Overview of the Accessible Canada Act
The Accessible Canada Act and what it means for organizations and individuals
The Accessible Canada Act is a federal law that aims to identify, remove and prevent barriers facing people with disabilities. The federal government adopted the Act in 2019. The goal of the Act is to create a Canada without barriers by 2040.
The Accessibility Commissioner is responsible for enforcing the Act and the Accessible Canada Regulations.
The Act takes a new approach to accessibility. Instead of waiting for people with disabilities to ask for barriers to be removed, organizations must start finding, removing and preventing barriers now.
The Act applies to the federal government and to organizations that are regulated by the federal government. This includes government departments and private businesses that work in certain areas like banks, airlines and phone companies.
- consult people with disabilities
- publish accessibility plans about how they are finding, removing and preventing barriers
- set up ways to receive and respond to feedback about accessibility
- publish progress reports about how they are following their accessibility plans
Organizations must notify the Accessibility Commissioner when they publish their plans, feedback processes and progress reports.
Principles of the Act
The Accessible Canada Act is based on the principles below. Organizations must consider these principles when preparing their accessibility plans.
Everyone must be treated with dignity.
Everyone must have the same opportunity to build the life they want.
Everyone must have barrier-free access to full and equal participation in society.
Everyone must have meaningful options and be free to make their own choices, with support if they want it.
Laws, policies and programs
Laws, policies, programs, services and structures must take into account:
- people's disabilities
- the different ways people interact with their environments
- the different and overlapping types of marginalization and discrimination people face
Involving people with disabilities
People with disabilities must be involved in creating laws, policies, programs, services and structures.
Highest level of accessibility
Accessibility standards and regulations must aim for the highest level of accessibility.
What is covered by the Act
The Act focuses on barriers in these seven areas:
- the built environment (physical spaces)
- information and communication technologies
- procurement (buying and renting things and places)
- programs and services
Some of these areas overlap.
Who is covered by the Act
The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) applies to:
- federal government organizations
- federally regulated private organizations with 10 or more employees.
Here are examples of federal government organizations that must follow the ACA:
- Federal government departments like the Department of Finance Canada, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada and Global Affairs Canada.
- Federal agencies like the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canada Border Services Agency and Parks Canada.
- Crown corporations like Via Rail, Canada Post and the National Gallery of Canada.
- The Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
- Parliament, including the Senate, the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Protective Service.
- Organizations that work at arm’s length from the government, like the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Here are examples of private organizations that must follow the ACA if they have 10 or more employees:
- broadcasting organizations like radio and television stations
- telecommunications organizations like internet and phone companies
- transportation organizations that are federally regulated. This includes companies involved in:
- Air transport of passengers or goods (examples: airlines, airports and related services)
- Water transport of passengers or goods across borders (examples: ferries that cross borders, shipping and navigation companies)
- Land transport of passengers or goods across borders by road or rail (examples: bus, train and trucking companies that cross borders)
Who is not covered by the Act
The Act does not apply to provincial and territorial governments or to private organizations and businesses that are regulated by the provinces and territories. For example, the Act does not apply to most:
- schools, universities and colleges
- hospitals, medical clinics and long-term care homes
- businesses like stores, restaurants and gyms
- police forces (other than the Royal Canadian Mounted Police)
These provinces have adopted their own accessibility laws:
- British Columbia
- Nova Scotia
Who oversees the Act
The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion is responsible for the Accessible Canada Act. They can give advice, support research and create policies and programs about accessibility. They get information, advice and reports from the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner.
The Accessibility Commissioner enforces the Accessible Canada Act and the Accessible Canada Regulations. They will also deal with certain accessibility complaints. The Accessibility Commissioner is a member of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Canadian Transportation Agency
The Canadian Transportation Agency regulates and deals with disputes about the federal transportation network. This includes passenger travel between provinces or outside of Canada by plane, train, bus or ferry.
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission regulates and supervises broadcasting (radio and television) and telecommunications (phone and internet) in Canada. It deals with accessibility complaints in those areas.
Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board
The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board oversees collective bargaining and grievances in the federal public service and Parliament. It also deals with complaints about internal appointments and layoffs.
The Board deals with accessibility complaints for most federal public servants and parliamentary employees. It will also deal with appeals of some decisions about parliamentary organizations under the Accessible Canada Act.
Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal deals with discrimination complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It will also deal with appeals of some of the Accessibility Commissioner's decisions under the Accessible Canada Act.
Chief Accessibility Officer
The Chief Accessibility Officer gives the Minister advice and reports about the Accessible Canada Act. This includes reports on the outcomes of the Act and on new or systemic accessibility issues.
Accessibility Standards Canada
Accessibility Standards Canada develops and reviews accessibility standards. It can recommend that the government turn accessibility standards into regulations. (Organizations are only required to follow accessibility standards if the government turns them into regulations.) Accessibility Standards Canada also supports research and shares information about accessibility.
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