Three years ago, Accessibility Standards Canada was born out of the Accessible Canada Act (the Act). Its mandate: create accessibility standards that remove and prevent barriers in areas under federal jurisdiction. Unlike most federal departments, a nine-member Board of Directors leads the organization. They represent the community well, as a majority live with a disability. All of them are accessibility allies. One of those members is Brad McCannell, from Garden Bay. He brings a lot of experience in the design and operation of the built environment. He’s a professional access consultant and infrastructure expert. Brad speaks the language of the industry, of architects, and understands the application of universal design in the real world.
As a Board member, McCannell brings the industry to the table, and acts as a bridge between housing and facility operators and accessibility advocates.
As Brad puts it: “I’m the interface between advocacy and the practical application of universal accessible design. I joined Accessibility Standards Canada to help establish strong, consistent standards to guide industry while reflecting their concerns within our organization. Most importantly, I wanted to ensure that the Board understood the practical application of accessibility standards in the real world.”
Brad was not always involved in the world of accessibility. He spent the first 25 years of his professional career in television, where he learned how communication could bring local concerns to a national stage. After a motor vehicle accident in 1980, Brad joined the community of people with disabilities as a wheelchair user. This fostered a passion for improving accessibility for people of all ages and abilities. He has been consulting on major projects worldwide since 1992, before joining the Rick Hansen Foundation as Vice President of Access & Inclusion in 2015.
The solution to accessibility in Canada is a culture shift
As Brad sees it, strong codes and standards are just the first step to universal access. He also knows that the bigger challenge is the design and management culture itself. In other words, it’s not just about access for wheeled mobility devices, it’s about everyone, no matter their ability. There needs to be a culture shift toward recognizing the return on investment that taking a universal approach brings.
“That culture shift starts with bringing industry to the table – and that’s where I come in. Helping industry see Accessible Standards Canada for the opportunities created, and not simply as more regulation. Our standards will help bring people of all abilities into the community’s economic engine instead of being left behind as part of the economic load.”
Inclusion of people of all ages and abilities from the very beginning is at the core of what Accessibility Standards Canada is trying to achieve. Like any other region, the Sunshine Coast has unique needs. Understanding them is fundamental to their success as a functioning and inclusive community.
Momentum for a barrier-free Canada is building
On Sept. 20, Accessibility Standards Canada is having its second annual public meeting. This is a chance for the public to hear from Board members on their work and plans for the future.
Every Canadian has an important role to play in a barrier-free Canada. Your participation in breaking down accessibility barriers is essential. Brad and his colleagues want you to join them on Sept. 20.
“Our goal is to develop accessibility standards. But we can’t fix things unless we know they’re broken. And the only people that can tell us that they’re broken, is you. The lived experience of people of all abilities is the most critical thing we can possibly have.” Join us and learn about how you can make a difference. To register for Accessibility Standards Canada’s annual public meeting, visit their website.