Accessible Canada Act (ACA)

Flag of Canada with ACA text
Flag of Canada with ACA text

The Government of Canada passed into law the Accessible Canada Act or ACA and has committed to creating a barrier-free federation by the year 2040.

Also known as Bill C-81, this was passed in June 20, 2019 and it’s a milestone because it takes all the good stuff about the AODA, upholding people’s rights within Ontario and now, federally proven across all provinces. This includes the right to access information, the right to participate in society through work, education and being consumers.

Inclusion of people in society is the goal and it’s updating its own policies to ensure that the employment rate of persons with disabilities increases and there are incentives for companies to make their workplaces more accessible and inclusive so everyone can get ahead. When you think of Canada’s demographics right now, 6 and a half million people over the age of 15 have a disability.

In terms of a legal perspective, there are certain regulated entities from the government that must abide by this act:

  • Federal government
  • Transportation
  • Broadcasting and telecoms
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Crown corporation
  • Military
  • Police

The ACA will adopt WCAG 2.1 which is the latest version whereas the AODA calls out the 2.0 version.

Why is this accessibility act so important?

To create a Canada that is inclusive and barrier-free to welcome all these people that we do love, all the people who are part of our community can only enrich everyone’s life. In addition, everyone’s going to be happier with a barrier-free environment.

How to achieve a barrier-free Canada?

In order to create a barrier-free environment by 2040, the Accessible Canada Act contemplates a twin-track approach:

  1. Report writing
  2. Regulation and enforcement

The ACA applies to all federally regulated bodies. That includes banks, rail, transportation, etc. All of these are regulated by the federal government and they will need to create annual accessibility reports. They’re going to need to publish those reports and they also have to report on the progress that they’re making in creating more inclusion and taking out barriers in their workplace.

That’s a fairly wide swath of the Canadian economy certainly of organizations that impact directly on how our government functions. Each one of these organizations that need to write their accessibility reports also need to create a mechanism in which they can get to feedback from the disability community on how they’re doing with accessibility, how they’re doing with barrier-free design and be open to creative solutions toward improved change or in other words, to have best practices.

The ACA has created the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization or CASDO. It’s literally a board of directors and above who, a majority are people living with disabilities, experts and their various fields, and they will advise on what should be the advancing standards in order to achieve a barrier-free design by 2040.

The other position created by the ACA is the chief accessibility officer. This individual directly advises the Minister on what should be new advancements and high priority items in the area of greater inclusion and barrier-free design.

Lastly is the accessibility commissioner. That person’s job is to oversee the compliance and enforcement of the app.

The Accessibility Week is enshrined in the ACA on the last Sunday of every May to celebrate the advancements made, to advance inclusion, to celebrate the role that everyone with a disability and everyone who is in our community and part of this broad cultural contribution that we all have to Canadian society.

About the author

Nick Davis

Nick Davis is an advocate of making websites more accessible and user-friendly for the disabled. He has written several articles related to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to help website managers and developers in making their site more compliant.

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