BC Residents Want a Say on Proposed Accessibility Law

On July 16th, the Vancouver Sun published an interesting article detailing how many BC residents believe they need to have a say on the proposed accessibility law being developed by the province.

Many feel that having disability legislation on the provincial level is critical to ensuring that human rights are respected. More than 600,000 people in BC have disabilities. Many of them encounter barriers in society that keep them from fully participating. While they are protected by human rights legislation, they must prove on a case-by-case basis that their rights have been denied.

To address that — and after federal legislation was proposed last month to improve accessibility for people with disabilities — the BC government will begin creating a provincial disabilities act this fall. People with disabilities in BC are making it clear they want to play a major role in its design.

CVS agrees that in order for the legislation to be adequate, a diverse group of people with disabilities must be involved in drafting it – not just nonprofits in the sector but individuals who are dealing with disabilities daily.

The federal government says its legislation will “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas under its jurisdiction, such as buildings and public spaces, employment, information and communication technologies and transportation.

But that jurisdiction includes only Parliament, government of Canada agencies, the federally regulated private sector (transportation, broadcasting, telecommunications and finance), Canadian Forces and the RCMP.

In an interview, Shane Simpson, NDP MLA for Vancouver Hastings and minister for social development and poverty reduction, said he is committed to bringing legislation to BC and pledged to ensure people with disabilities play a substantial role in its creation.

Now that federal legislation is in the works, the province is moving toward consultation with British Columbians about provincial legislation in the fall, though there is no deadline for its completion, Simpson said. He plans on a made-in-BC approach drawing from work in other provinces.

Simpson said his first priority will be to understand what his government and people with disabilities want to accomplish. What he hears most is that they want access to employment.

Simpson admitted that he does not “have a good handle” yet on all aspects of creating accessibility legislation, such as how to appropriately change building codes and other laws. But he vowed he will get it done.

Hopefully, as this provincial legislation is drafted they will involve the right people. Now that something is in-the-works, it\’s imperative that we have a good team providing input into an accessibility plan for BC\’s future.