Chilliwack MLA Dan Coulter has helped to craft a new piece of legislation that promises to make B.C. more accessible to people with disabilities.
If passed, the ‘accessible British Columbia’ act will allow government to establish accessibility/inclusion standards and regulations in areas like employment, service delivery and building requirements.
“People with disabilities have been leaders in shaping the act from the beginning, and it’s with their continued input that we’ll be able to build a barrier-free B.C.,” said Coulter, who is the provincial government’s Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility. ”This legislation provides us with the framework to improve the lives of over 900,000 British Columbians living with a disability, and I’m looking forward to the work we’ll do in the coming years.”
B.C. is the largest Canadia province (by population) that has not passed comprehensive accessibility legislation. According to 2017 statistics, B.C. has an estimated 926,100 people (over 20 per cent of the population) who report having a disability.
“We’re committed to improving the lives of people living with disabilities, and today’s introduction of the accessible British Columbia act marks an important step in building an accessible province that works for all of us,” said Nicholas Simons, B.C.’s Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “To be a truly inclusive province, we must integrate accessibility into all aspects of our lives. This legislation will support the development of new accessibility standards, which will help ensure all British Columbians can participate more fully in their communities.”
B.C.’s legislation will complement the federal Accessible Canada Act, recognizing that inclusive communities are places where all people have the equal opportunity to succeed and meet their full potential.
Hours of consultation went into the legislation, following the principle of “nothing about us without us,” and it will continue after it becomes law. The government will be required to establish a provincial accessibility committee, and Simons said at least half of its membership will include people with disabilities, or advocates of people with disabilities. It will also include Indigenous representation.
Together, they will come up with an accessibility plan and create tools for public feedback.
Government will provide legislated annual reports on actions taken and an independent review will be conducted after five years.
“I many ways, the passing of the accessible British Columbia act will mark the start of a much larger process, but for our work to succeed, we all need to play a role in supporting this shift towards a culture of accessibility and inclusion,” Coulter said. “Disability has a way of re-shaping all of our lives, and if it’s not you personally, there’s a good chance that a loved one, friend or co-worker of yours will develop a disability. Building a barrier free B.C., therefore, is in the best interests of all of us and I’m looking forward to speaking with British Columbians in every corner of the province to make sure we get this right.”