Accessible Canada Act
The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) 2019 and the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 are important pieces of legislation that aim to promote accessibility in Canada. Covering all provinces and territories across the country, the Canadian Human Rights Act applies to federal government departments, agencies, and any organisations under federal jurisdiction. It prevents discrimination against individuals who are employed or receive services from these bodies.
The ACA builds and expands on the Human Rights Act. Its purpose is to make Canada a barrier-free place in areas under federal jurisdiction. The ACA was passed in June 2019 and covers accessibility in employment, the built environment, information and communication technology, goods and services, and transportation. No specific standard is named in this act, but the Canadian Standard on Web Accessibility 2011 explicitly refers to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA as the requirements to follow for digital content.
Each province in Canada has established their own accessibility regulations. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) targets Ontario. Enacted in 2005, it details the accessibility standards that public and private sector organisations must follow, including WCAG 2.0 Level AA. The AODA aims to ensure people with disabilities in Ontario can fully participate in society.
The Accessibility for Manitobans Act was passed in 2013 and is structured similarly to the AODA. The Act Respecting Accessibility in Nova Scotia was introduced in 2017 with a purpose of making Nova Scotia an inclusive society by 2030.
British Columbia also aims to remove barriers against people with disabilities through the Accessible British Columbia (BC) Act. The Accessible BC Regulation expands on this by listing specific organisations – including the government – who must follow accessibility requirements. All organisations have at least one year from when they are listed to when they must comply.
While these acts concentrate on accessibility standards within their own provinces, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the ACA extend their reach across the entire country. It is essential for organisations to familiarise themselves with the obligations and criteria of applicable legislations to ensure equal access for everyone with disabilities in Canada.