Will Manitoba Pass Disability Accessibility Legislation That is Strong and Effective?


May 29, 2012


For the past four years, an impressive grassroots advocacy campaign has been waged in Manitoba to win strong and effective disability accessibility legislation. Effectively spearheaded by “Barrier-Free Manitoba,” this advocacy effort has on occasion turned to us for ideas and help. We have always tried to do whatever we can to support their efforts. We have encouraged Manitoba to learn from what Ontario has done well, and to improve on things that Ontario could have done more effectively, in this area. As well, Barrier-Free Manitoba and we have tried to encourage other provinces to develop their own accessibility legislation.

Another chance to help Manitoba has just presented itself. In 2009, the Government of Manitoba made a commitment to make that province “a leader in the promoting and protecting the human rights of persons with disabilities.” Work has started to develop accessibility legislation in Manitoba that will help to meet this commitment. Given our experience in Ontario with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, we know that the Manitoba legislation will need to be both strong and effective to make a meaningful difference.

A Manitoba law was passed last year to establish a formal consultation process to develop proposals for a Manitoba disability accessibility law. As a result, a public process is now underway to provide feedback on a discussion paper released earlier this month by the Manitoba Accessibility Advisory Council (MAAC). The deadline for sending in comments is June 5, 2012.

To complement its local advocacy efforts, Barrier-Free Manitoba is inviting disability-rights groups and individuals from outside Manitoba to send messages of solidarity that will be shared with the Manitoba Government. To submit a message of support for the Manitoba campaign for strong and effective accessibility legislation, you can visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/stronglaws

We urge you to offer your own message of encouragement. You can also email your thoughts to Barrier-Free Manitoba or ask to be added to their email update service, by writing them at barrierfreemanitoba@shaw.ca

The AODA Alliance has been eager to support Barrier-Free Manitoba’s campaign in the past. With developments in Manitoba now reaching a critical juncture, we are pleased to have already contributed a message to that website.

For helpful background, Barrier-Free Manitoba’s response to the MAAC’s discussion paper sets out seven key elements to provide a solid foundation for the proposed Manitoba legislation:

1. Strong, Resolute and Robust Intent and Language

The preamble and the purpose in the legislation must establish an unequivocal commitment to the timely and systemic prevention and removal of barriers to full accessibility. This commitment must be firmly grounded in domestic and international human rights law, basic principles of access and justice, and the acknowledgement of the historic and current discrimination faced by persons with disabilities. The strength of the language must match the strength of the commitment that is established in the legislation.

2. Drivers to Sustain Vision, Commitment and Accountability

The legislation must include measures that sustain vision, commitment and accountability for results over time. These measures should include but not be limited to the establishment of a target date by which a barrier-free Manitoba will be achieved and the requirement for regular independent reviews of the effectiveness of the legislation. The legislation should require that the reports from these reviews be tabled as part of the public record of the Legislative Assembly.

3. Leadership and Effective Resources for Disability Community

The legislation must set out leadership roles for persons with disabilities and disability representatives in major areas of its development and implementation. It is essential that the disability representatives are effectively resourced to enable them to fulfill these roles and to have the same level of access to independent technical and legal resources and advice as other stakeholders which participate in these processes.

4. Built on the Best with Early and Tangible Progress

The legislation must build on the strengths of accessibility-rights laws that are in place in other jurisdictions while not replicating their weaknesses. Established resources and tools from these jurisdictions should be used to support early and tangible progress in implementation. This will allow Manitoba to demonstrate early success without ‘reinventing the wheel’; build momentum by focusing effort on the development of new standards and demonstrate collaboration and leadership.

5. Broad Public Sector Engagement and Focused Accountability

The legislation must establish requirements for the broad public sector that promote engagement and ensure accountability. Public and quasi-public sector agencies should be required to prepare and release annual accessibility plans for at least the first decade following passage of the legislation. The legislation should set out a focused and high-level accountability structure required for the implementation of systemic change within the Province of Manitoba. The legislation should require that procurement guidelines be established to ensure that public money spent for public purposes equally benefits persons with disabilities and does not create further barriers.

6. Strong Compliance Framework with ‘Teeth’

The legislation should require that obligated organizations report on measures taken to meet or exceed applicable accessibility standards. This will allow the minister to monitor effectiveness and compliance with the legislation without reliance on complaints. The compliance framework must also establish a vigorous enforcement regime that includes substantial penalties for willful non-compliance.

7. Enhanced Human Rights Protections

The current system for human rights protections should be strengthened concurrent with or in conjunction with the passage and implementation of the proposed legislation.

You can download the Executive Summary of Barrier-Free Manitoba’s response to the MAAC Discussion Paper by visiting http://bit.ly/JwU7UN

You can download the entire response of Barrier-Free Manitoba to the MAAC Discussion Paper by visiting http://bit.ly/JwUfDP

You can read the MAAC’s discussion paper by visiting http://www.gov.mb.ca/dio/discussionpaper/discussion_paper.html

To read the AODA Alliance’s June 13, 2011 presentation to a Standing Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the need for strong, effective Manitoba accessibility legislation, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302011.asp

To read Barrier-Free Manitoba’s June 3, 2010 letter of thanks to the AODA Alliance’s supporters for their leadership and support, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06082010.asp

Learn more about Barrier-free Manitoba’s campaign for accessibility legislation by visiting www.barrierfreemb.com

Barrier-Free Manitoba also provides fantastic information about accessibility efforts Via Twitter, around the world. They have re-tweeted many of our tweets, and we have re-tweeted many of theirs. You can follow Barrier-Free Manitoba on Twitter at @barrierfreemb

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