Ontario is Way Ahead of Canada with accessibility laws — What BC needs to do to catch up
BC and the rest of Canada could take a lesson or two from Ontario when it comes to laws guaranteeing accessibility to people with disabilities. Ontario lead the country in passing accessibility legislation beginning 16 years ago, and recently set a goal of being fully accessible by 2025.
As of January 1 this year, large non-profit and private organizations/businesses (50+ employees) in Ontario must make their environments more accessible, including the following:
1) Adding accessible ramps to buildings that have only stairs
2) Providing ramps in a building where there are stairs and no elevators
3) Providing accessible bathrooms in buildings
4) Hiring and retaining workers with disabilities, and providing career development opportunities to them
5) Providing outdoor eating areas with 20% of the tables accessible and level, with firm and stable ground surfaces to accommodate mobility aids, and enough clear space to smoothly approach the tables
6) Stable, firm and slip-resistant surfaces of ramps and stairs, with hand rails and guards; clear, contrasting markings and tactile walking surface indicators on stairs, curb ramps and depressed curbs incorporated
7) Preventative and emergency maintenance procedures for all accessible parts of the public spaces.
Failure could result in forced inspections, penalties, prosecutions or fines. Public organizations must file an accessibility report on how accessible they are for every 2 years and non-profit/private businesses every 3 years.
Smaller organizations must also comply, but have been given more time.
A Brief Summary of Ontario’s laws for disabled people:
In 2001, the government of Ontario passed into law the Ontarians with Disabilities Act—requiring the government to eliminate barriers to participation of people with disabilities. The government was required to carry out the following:
1) Defining building guidelines for accessibility
2) Leasing only properties that comply with the aforementioned guidelines
3) Sourcing products important for accessibility for people with disabilities
4) Preparing accessibility plans to identify, remove and prevent barriers to participation
5) Provide annual plans addressing issues in accessibility for many different areas (such as public transportation, hospitals, schools, etc.)
While the law was considered by some to be weak, it has had the effect of setting up a legacy of accessibility for everyone in the years since. For example, by the end of 2002, all provincial websites had to attain minimum standards for website accessibility.