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 accessibility progress reports across Canada.
Accessibility Progress Reports Across Canada
Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), public sector organizations must publish yearly status reports outlining the steps they have taken to implement the strategies in their accessibility plans. These reports show the progress that organizations have made in their efforts to identify, remove, and prevent accessibility barriers. In addition, reports reveal organizations’ progress in meeting other IASR requirements, such as mandates under the AODA’s existing accessibility standards.
Accessible Canada Act
Under the Accessible Canada Act, federally regulated organizations must also create progress reports about how they are implementing their accessibility plans. Moreover, these reports must also describe how they have responded to any feedback they received through their accessible feedback processes. However, organizations are only required to develop accessibility plans if the organization that governs them chooses to enforce the requirement to do so. As a result, some organizations may not develop progress reports.
The Governor in Council has the power to choose when organizations should publish their progress reports, as well as what format organizations publish their reports in.
Most organizations can develop one (1) report. However, some organizations need two (2) reports. These organizations:
- Carry on broadcasting undertakings
- Are Canadian carriers or telecommunications service providers
- Are in the Transportation Network
The Governor in Council chooses the timing and format of one report, which addresses barriers that any organization might have, such as in the areas of:
- The built environment
- Transportation (for broadcasters and telecommunications providers)
On the other hand, these organizations need to prevent and remove specific barriers in the areas of:
- Information and communications technology
- Procuring goods, services and facilities
- Design and delivery of programs and services
- Transportation (for transportation companies)
As a result, these organizations must develop separate progress reports to address how they are implementing plans addressing barriers in these areas. Moreover, the governing organizations of these industries, not the Governor in Council, has the power to choose the timing and format of these reports.
Finally, all organizations must:
- Consult people with disabilities when preparing progress reports
- Describe this consultation process in the reports
- Make reports available in accessible formats, upon request
Aligning Accessibility Laws
As governments work together to align their accessibility laws, the AODA may change to correspond more closely to the Accessible Canada Act. Alternatively, the Act could adopt some AODA mandates, such as requiring all organizations to create and implement accessibility plans and progress reports. These plans and reports hold organizations accountable for the accessibility of their services. They give organizations the incentive to meet and consult with people who have disabilities. This process helps staff gain the knowledge they need to lessen the barriers that customers and workers face. Making these plans mandatory for all organizations would increase the dignity and equality that the Act aims to foster.