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accessibility, disability, canada


An accessible MS Word version of this document as well as related tables are available for download at the bottom of this screen under "Additional files".

The Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, S.C. 2019, c. 10, which is commonly known as the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) came into force on July 11, 2019. It is Canada’s first piece of federal legislation focusing on accessibility for persons with disabilities.

As a piece of federal legislation, the ACA regulates accessibility for those sectors of the economy that fall under federal jurisdiction pursuant to s. 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867. This includes federal works and undertakings, businesses and organizations such as banks, airlines, railways, marine and other interprovincial transportation carriers, the Canadian Forces, parliamentary entities such as the Senate and the House of Commons, and most Crown corporations such as Canada Post. The underlying philosophy of the Act is to remove existing disabling barriers and to prevent the creation of new barriers for people with disabilities within the federal sphere. The Act provides a structure for the creation of accessibility standards through regulations. These standards would then apply to the regulated entities that are subject to the Act. The ACA also sets up an elaborate and innovative system of compliance and enforcement which requires regulated entities to create accessibility plans, provide feedback processes to hear about barriers encountered by their users, and to implement steps to address and remove these barriers. Compliance and enforcement of the ACA are led by the Accessibility Commissioner, which is a unique office that does not exist in any of the provinces that have created accessibility legislation to date. The ACA aims to achieve a “Canada without barriers” by January 1, 2040.

However, the Act itself has a number of exemptions which lead to a patchwork approach to its application across federally regulated entities. These exemptions appear most explicitly with respect to transportation, telecommunications and broadcasting. For example, as regards transportation, the Canadian Transportation Agency, on approval of the Governor in Council (Cabinet), may make regulations regarding accessibility plans and the process of feedback by users regarding disabling barriers (s. 63). The standards would therefore be made by the Canadian Transportation Agency instead of through the process designed in the ACA for the development of standards by the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO), and the establishment of those standards into regulations by Cabinet.

The Accessible Canada Act has twelve parts. In this book, we cover the most significant parts of the Act from the perspective of members of the public who may use it: people with disabilities, advocates and lawyers, as well as disability rights researchers and scholars– that is, this resource discusses the ACA from the beginning of the statute up to and including Part 9. A brief summary of each Part of the entire ACA may be found on the Department of Justice website.

In 2017, Statistics Canada reported that 22% of the population of Canada aged 15 years or older identify as people with disabilities. With a population in Canada of approximately 38 million, those with disabilities comprise over 7 million people.

We hope that this resource will help interested individuals, especially people with disabilities in Canada, to unravel, interpret and examine the implications of the Accessible Canada Act, and to know their rights within it.