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Accessibility Ministers Across Canada

Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore the role that provincial and federal ministers play in creating accessibility legislation. Accessibility Ministers across Canada can have a profound impact on how laws develop and how useful they are.

Accessibility Ministers Across Canada

In Ontario, the government assigns one member of the Executive Council to be the Minister in charge of the AODA. This Minister oversees the development of AODA standards to make the province more accessible. The Minister decides which people, industries, organizations, or sectors of the economy a standard applies to. For instance, some sections of standards apply only to public sector organizations or large private businesses. Before developing standards, the Minister consults other Ministers who govern the industries or sectors that a standard will impact.

Standards Development Committees and the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council

The Minister then invites people to be part of standards development committees. In addition, the Minister establishes the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. To do so, the Minister:

  • Sets deadlines for stages of a committee’s work
  • Chooses whether to pay members
  • Publicizes the committee’s terms of reference
  • Requests committee and council reports
  • Publishes proposed standards for public comment
  • Can choose to extend comment deadlines to accommodate a disability, or for another reason
  • Writes yearly reports on the effectiveness of standards, committees, and procedures
  • Creates incentive agreements to help organizations comply with or exceed standards
  • Publicizes regulations from the Lieutenant Governor about standards or other AODA mandates

After a standards development committee receives public feedback and revises the standard, the Minister submits this revised standard to the government. Moreover, the Minister recommends to the government whether it should accept and legalize the standard:

  • As a whole
  • In part
  • With modifications

Reviewing the Act

Similarly, committees must revise standards at least every five years. However, the Minister can choose to begin this process at an earlier time. Likewise, the Minister also oversees mandated independent reviews of the AODA every five years. Therefore, the Minister has a profound impact on how up-to-date the AODA is.

Responsibilities of Ministers in Other Regions

In other provinces, and under the Accessible Canada Act, Ministers in charge of accessibility law have many of the same responsibilities for overseeing standard development and writing progress reports. In addition, these ministers also have other responsibilities. For instance, the ministers in charge of all three acts have the power to appoint many other officials involved in the Act. Some of these other officials include:

  • Inspectors
  • Directors

Raising Accessibility Awareness

Furthermore, in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, the Minister has a mandate to raise awareness about:

  • How barriers impact people with disabilities
  • Preventing and removing barriers
  • How standards apply to different activities throughout the province
  • What duties and responsibilities people have under the standards

Likewise, the Minister in charge of the Accessible Canada Act can:

  • Offer help with any matters involving accessibility
  • Research ways to identify, prevent, and remove barriers
  • Support and advertise the accessibility research of others
  • Start, suggest, develop, or encourage projects, programs, or policies that enhance accessibility
  • Finance these projects, programs, and policies through grants and contributions
  • Gather information about accessibility, analyze it, and publish findings
  • Request information or advice from the Chief Accessibility Officer about new or on-going barriers

Planning to Reach Deadlines

Moreover, the Minister in charge of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act must write a yearly plan. This plan must outline activities that will promote increased accessibility in Manitoba during that year. Alternatively, in 2018, the Minister in charge of the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act needed to write an implementation strategy for the Act. This detailed plan needed to outline how Nova Scotia would achieve its goal of accessibility by 2030. These two plans ensure that ministers gain awareness about the accessibility needs of citizens. This awareness, as well as planned steps toward improved accessibility, may help ministers fulfill their mandates to teach their provinces about the importance of accessibility. Ministers who have more exposure to people with disabilities will be better able to implement the concrete changes to buildings, schooling, services, workplaces, communication, transportation, and other sectors that people with disabilities use every day.