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Accessibility Standards Development Processes 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.

Accessibility Standards Development Processes Across Canada

Standards Development Committees

In Ontario, standards development committees are responsible for creating and maintaining AODA standards. Committee members decide which rules a standard should include.

committee members can be:

  • People with disabilities
  • Members of organizations representing people with disabilities
  • Representatives from the industries or sectors that the standard will one day apply to
  • Members of government organizations responsible for those industries or sectors
  • Other people or organizations that the minister in charge of the AODA chooses to include
  • Experts who advise the committee
  • Members of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council

Moreover, the minister sets deadlines for the different stages of the committee’s work. The minister also specifies which kinds of services or organizations a standard can or cannot govern. In addition, the minister may choose to pay committee members for their time and expenses. The minister must make all this information, within a document called the terms of reference, public on a government website or other location. Likewise, minutes of committee meetings must also appear where the public can read them.

Once a committee proposes an accessibility standard, the proposal must become available to the public so that people can comment on it. The committee then has the chance to revise the proposed standard based on those public reactions and resubmit it to the minister. The minister must recommend to the Lieutenant Governor that the standard be accepted in whole, in part, or with modifications.

AODA standards development committees must re-examine standards, determine whether they are fulfilling objectives, and make any needed changes, in five (5) years or less after a standard has been accepted. This process ensures that standards remain up-to-date and deal with any new barriers that arise after their creation.

Centralized Standards Development Councils

Under Ontario’s current system of standards development, the Minister in charge of the AODA must form a new committee for every standard. In contrast, multiple reviews of the AODA have recommended a more centralized system, where one organization creates standards. Ontario may develop such a system through the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. This central organization advises the Minister about the process for creating new standards. Furthermore, the Council works with the Minister on programs that spread public awareness of the AODA and its purpose. However, this council is not directly involved with creating each standard.

In contrast, under the Accessible Canada Act, the standards development process is more centralized. An organization called Accessibility Standards Canada will develop and revise accessibility standards. However, ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS CANADA can create committees to help in this process. Nonetheless, the organization remains responsible for creating each standard and submitting it.

Similarly, under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, a centralized organization called the Accessibility Advisory Council is responsible for creating standards, with possible help from committees.

Like Ontario’s committee members, the members of ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS CANADA and Manitoba’s Accessibility Advisory Council are appointed. Furthermore, over half of ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS CANADA’s Board of Directors must be people with disabilities, while other members must represent the sectors that must comply with the final standards. Finally, these centralized councils must also make their meetings, and the standards they create, available to the public.

Other Responsibilities of Accessibility Standards Canada

Moreover, ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS CANADA also has other responsibilities similar to Ontario’s Accessibility Advisory Council. ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS CANADA must provide information, goods, and services related to the standards it creates. Moreover, ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS CANADA will also research new ways to prevent and remove barriers, and encourage other organizations to do similar research. Finally, ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS CANADA will spread awareness about how to identify, remove, and prevent accessibility barriers.

ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS CANADA is an alternative process to Ontario’s reliance on separate standards development committees. Furthermore, this national standards development organization is not only in charge of developing standards. Instead, it is also responsible for research and spreading awareness about accessibility. The AODA may one day change to align more closely with the Accessible Canada Act by centralizing its accessibility standards development processes.