A Quick Guide to the Accessible Canada Act (ACA)

The Accessibility Canada Act (ACA) came into force on July 11, 2019, with a mandate to  create a barrier-free Canada by creating laws, programs, structures and services that are accessible by all Canadians.

If you’re a person with a disability and you have questions about how the ACA will impact you, speak to a long term disability lawyer in Toronto about your rights, entitlements and the resources available to you in several key areas.

There will eventually be some big changes coming under the ACA. Below are some of the highlights of this Act.

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What is the Objective of the ACA?

The goal of the Accessible Canada Act is to identify, remove and prevent barriers within communities, workplaces and services that make them inaccessible for Canadians with disabilities.

The Accessible Canada Act defines a barrier as:

“anything—including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a policy or a practice—that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.”

After consulting Canadians with disabilities and advocacy groups, the federal government prioritized seven specific areas under its jurisdiction:

  • The built environment and public spaces.
  • Information and communication technologies (ICT).
  • Other forms of communication, especially:
    • American Sign Language
    • Quebec Sign Language (Langue des signesquébécoise), and
    • Indigenous sign languages
  • The design and provision of programs and services.
  • Procurement of goods, services and facilities.

These areas are the first to be addressed by the ACA.

Who Specifically Does the ACA Apply To?

Some of the federally-regulated organizations that must now comply with the ACA include:

  • The Government of Canada, such as federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations.
  • Private sector organizations operating in industries under federal jurisdiction, such as:
    • Banks.
    • Operators within the federal transportation network, including airlines, railroads, marine transportation, etc.
    • Broadcasters and telecommunications operators.
    • Mining companies.
  • The RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces.
  • Federal programs and services, such as Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, Registered Disability Savings Plan, Disability Tax Credit, Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal and many others.
  • All other entities and property under federal jurisdiction.

While First Nations Band Councils fall under federal jurisdiction, they were exempted from the ACA until 2026 to provide Indigenous organizations with more time to gain a better understanding of the accessibility barriers Indigenous persons with disabilities experience.

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What Does the ACA Mean for Federally-Regulated Entities?

The Act currently requires regulated entities to consult people with disabilities and publish their accessibility plans, feedback procedures and progress reports. Rules regarding these requirements are fully detailed in the Accessible Canada Regulations. Some of the basic requirements are outlined below.

Accessibility Plans

Regulated entities must consult people with disabilities to help them draft a plan for meeting their legal obligations to find, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. Once drafted, they are required to publish them and update them per regulation standards.

Feedback Procedures

Regulated organizations must also implement a system for collecting and responding to the feedback they receive regarding their compliance with their accessibility plans and barriers experienced by clients and employees.

Progress reports

Progress reports must also be completed with the input of people with disabilities. These reports must explain:

  • The ways in which people with disabilities were included in an organization’s accessibility plan.
  • How the organization is following its accessibility plan.
  • Feedback an organization received and how they dealt with it.

The Government of Canada is currently developing guidance and templates for organizations to use when creating accessibility plans and progress reports.

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