Accessible Canada Act

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Accessible Canada Act
Parliament of Canada
  • An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada
CitationAccessible Canada Act[1]
Enacted by42nd Canadian Parliament
Assented toJune 21, 2019
Legislative history
First readingJune 20, 2018
Second readingNovember 19, 2018
Third readingNovember 27, 2018

The Accessible Canada Act (French: Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité, long title: An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, Loi visant à assurer un Canada sans obstacles) (ACA) builds on the Canadian Human Rights Act, focusing on the prohibition of discrimination based on disability.[2] Carla Qualtrough presented Bill C-81 for its final reading on June 21, 2019, where it received Royal Assent. This is a Canada-wide accessibility act that applies to the federal public sector, Crown Corporations, and all federally regulated organizations. It is the first national Canadian legislation on accessibility that affects all government departments and federally regulated agencies. The federally regulated organizations[3] include the following industries:

  • railways, airplanes and inter-provincial buses
  • banks, mining companies, railways, airlines, and trucking
  • television and radio[4][5][6]


The Office of Public Service Accessibility (OPSA) was responsible for preparing Bill C-81 and creating its implementation strategy.[7] OPSA's mandate will expire in March 2021.

Standards development[edit]

Accessibility standards required for the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) are to be developed by Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC).[8][9] Priority areas for have been defined as: Employment; Emergency measures; Built environment including parks and outdoor recreation facilities; Information and communication technologies; Indigenous accessibility; Accessible communications.[10]

Legislated roles[edit]

The ACA created the position of an Accessibility Commissioner and Chief Accessibility Officer. The Accessibility Commissioner has the authority to fine organizations up to $250,000 per violation.[11][12]

The Accessibility Commissioner has broad powers to conduct investigations of complaints. If the complaint is substantiated, they have the power to order the appropriate corrective measures and pay compensation to the complainant.[13][14]

Mandates and goals[edit]

As defined, the ACA will require the public sector to:[citation needed]

  • hire 5,000 new employees who identify as people with disabilities over five years (1,000/year);
  • review anything which may be a barrier for the public or the public sector;
  • create an initial accessibility plan by one year after a date determined by regulations;
  • publish an updated accessibility plan, and notify the Accessibility Commissioner, on an annual basis outlining progress to-date. This plan must be made available to people on request.
  • consult persons with disabilities in the preparation of its accessibility plan and include the manner of consultation in the report.

In the Backgrounder on Accessible Government[15] provided by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), several other items have been outlined which pertain to the public sector. Perhaps the most immediate will be the five-year commitment for the public sector to hire a thousand employees per year who identify as people with disabilities.

The government will be investing $53 million over six years,[15] in support of a new Strategy for an Accessible Government of Canada. An “Accessibility Hub” will also be established to provide leadership, coordination and oversight. The details of this strategy and “Accessibility Hub” will be developed and released to the public within one year of the passage of the legislation.[citation needed]

Public Services and Procurement Canada will establish an accessible procurement resource centre.[16] The government will adjust its policies to ensure that goods and services procured by the Government of Canada are accessible.

The vision of the ACA is to be the most accessible and inclusive public service in the world.[17] The guiding principles are:

  • Nothing without us: Persons with disabilities are involved in the design and implementation of the strategy.
  • Collaboration: Departments and agencies work in collaboration with each other as well as with bargaining agents, and other public, private, and not-for-profit organizations.
  • Sustainability: The strategy prioritizes actions that will have a long-term impact.
  • Transparency: The strategy is developed and implemented in a transparent manner and departments will report openly and transparently on their efforts to remove barriers.

The five most-pressing goals defined in ACA include:[17]

  • Improving recruitment, retention, and promotion of persons with disabilities
  • Enhancing the accessibility of the built environment
  • Making information and communications technology usable by all
  • Equipping public servants to design and deliver accessible programs and services
  • Building an accessibility confident public service

Many details are under development.[7]


Representatives from the five organizations responsible for enforcing the ACA make up the Council of Federal Accessibility Agencies (CFAA) along with the Accessibility Commissioner. The five lead organizations are:

These organizations are committed to working together, viewing accessibility as a fundamental human right to be realized across Canada.[18]

National AccessAbility Week[edit]

The Bill named National AccessAbility Week as the week starting on the last Sunday in May. This is part of an effort to change the public sector's culture, and celebrate Canadians with disabilities.

Upcoming dates for this event:

  • 2020: May 31 to June 6
  • 2021: May 30 to June 5
  • 2022: May 29 to June 4
  • 2023: May 28 to June 3
  • 2024: May 26 to June 1
  • 2025: May 25 to May 31


On April 1, 2020, the Policy on Service and Digital will come into effect in the Government of Canada.[19] This will make the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Canada responsible for prescribing enterprise-wide information and data standards for accessibility. The requirements and direction specified by the CIO will guide the deputy heads to ensure their development and delivery.[19]

Organizations which fall under the ACA will need to build accessibility plans, incorporate accessible feedback tools and create annual progress reports to mark progress on accessibility.[20][21]

Having measurable progress is a key part of the ACA. OPSA is responsible for developing the strategy and supporting its implementation across all government departments.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Government Bill (House of Commons) (C-81)". June 21, 2019. Archived from the original on July 2, 2019. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  2. ^ "Summary of the Accessible Canada Act". Equidox. 10 July 2019.
  3. ^ "List of federally regulated industries and workplaces". 23 February 2021.
  4. ^ "Fact Sheet – What is the new Accessible Canada Act (ACA)?". ARCH Disability Law Centre. October 1, 2019.
  5. ^ "New federal accessibility law now in force". ipolitics. 11 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Accessible Canada Act passes, but Canada still lags behind the world in website accessibility". ITBusiness. 26 June 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "Introduction: Accessibility strategy for the Public Service of Canada". OPSA. Government of Canada. June 7, 2019. Archived from the original on September 24, 2019. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  8. ^ "Accessibility Standards Canada". Government of Canada. March 10, 2020. Archived from the original on September 23, 2019.
  9. ^ "Federal government names Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization officers". law times news.
  10. ^ "Advancing Accessibility Standards Research".
  11. ^ "Accessible Canada Act – The Act to Ensure a Barrier Free Canada". 14 August 2019.
  12. ^ "What Federally-Regulated Employers Need to Know About The Accessible Canada Act".
  13. ^ "Canada: The Accessible Canada Act Creates Federal Accessibility Standards Regime".
  14. ^ "Labour, Employment and Human Rights Bulletin - Federal Sector Update".
  15. ^ a b "Backgrounder: Accessible Government". Government of Canada. 20 June 2018. Archived from the original on 2019-06-08. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  16. ^ "PSPC establishes centre of expertise for accessible procurement". Buy & Sell. Government of Canada. June 7, 2019. Archived from the original on June 8, 2019. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
  17. ^ a b "New strategy for a more accessible and inclusive public service". Government of Canada. 27 May 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-06-08. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  18. ^ "News release – On the path towards a more accessible Canada with the creation of the Council of Federal Accessibility Agencies". Canadian Human Rights Commission (Press release). Government of Canada. August 14, 2019. Archived from the original on October 29, 2019. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  19. ^ a b "Policy on Service and Digital". Government of Canada. August 2, 2019. Archived from the original on October 9, 2019. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  20. ^ "Accessible Canada Act in Plain Language". Include-Me.CA. Include-Me.CA. Archived from the original on 2019-06-08. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  21. ^ "What is Bill C-81, The Accessible Canada Act?". Siteimprove. June 21, 2019. Archived from the original on July 7, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2019.

External links[edit]