New Canadian accessibility law enforcement in Manitoba follows Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia

Topics:

  • Accessibility for Manitobans Act
  • Accessible Information and Communication Standard Regulation
  • Legal Intelligence

Location:

  • Canada
  • Manitoba

A new accessibility deadline in Manitoba marks the second enforcement phase of its new law, the Accessible Information and Communication Standard Regulation.

Driving the news- Manitoba accessibility deadline:

A new accessibility deadline in Manitoba marks the second enforcement phase of its new law, the Accessible Information and Communication Standard Regulation.

A variety of organizations operating in Manitoba, including educational institutions and healthcare providers, must be web-accessible by May 1st, 2024. Enacted in 2013, the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) aims to eliminate barriers for people with disabilities by setting clear accessibility standards. This regulation specifically targets the information and communication domains, so all Manitobans can access information regardless of their abilities.

Broad applications of the Accessible Information and Communication Standard Regulation:

The Accessible Information and Communication Standard Regulation (M.R. 47/2022) applies to a broad range of entities, including all businesses with at least one employee, government organizations, and departments. A phased enforcement approach has been adopted. On May 1st of the below years, relevant organizations must be compliant:

  • 2023: Government departments
  • 2024: Government agencies, educational institutions, health authorities, the City of Winnipeg, specified municipalities, and libraries
  • 2025: All other organizations operating in the province

What to expect:

  • Information must be offered in an accessible way with other usable formats, like large print or audio recordings, upon request. 
  • This option must be visibly stated on both print and digital platforms to reach a broad audience effectively. 
  • The standards also include obligatory accessible communication training for employees working directly with the public, in IT procurement, in policy implementation, or managing web content. 
  • Larger organizations must document and publicly disclose their accessibility policies and practices, as well as offering routes to receive and address feedback. 
  • This process should be suited to the organization’s context and accessible to people with disabilities. All actions should be documented and available upon request.

Legal reporting requirements:

The regulation mandates that organizations submit accessibility reports detailing their compliance efforts. These reports will include specifics on web accessibility measures to check that progress towards barrier-free communication is monitored and maintained. 

By institutionalizing these standards, Manitoba not only enhances its accessibility landscape but also sets a precedent for other regions to follow, fostering a more inclusive society where information and communication are accessible to all.

Province adopts WCAG technical accessibility standards:

According to the regulations, web applications and all new or updated web content must meet at least WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. Content published before the standard’s enactment must be updated if it is necessary to access organizational services or information. 

AMA fundamental standards:

The AMA is structured around 5 fundamental standards, each serving to support comprehensive and practical accessibility improvements:

  1. Accessible Customer Service Standard Regulation:

    This emphasizes the importance of tailored business practices and staff training to enhance service delivery to people with disabilities.

  2. Accessible Employment Standard Regulation:

    Enacted to facilitate equitable employment practices, this focuses on recruitment, hiring, and retention processes. 

  3. Accessible Information and Communication Standard Regulation:

    Implemented to ensure that information is accessible to everyone.

  4. Accessible Transportation Standard Regulation:

    Designed to make transportation systems more accessible.

  5. Accessible Design of Outdoor Public Spaces Standard:

    Still in development, this forthcoming standard will focus on the accessibility of outdoor public spaces.

Exceptions to the requirements:

Certain conditions allow for exceptions from these requirements, such as when compliance is not technically feasible, the necessary technology is not readily available, or compliance would cause undue hardship. However, these exceptions do not apply to educational institutions providing educational materials in accessible formats.

Building a more accessible Manitoba:

To help entities comply with the legislation, the Manitoba government created the 2024-2025 Manitoba Accessibility Fund (MAF), an initiative to enhance accessibility across the province. The grants, reaching as high as $50,000, supported projects dedicated to removing barriers for Manitobans with disabilities. Organizations eligible to apply include registered charities, non-profits, local businesses, municipalities, on-reserve organizations, and educational institutions. All applicants focused their projects on improving accessibility in customer service, employment, or information and communication in alignment with the AMA.

Accessibility in Canada:

Manitoba is not alone in its pursuit of accessibility. Similar legislative frameworks exist across Canada, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), enacted in 2005. The AODA seeks to achieve a fully accessible Ontario by 2025 through enforcing standards in critical areas of daily living. Like Manitoba’s AMA, the AODA covers various domains.

Other provinces, including British Columbia and Nova Scotia, have also implemented or are in the process of implementing comprehensive accessibility legislation. British Columbia’s Accessibility Act, passed in 2022, aims to identify, remove, and prevent barriers across various activities and domains. Similarly, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act, established in 2017, sets a goal of an accessible province by 2030 and covers areas such as goods and services, information and communication, and transportation.

These efforts are part of Canada’s larger commitment to disability rights, also reflected in the country’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which advances, preserves, and guarantees the full and equal exercise of all human rights by all people, no matter their abilities. 

The Accessible Canada Act (ACA), enacted in July 2019, is a landmark federal legislation aimed at transforming accessibility across Canada. Its goal is to create a barrier-free Canada by 2040, where all Canadians have the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of society. 

Moving forward:

Manitoba’s implementation is part of a nationwide effort towards inclusivity and accessibility. This reflects Canada’s approach to removing and preventing barriers that can impede individuals with disabilities, ensuring a more equitable society where everyone can participate fully in all aspects of life.

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