DABC Has Concerns Over Proposed Accessibility Legislation – Contact your MLA!
Following the introduction of Bill 6 – the Accessible BC Act – in the BC legislative assembly last week (April 28, 2021), Disability Alliance BC and several other disability advocacy organizations in the province have carried out a review and found several concerns that we feel are vital to be addressed before the bill becomes law.
Our main concerns are its narrowed definition of impairment, its lack of timelines, its limited application, its failure to refer to human rights and BC’s Human Rights Code, its failure to include interactive communication within its list of standards and its weak enforcement process. A summary of these concerns is shown below:
· Definition: Bill 6 has excluded learning and communication within its definition of impairment. The Accessible Canada Act includes these two areas and therefore we feel the Accessible BC Act should be in alignment with federal law. We are concerned this omission will systemically exclude and discriminate against British Columbians who have communication disabilities as well as those who have learning disabilities.
· Timelines: Bill 6 includes no deadline or timeline of any kind for the creation of accessibility standards or the elimination of barriers. Other Canadian accessibility laws specify deadlines for the elimination of barriers. Disability Alliance BC believes that including a specific timeline within the ABCA is still vitally important for the purposes of ensuring the BC government is accountable for delivering a concerted and timely effort towards promoting accessibility and identifying, removing or prevent barriers for British Columbians with disabilities.
· Limited application: Bill 6 currently only applies to the provincial government and organizations “prescribed” by the government. Disability Alliance BC is concerned that unless other organizations are explicitly prescribed in law, the ABCA may apply only to offices and services administered directly by provincial government ministries. British Columbians with disabilities deserve to feel certain in knowing that their access to full and meaningful participation in society is being promoted and enforced through every level of society, not only through government services.
· No reference to human rights: Unlike other Canadian accessibility laws, Bill 6 does not explicitly state that nothing within the law diminishes the existing rights of people with disabilities. Without any explicit reference to the Human Rights Code, there is a risk that Bill 6 may make it harder for people with disabilities to exercise the right to be accommodated. This must not be allowed to happen.
· No distinction of ‘communication’ within standards: While Bill 6 includes “information and communications” as a standard, by making ‘communications’ plural, it fails to acknowledge the requirement for human communication accessibility, which may include speech, gestures, sign language, writing, pointing to object or pictures, spelling words, using a communication device and human help. We are concerned this lack of distinction in Bill 6 will further systemically exclude people with speech, language and communication disabilities.
· Weak enforcement process: Bill 6 does not provide any process for anyone to submit complaints when organizations fail to comply with accessibility standards, whereas other Canadian accessibility laws have better enforcement processes. Disability Alliance BC is concerned that the lack of an individual complaints process within Bill 6 will, ironically, create further barriers for people with disabilities in seeking remedy on the infringement of any rights which they may be granted in subsequent regulations and standards developed by the Act.
Disability Alliance BC is concerned that without addressing the six concerns listed above, this will diminish the Accessible BC Act’s significance in effectively striving for the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in BC. In its current form as Bill 6, the BC government has unfortunately conveyed to its constituents their lackluster approach to sincerely addressing the elimination of barriers in our province.
We have sent a detailed review with proposed changes to all MLAs outlining these concerns. You can find this document on our website here: https://disabilityalliancebc.org/disability-alliance-bc-review-on-bill-6/.
Starting next week, the MLAs will be discussing this bill during the “Committee of the Whole’ stage of the bill review process. What this means is that it is vitally important that any concerns by the public be relayed to the MLAs before they have this discussion, so that there is an opportunity for our politicians to propose changes to the bill before they vote to pass into law.
We encourage you to write to your MLA. You can find your local MLA by going to https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members and entering in your postal code. You are welcome share any of our concerns in your email or letter. We also ask that you please share this post with your friends and family members.