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 public sector accessibility advisory committees across Canada.
Public Sector Accessibility Advisory Committees Across Canada
In Ontario, Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees advise city councils about how to comply with the requirements of the AODA. Cities with ten thousand (10,000) or more people must have a municipal accessibility advisory committee. In contrast, cities with less than ten thousand (10,000) people do not need a committee. Nonetheless, a small city or town can still create a committee. Alternatively, two or more towns or cities can create a joint accessibility advisory committee. More than half of committee members must be people with disabilities.
Municipal accessibility advisory committees advise their city councils about the requirements they must follow under AODA standards. In addition, they suggest ways that cities can implement these rules. Moreover, they also advise city councils on how to complete their accessibility reports.
Furthermore, committees also offer advice about the accessibility of new city buildings or other spaces. For instance, councils must consult committees when building or renovating:
- On-street accessible parking spaces
- Sidewalks and other exterior paths of travel
- Play spaces
- Recreational trails
- Bus stops and shelters
Likewise, cities and towns must consult their committees about how many accessible taxis their community needs.
In addition, the council must seek the committee’s advice about a building that the council:
- Agrees to use as a city building or property, if someone provides it
In addition, the committee reviews building site plans and drawings for new buildings or spaces in the city. The committee must choose site plans or drawings to review, and the council must provide the committee with those plans.
Nova Scotia also requires accessibility advisory committees. However, cities are not the only organizations that must establish committees. Instead, every organization in the Nova Scotia public sector must have an accessibility advisory committee. These organizations, which the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act calls “public sector bodies”, include:
- The provincial government
- Other public sector organizations
Like members of Ontario’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees, at least half of Nova Scotia’s accessibility advisory committee members must be people with disabilities, or belong to organizations representing people with disabilities. However, the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act does not describe any of the duties that these members must perform. Nonetheless, these committees ensure that people with disabilities are involved in a variety of public sector organizations.
As governments work together to align their accessibility laws, Ontario and Nova Scotia may change their legislation. For example, the AODA could mandate that all public sector organizations, not just cities, have accessibility advisory committees. In contrast, the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act could outline more specific guidelines to indicate the purpose and duties of their public sector accessibility advisory committees.