A Barrier Free Canada

Speaker of the House of Commons: May it please Your Excellency. The Senate in the House of Commons have passed the following Bills to which they humbly request Your Excellency’s assent. An Act to ensure a Barrier Free Canada.

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough: I was a human rights lawyer before I got into politics and became really frustrated by having to wait until people were discriminated against before we could help them so we have really strong anti-discrimination laws in this country, robust human rights legislation, a great Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the weakness in our system is it’s very reactive so you have to wait until someone is denied a service, denied a job, denied housing and then the system kicks in very, laboriously and at the end of it all you find out yes, you shouldn’t have been denied that job, you shouldn’t have been denied that housing, because of your disability or some other characteristic and so we kind of within the disability community have, you know, called on for some time, a law that would proactively identify and remove barriers so that people wouldn’t have to wait for the anti-discrimination or the human rights law to kick in and that’s exactly what we were trying to and I think we’ve achieved with C-81.

The Accessible Canada Act

Sinead Tuite Former Director of Legislation Development, Accessibility Secretariat, Employment and Social Development Canada: We went really deep I’d say over the first year, in terms of talking to people, talking to experts, talking to community organizations, and people with disabilities to really get a sense of the landscape and of the challenges and then quickly had to switch gears into okay, so what are the options then to address some of these issues, what are the pros and cons, at kind of a macro level, how would you actually fit this all together in a way that would both respect the very significant differences in the sectors across federal jurisdiction, both in terms of what the issues were from an accessibility perspective but also their legislative and regulatory frameworks that they were working within.

James van Raalte Director General Accessibility Secretariat: I go into a new situation and it doesn’t have to be the built environment, it can be a service situation, it can be, you know, this piece of technology and I can’t stop looking at it and not think about the barriers that this piece of technology represents and, and what C-81, can do to change all of that. So it probably sounds a bit grand, but at a really fundamental perspective, for me both personally and professionally, it has been life changing.

The Honourable Jim Munson, Senator of Ottawa/Rideau Canal Ontario and Bill Adair of Spinal Cord Injury Canada discuss a Barrier Free Canada

The Honourable Jim Munson, Senator of Ottawa/Rideau Canal Ontario: It’s a level playing field for everybody across the country whether working in government or taking access in a- in a bank, getting access at a bank, or getting onto a plane, or getting onto a train. I don’t think the country quite knows right now what it- has hit it because we have you know 1 in 5 Canadians with a disability, and some of us are getting a bit older and those numbers may, may increase. To me this is up there with the Charter of Rights.

Frank Folino, President of Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD-ASC): It will alter our ability for accessibility in languages, for instance- providing remote- remote video interpreters, and so then it will allow us more opportunities to work within the federal government, , any services that are provided you could have an app for VRI and so I could look at that app and then see – have a live interpreter there right away and I could communicate with anyone at any service desk or anyone who was wanting to- to work with us. That means it eliminates communication barriers, and opportunities for employment for deaf individuals, building resources and capacities for sign language interpreters, and that enhances accessibility for us and finally, translation: translation from English and French text to ASL and LSQ and then that’ll enable us to access information in our language. So accessibility and language are the two fundamental issues within Bill C-81 that will advance the human rights for deaf Canadians.

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough: As someone with a disability- kind of we’re told our whole lives you know, that- that we just don’t quite fit in to the way things are done, you know and you’re born into a world that isn’t built for you and where your needs aren’t taken into consideration. That’s all changing, right? That’s what this is doing and it gives people hope and it gives people rights of full citizenship and everything that comes with that including responsibilities but it’s – this is game changing for 23% of our population.

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