number of ways.

First, we will create tools and resources to help organizations understand and meet their obligations. We will also carry out inspections, and take enforcement action when necessary. This could include issuing compliance orders and administrative monetary penalties.

Second, we will handle accessibility complaints. People will be able to file complaints under the ACA if they experience harm because an organization did not meet the requirements of the Accessible Canada Regulations. We are developing an accessible complaint process that will include informal dispute resolution and mediation, as well as adjudication. People can also continue to file complaints about disability discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Third, my team will collect and analyze data and report on organizations' compliance with the Accessible Canada Regulations. We may identify sectors that are showing leadership through innovative practices, or that are struggling to meet their obligations. We will identify gaps and report on areas that need improvement. Along with the Chief Accessibility Officer, I will help track Canada's progress towards becoming barrier-free by 2040.

My team is working closely with other agencies that are implementing the ACA and its regulations. This includes the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB). We are working to align our policies and practices around accessibility, and to quickly refer accessibility complaints to the agencies that are best placed to address them.

I look forward to working with my team and with others to improve accessibility, inclusion and justice for people with disabilities in Canada.

Michael Gottheil

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