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Future of Web Accessibility in Canada – Bill C-81 (Accessible Canada Act)

Last updated on 29 May 2019

Almost 7 years to the date of the last legal decision around the Federal Government’s consitutional duty to ensure web-related content are accessible to all, Bill C-81 has now passed the 3rd reading in the Senate and has one last step before it receives Royal Assent and becomes law.

When Bill C-81 becomes law, which I suspect will happen during National AccessAbility Week, it will bring into affect changes that affect accesibility for:

  • Employment
  • Built Environment
  • Information / Communication Technologies
  • Communication (not included in Information / Communication Technologies)
  • Procurement of goods / services / facilities
  • Design / delivery of programs and services
  • Transportation
  • Other items defined in the Bill where regulations can be applied

Most importantly, it will mandate that all agencies controlled by the Federal Government must remove barriers for those with accessibility needs.

Executive Summary of Bill C-81 + Potential Impacts

I’ve read through the Bill and made a summary of the changes and impacts, as it relates specifically to Information and Communications Technologies and Web Accessibility. NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list and is based on my initial interpretations. Subject to change as this develops.

Bill C-81 (Parts of Act) Information / Communication technologies impacts
  • Enactment of the Accessible Canada Act as law
  • All Federal Government controlled agencies must remove all barriers around access to technologies around information and communications: web-related content (internal and external)
  • CASDO will be publishing the new, revised and recommended standards to follow, in regards to web accessibility.
  • Regular monitoring will be mandatory to assure that any standards that are created are recognized and followed.
  • Appointment of an Accessibility Commissioner to provide the Minister with information, advice and written reports that relate to the enforcement of the Act
  • Regular reports will be required and requested around the current and future state of web accessibility.
  • Duty to prepare accessibility plans and progress reports in consultation with persons with disabilities, publishing of these plans, establishing / publishing of a feedback process.
  • Related to the Accessibility Commissioner, regular reports will be required and requested around the current and future state of web accessibility.
  • Processes will need to be developed to create regular consultation opportunities, establishing / publishing of the feedback process, reporting / publishing of results around web accessibility.
  • Establishing powers to the Accessibility Commissioner to inspect, create production / compliance orders and impose administrative monetary penalties.
  • Related to the Accessibility Commissioner, regular inspections, audits and compliance of all web-related content to assure compliance.
  • Imposing administrative fines / penalties, where necessary. Maximum penalty, in relation to web accessibility, is $250,000. Regulation 91, Paragraph (1)(b)
  • Establishing a complain process for those who have suffered physical / psychological harm, property damage or economic loss due to not meeting regulations.
  • A new section would be mandatory on web-related content that specifies the complain process, how to initiate / submit infractions.
  • Appointment of a Chief Accessibility Officer who will advise the Minister, in respect to reoccurring or emerging accessibility issues.
  • Related to the complaint process, results of the reporting of and actions taken on infractions would need to be communicated to the Chief Accessibility Officer on a regular basis.
  • Authorizing the Governor in Council to make regulations to establish accessibility standards and specify the form of the plans and progress reports.
  • Regular monitoring will be mandatory to assure that any regulations that are created are recognized and followed.
  • Designation of National AccessAbility Week starting the last Sunday in May.
  • Recognition of the national AccessAbility Week on all communication channels (traditional and digital).
  • Applies changes to certain other Acts, in relation to Accessibility.
  • Recognition of the changes to the other referenced Acts and assuring web accessibility compliance, as required.

Summary

I’ve highlighted the impacts from the web accessibility perspective, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other impacts to accessibility overall within the Government of Canada and the stakeholders it serves.

The overall goal of the Bill is to create an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. As a long time advocate for Web Accessibility, I’m always encouraged to see any kind of advancement to help others.

Much like the overall goal of Bill C-81, I will also continue to monitor further developments, report on the results and assure equal access to all, regardless of ability. For now, it’s good to see more progress!

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