The first bill introduced at the B.C. legislature by Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons, in his role as Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, has passed into law, paving the way for accessibility standards to be established in the province.
“In many ways, the passing of the act today marks an important step in our work to build an inclusive province that works for all of us,” said Simons in a June 18 release announcing the adoption of the Accessible British Columbia Act.
“People with disabilities and people who face barriers have been involved in this process from the beginning, and it’s with their continued input that we’ll ensure we build a barrier-free B.C.”
B.C. is the fifth province that has introduced comprehensive accessibility legislation, according to the release.
Data from 2017 show more than 926,000 B.C. residents over 15 years old have a disability.
With adoption complete, the government must now form a provincial accessibility committee to support the establishment of accessibility standards, which will address barriers in areas including employment, education, transportation and buildings and infrastructure, the release said.
Officials are expected to establish a three-year government accessibility plan and to determine which organizations the law will apply to, and to establish a tool to allow the public to provide input “on identifying, preventing and removing barriers.”
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society board president Stephen Lytton said the act “is much needed and overdue enabling legislation that, when fully realized, will see positive impacts for so many, and take us closer to the goal of a fully accessible province.”
However, not all organizations are satisfied with the bill.
Disability Alliance B.C. has criticized it for “its narrowed definition of impairment, its lack of timelines, its limited application, its failure to refer to human rights and B.C.’s Human Rights Code, its failure to include interactive communication within its list of standards and its weak enforcement process.”
The day it received Royal Assent, the group posted on its website it would be “aiming [its] advocacy sights on ensuring that the regulations and standards to be developed under the Act will be meaningful and impactful.”
In an interview with Powell River Peak following the act’s adoption, Simons said in response to criticism, “the focus now is that we get the best out of this legislation. If we’re proscribing an organization that is very complex, we don’t want to put artificial deadlines on, and we’ve seen the ineffectiveness of deadlines in other jurisdictions. I just think we want to do it right. I am confident we have robust legislation.”
Applications are open for the 11-person committee until July 29. The notice of position is available here: https://www.bcpublicsectorboardapplications.gov.bc.ca/s/noticeofpositionDetail?nop=J-0089