The Accessible Canada Act is a federal law that aims to find, 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 Act applies to the federal government and organizations regulated by the federal government. This includes government departments and private businesses that work in certain areas like banks, airlines and phone companies.

The Act calls these organizations “regulated entities”.

The Act requires these organizations to consult people with disabilities and publish accessibility plans, feedback processes and progress reports.

  • Accessibility plans

    These plans explain how organizations are finding, removing and preventing barriers. Organizations must consult people with disabilities when preparing their accessibility plans. They must also consider the principles in the Act

  • Feedback processes

    Organizations must set up ways to receive and respond to feedback about accessibility. This includes feedback about how they are following their accessibility plans. It also includes feedback about barriers that employees and the public have faced when dealing with the organization.

  • Progress reports

    These reports explain how organizations are following their accessibility plans. Organizations must consult people with disabilities when preparing their progress reports.

Regulations will tell organizations how and when they must publish their accessibility plans, feedback processes and progress reports. The government may also make regulations that set accessibility standards in different areas.

Several people and organizations are working together to achieve the goals of the Act. Learn more about the organizations that oversee and enforce the Act

What is a disability?

The Act defines disability as an impairment that limits a person’s full and equal participation in society when it meets a barrier.

There are many types of disabilities, including:

  • physical / mobility (examples: spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis)
  • sensory (examples: blindness, deafness)
  • intellectual or developmental (examples: Down syndrome, autism)
  • cognitive (examples: brain injuries, Alzheimer's disease)
  • learning (examples: ADHD, dyslexia)
  • communication (examples: stuttering, aphasia)
  • mental health / psychosocial (examples: depression, schizophrenia)

People can have more than one disability.

Some disabilities are visible (example: spinal cord injuries). Others are invisible or hidden (example: dyslexia). You should never assume that someone has a disability or that they do not.

Disabilities can be temporary (example: a broken leg) or permanent (example: Down syndrome).

Some disabilities are episodic, which means they change over time. People with episodic disabilities can feel well one day but unwell the next. Episodic disabilities include multiple sclerosis, arthritis and mental health disabilities.

Some people are born with their disabilities (examples: cerebral palsy and spina bifida). Others develop disabilities when they get sick or injured (example: spinal cord injuries). Most people will have a disability at some point in their lives.

Everyone with a disability is unique. People experience their disabilities in different ways. The disability community is diverse. People with disabilities have different religions, cultures, sexes, gender identities and sexual orientations.

Shifting views of disability

Many people still view disability as a medical problem. The medical model of disability focuses on people’s symptoms and diagnoses. The Act takes a different approach. Instead of focusing on medical issues, it focuses on removing barriers in society that limit the full participation of people with disabilities. This is called the social model of disability. The Canadian Human Rights Commission views accessibility as a human right.

What is a barrier?

A barrier is anything that prevents people with disabilities from fully and equally participating in society. There are many types of barriers. Here are some examples:

Physical spaces (built environment):

  • Buildings and vehicles without ramps or automatic door openers.
  • Bad lighting that makes it hard for people to see or find their way.

Attitudes:

  • Assuming that someone cannot do something just because they have a disability.
  • Negative stereotypes like thinking that all people with disabilities are sick and unhappy.

Communication:

  • Not allowing people to use sign language interpreters or communication aids.
  • Not having documents in different formats like large print and braille.

Technology:

  • Electronic documents and websites that are not formatted for screen readers.
  • Videos that do not include captions or transcriptions.

Policies:

  • Refusing to allow flexible work hours for people with disabilities when needed.
  • Refusing to give job applicants with disabilities extra time for tests and evaluations when needed.

Accessibility is good for everyone

Many barriers that affect people with disabilities also affect other people. Everyone benefits when things are more accessible. For example:

  • Ramps make buildings more accessible for people who use wheelchairs. They also help people pushing baby strollers or carrying heavy luggage.
  • Clear and simple language makes information more accessible for people with intellectual disabilities. It also helps people learning a new language or subject.
  • Captions make television programs more accessible for Deaf people. They also allow people to watch television in noisy places like gyms and airports.

The Accessible Canada Act will make Canada more inclusive and accessible for everyone.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for monitoring how Canada is putting the Convention into action. Find out more about this work

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