The Government of Canada has embarked on nation-wide consultations with Canadians seeking input into what accessibility legislation should contain.
CNIB has prepared suggested responses to the 22 questions posed in the consultation discussion paper, available at http://www.esdc.gc.ca/assets/portfolio/docs/en/consultations/disability/No.653-Layout%20Discussion%20Guide-EN.PDF
Here are CNIB's responses to the discussion questions.
1. How can the
Government of Canada raise awareness of and change attitudes in relation to
accessibility (in the short term and long term)?
Attitudes and misperceptions as to the abilities of
Canadians with disabilities can best be achieved as follows:
By appointing persons with disabilities to visible
public offices, boards and agencies, the Government of Canada can lead by
example in reinforcing the fact that people with a disability can do the same
work as other Canadians. These appointments should include both traditional
employment opportunities as well as targeted campaigns placing candidates who
are blind or who have significant sight loss into internships throughout the
federal government. Federally regulated organizations should adopt a similar
approach where by the target population is encouraged and supported in filling
experiential roles. These roles should exist within both traditional and
non-traditional positions given that the nature of work will continue to be transformed.
For opportunities, paid or otherwise, where
applications are sought, prospective appointees should be encouraged to
identify any accommodations which they may require. This disclosure should be
voluntary and should be an integral part of every public facing competition or
In the long term, the government should create
campaigns focusing on the day-to-day reality of Canadians with disabilities,
avoiding unrealistic "hero" portrayals and outdated clichés.
2. How can the Government of Canada show leadership in improving
accessibility and removing barriers for Canadians with disabilities?
The government needs to lead by example by ensuring
both external and internal systems are accessible to prospective candidates who
While it may prove difficult to legislate similar
expectations on federally regulated organizations, we would encourage the
Government of Canada to explore a regime of tax credits that would be available
to private sector employers if they adopted universal design into their
Accessibility to these systems must include
unencumbered access to alternate format materials such as braille, large print
and accessible audio materials.
Qualified Canadians with disabilities must hold
positions throughout Canada's public service at all levels, and a similar expectation
should exist among federally regulated organizations, including crown
All public spaces, where in the Government of
Canada is a stakeholder or funding partner, must be accessible to persons who
are blind. As such, the guidelines contained in CNIB's Clearing our Path and industry best
practices should be adopted.
3. Do you have examples of collaborative models that have led to the
creation of shared expectations and sustained culture change within
organizations in relation to accessibility?
While we are unable to point to any collaborative models that have led to
the creation of shared expectations resulting in improved accessibility, the
consultative process being undertaken today represents a first for Canada.
Other jurisdictions have successfully brought about significant change through
the introduction of legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
and to a lesser extent, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and The Accessibility for Manitobans Act. 
4. The overall goal of the legislation is to increase the inclusion and
participation of Canadians in society and promote equality of opportunity by
improving accessibility and removing barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction.
Do you have any input regarding this goal?
CNIB believes that the legislation must have
effective enforcement mechanisms that are observed thoroughly in order to be
successful. It is essential to effectively address the key barriers facing
Canadians with sight loss, including the built environment, information
communication technology, public transportation, education, and employment.
5. How should the legislation define "accessibility" and/or "barrier"?
Accessibility should be defined as unencumbered
access to goods, services and opportunities, regardless of how they are
accessed. Accessibility should include both physical access. For example, access to the built environment, virtual
access through information communication technology and attitudinal access,
appropriate training and awareness of those involved in delivering or designing
programs which are federally regulated.
A barrier should be defined as any obstacle,
physical, attitudinal, or technological which prevents someone with sight loss
from accessing federally regulated services independently on an equal footing
as someone without a disability.
6. Overall, which approach or approaches do you think would be best for
federal accessibility legislation? Are there other approaches that you would
The federal government
should take a prescriptive-type approach for federal accessibility legislation.
Federal accessibility legislation should not differ across the country nor
should it be any different from department to department; this could result in
creating administrative silos.
7. If a prescriptive-type approach were to be
taken, do you have any input on how standards could be developed?
The key to developing
standards will be federally managed enforcement mechanisms. These standards
should be developed with the disability community as part of the process.
8. If an outcome-based
approach were to be taken, do you have any input on how accessibility outcomes
could be established?
The simplest way to measure
the outcomes would be to assess the number of Canadians in receipt of public
assistance, with access to federal programs, and are adequately served by
private sector organizations.
9. Are there other organizations within
federal jurisdiction that should be covered by the legislation?
The legislation should cover
all organizations, crown or private, who carry out business within Canada's
federally regulated system.
10. Are there organizations
that should be exempt from the legislation?
To ensure maximum
effectiveness of the legislation, no organizations operating within Canada's
federally regulated system should be exempt.
11. The legislation could
potentially set out different requirements and timelines for different types
and sizes of organizations. Do you have any comments or suggestions for this?
All organizations should be
covered by the same regulations and timelines to ensure the removal of barriers
facing Canadians with disabilities.
12. The legislation could
specify the accessibility issues it will address, or describe a process for
identifying these issues, or use some combination of the two. For example, the
legislation could state that it will improve accessibility and remove barriers
in specific areas, such as:
and service delivery;
procurement of goods and services;
which are the most important to you? Are there other areas that should be
Each of the six identified
areas carry the same level of importance, and prioritizing one over another is
virtually impossible, and highly impractical. Accessibility legislation should
be flexible enough so that new barriers can be included, while being specific
enough to create reasonable expectations on the part of federally regulated
organizations including crown and private corporations.
13. The legislation could
also describe a process that the Government of Canada would follow to identify
and prioritize areas for improving accessibility and removing barriers.
Examples of potential mechanisms include:
Council - the Government of Canada could create and support a permanent
advisory committee comprised of Canadians with disabilities and other
- the Government of Canada could consult periodically with Canadians with
disabilities and other stakeholders.
What do you
think of these mechanisms? Are there other mechanisms you would suggest?
CNIB does not believe that a
disability-specific council is an effective means to address accessibility
issues unless such a council were to have status as an administrative agency.
The principles of accessibility legislation would be set out via accessibility
legislation with a disability council having authority similar to that granted
to other administrative agencies. Such a council would possess clear and
specific enforcement mechanisms with appropriate punitive penalties when
Ongoing consultations, as
with other legislation must be spelled out specifically through legislation. We
speak more to this in question 22 below.
14. Canada has a number of
laws in place to address human rights issues and improve accessibility. Do you
have any comments on how the new accessibility legislation could interact with
these existing laws? Should the legislation describe a process by which these
laws would be reviewed and potentially revised?
legislation should complement domestic and international human rights
legislation. Human Rights legislation must become binding and precedent
setting, and complaints raised by Canadians with disabilities must be addressed
in a timely and effective manner.
15. Should the legislation
build on accessibility standards already developed by provincial/territorial
governments and other countries?
Yes. By using
already-established best practices from other areas as a starting point, Canada
can aim to improve upon these systems without starting from scratch.
"Reinventing the wheel" serves no one and would add unnecessary delays not to
mention costs in bringing about suitable accessibility legislation.
16. Potential monitoring
plans — the legislation could require organizations to submit action plans that
would detail how they will improve accessibility and remove barriers for
persons with disabilities.
reports — the legislation could require organizations to periodically submit
progress reports that would detail their progress in improving accessibility
and removing barriers.
and audits — the legislation could detail how action plans and progress reports
could be verified through reviews, audits and/or inspections.
mechanisms — the legislation could detail how Canadians could submit complaints
concerning an organization that may not be meeting its obligations under the
monitoring mechanisms do you think should be considered for the legislation
(including ones not listed here)?
The monitoring mechanisms
mentioned are satisfactory, however they require effective enforcement
mechanisms if accessibility legislation is to bring about real, meaningful and
17. The legislation could
also describe mechanisms to address issues of non-compliance. These enforcement
mechanisms could include, for example:
informal or formal mediation process to address compliance issues;
reporting of organizations that are non-compliant;
that detail an organization's areas of non-compliance and give a timeframe for
the organization to become compliant; and/or
enforcement mechanisms do you think should be considered for the legislation
(including ones not listed here)?
A staged approached should
be used depending on severity. Administration monetary penalties (AMPS) should
be used in the most severe cases. Furthermore, a complaint process should have
no cost burden on persons filing, and cases should be resolved within a
18. Do you have suggestions
for how the Government could help organizations to improve accessibility and
Continued investment in
education and awareness activities must be accompanied by clear non-compliance
rules and penalties in order to be effective. Along with effective awareness
campaigns and educational efforts, which outline the lived reality of persons
with disabilities, non-compliance must be well communicated such that all
stakeholders clearly understand the consequences of failure to adhere to
19. Do you have suggestions
for how the Government could encourage, support and recognize organizations
that show accessibility leadership?
The Government of Canada could create a public-facing
database, searchable by geography, industry, key performance indicators,
aggregate score, ranking, trend, etc. This could manifest in a system similar
to a stock ticker where scores rank government departments, federally regulated
organizations and even private sector entities. The ultimate goal of such a
system would be to showcase that compliance with accessibility legislation is achievable.
Any such system should include best practices adopted by organizations leading
the accessibility challenge. In other words, organizations with success stories
should be encouraged and recognized via such a public facing reporting
mechanism. Aside from providing an incentive for federally regulated
organizations to avoid being listed at the bottom of the rankings, access to
such a database might also facilitate the procurement process. It is very
important that this be an open data initiative so as to remain flexible to
changes in public policy and technology without compromising the benefits of
transparency and accountability.
Purchasing practices should reflect principles of full
inclusion by recognizing organizations who comply with accessibility
legislation, or who have demonstrated a commitment to inclusion through
accessibility are scored differently than competing bids which do not.
As stated earlier, private sector organizations, both
within and outside of the federally regulated landscape could apply for tax
credits there by incenting ongoing investment in accessibility practices.
20. In relation to the
implementation and effectiveness of the legislation, how often would you want
the Government of Canada to report to Canadians?
Every 3 years and allow for
public comment on implementation and effectiveness. This reporting back would
be an ideal opportunity to profile government departments, federally regulated
organizations and private sector firms who have scored high on a system such as
that referenced in question 19 above.
21. How often should the
legislation be reviewed?
Every 5 - 10 years.
22. Are there specific
considerations for how any such review should be conducted?
Review of accessibility
legislation must be undertaken within the context of prevailing social or
economic conditions. In times of plenty, lack luster performance on the part of
federally regulated organizations must be flagged and publicly reported. At the
same time, for federally regulated organizations facing unprecedented
challenges some latitude must exist. The measure of feast or famine must be
taken within the operating landscape in which a federally regulated
organization operates; domestically or internationally. A key component of
these reviews must include persons effected by the legislation, namely,
Canadians living with disabilities.
Any legislative review
process must also consider the disability landscape as it exists at the time of
the review. For instance, assessing accessibility legislation drafted less than
10 years ago would completely omit technological advancements which have had a
profound impact on mitigating barriers for persons who are blind.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) came into law in
The Americans with Disabilities Act, the first comprehensive piece
of legislation of its type anywhere was passed in 1990. Twenty-five years
later, disability advocates around the world point to this land mark piece of
legislation as the bar against similar initiatives are to be judged.
Accessibility for Manitobans act came into law in