The September 1 deadline for many public sector organizations to comply with the Accessible BC Regulation is fast approaching
How can you and the Disability Community Get Involved? Read below.
In May 2021, the BC Government passed into law the Accessible BC Act (ABCA). DABC provided our review on the new ABCA, outlining our six key concerns. Many of those concerns are still outstanding, and we continue to engage with the BC Government on ensuring that the implementation of the ABCA will be meaningful and create lasting, positive change in reducing barriers for people with disabilities in our province.
A new regulation under Part 3 of the ABCA came into force on September 1, 2022, requiring more than 750 public sector organizations to establish:
- An accessibility committee
- An accessibility plan
- A tool to receive feedback on accessibility
There are further criteria that public sector organizations have to meet that are related to the three requirements above. For instance, the accessibility committee must, to the extent possible, aim to have at least half of its members be people with disabilities or representing a disability-serving organization, and at least one member identify as an Indigenous person. The accessibility plan and the feedback tool must be made available to the public. Other than these criteria, the requirements are quite broad. For instance, public sector organizations can establish these requirements on their own, jointly with others in their sector, or across sectors.
The public sector organizations that must meet these requirements are:
- Municipalities and regional districts
- Post Secondary education institutions
- Public libraries
- Municipal police departments
- Francophone school districts
- Independent schools
- School districts
- Health Authorities
- Public Sector board, agencies, tribunals, and commissions
All of the above organizations were issued a one-year deadline to meet these three requirements by September 1, 2023, with the exception of the health authorities and some of the boards, agencies, tribunals and commissions, which have an extra year until September 1, 2024.
What is DABC doing to ensure that the public sector meets their 3 requirements?
In May 2022, the BC Government provided $3 million over three years to DABC to specifically support these public sector organizations in meeting the three requirements. This funding is called the Accessible Organizations Project. As this funding has a specific purpose, it cannot be used to directly fund accessibility initiatives that are implemented as a result of an accessibility plan. DABC continues to advocate to the BC Government in setting up a more robust granting system that can allow the public sector to receive funding to implement the strategies they put into their accessibility plans. DABC also hopes to see the ABCA extend to the private sector in future, as full and equal participation in society for people with disabilities goes beyond just accessing government and public sector services; all levels of society including the private and charitable sectors must be considered.
Since Summer 2022, DABC has been conducting many presentations, workshops and meetings with public sector organizations on the three requirements as well as providing direct support. This support is ongoing.
DABC came to understand that cross-sectoral resources were most needed as an initial development of support for public sector organizations. In August 2022, DABC developed their first iteration of a cross-sectoral resource – the establishment of a website: BC Accessibility Hub.
In November 2022, DABC hosted a workshop, which was attended by 2-3 representatives from each sector, to co-design what is needed in an accessibility plan template and identify any barriers they may have in reaching compliance.
In March 2023, DABC produced the Accessibility Toolkit that was co-designed with people with disabilities and public sector organizations. This toolkit includes:
- A template for organizations to develop their own accessibility plan;
- How to prioritize which actions to put in an action plan;
- Guidance for identifying barriers;
- How to connect with stakeholders and engage the disability community;
- A primer on disability terminology and language;
- Establishing a Committee guide, including how to make committees accessible;
- Templates to use for committee recruitment, committee membership agreement and committee terms of reference; and
- Advice on how to implement a public feedback mechanism.
Since March, DABC has been working with the public sector organizations to set up trainings and further sector-specific resources to make sure the public sector has all the information and support they need to meet these three requirements by the September 1 deadline this year.
Now that the September 1, 2023 deadline is fast approaching, what does this mean for the disability community?
You might wonder, what is the general public’s role in all of this? DABC’s view is that the community, including advocates, family members, people living with disability, disability-serving non profits, all have a role to play in holding the BC Government and the public sector to account in being compliant under the Accessible BC Act.
How can we be sure that public sector organizations are complying with the Accessible BC Act?
To understand whether a specific BC public sector organization is required to comply with the regulations, you can check out the list of organizations here.
We suggest reaching out to your local library, city hall, school district, college, etc to inquire directly with them on what progress they have made in meeting these three requirements. By September 1, 2023:
- Is their feedback tool easy to access?
- Have they posted their accessibility plan on their website or another public place?
- While committees are not required to be made public, some organizations may decide to have both staff and members of the public on their committee, and if that’s the case, you may inquire how you can get involved.
- If you are not sure whether a public sector organization has met the three requirements, you can inquire with the BC Government’s Accessibility Directorate here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disability Alliance BC provides support to obligated organizations to comply with the Accessible BC Regulation, but is not responsible for enforcing the regulation on behalf of the provincial government. If you would like to find out how public sector organizations can meet the requirements, you can reach out to the government directly to inquire with them. It is the government’s responsibility to enforce the regulation, and to support or penalize a public sector organization if they are not in compliance.
If you have any questions about these three requirements in your local community, please do reach out to DABC at email@example.com.