What is ACA?
With more than 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over having a disability, the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) is an act for a barrier-free Canada.
How is ACA Evolving?
ACA is based on the Canadian Human Rights Act, which emphasizes the prohibition of discrimination based on disability. ACA received Royal Assent in 2019.
The Office of Public Service Accessibility (OPSA) was responsible for preparing Bill C-81 (ACA) and creating its implementation strategy. OPSA’s mandate expired in March 2021.
Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC) is developing the accessibility standards required for ACA.
Businesses That Need to Comply with ACA
This accessibility act applies to the Crown Corporations and all federally regulated organizations in Canada, which includes airlines, railways, inter-provincial buses, banks, mining companies, trucking, television, and radio.
All regulated entities in Canada are obligated to keep records of their accessibility plans, progress reports, and accessibility feedback tools.
Towards compliance, proactive activities include compliance audits, compliance orders, inspections, notice of violation with penalty, notice of violation with warning, and administrative monetary penalties.
Ongoing Work in ACA
ACA is seen as a defining milestone as Canada moves towards its ‘Accessible by 2040’ program. This is a government initiative that aims to make facilities across the country accessible to people with disabilities by 2040.
The accessibility standards are being exclusively developed by the ‘Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization’. A majority of The Board of Directors leading this initiative will be persons with a disability.
What’s revolutionary about ACA is that now the technical committees working on the act will now include people with disabilities. The committees will also include representatives from organizations that would be required to comply, as well as experts in the space.
What is the Cost of Non-Compliance?
When any individuals believe they have been affected due to lack of accessibility, they can register their complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or the Accessibility Commissioner.
In the case of federal public servants, complaints are made to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Employment Board.
Remedies could include reimbursement of expenses and lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering.
For example, a person would have the opportunity to seek compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering if that person encounters a barrier on a train.
Organizations can be fined up to $250,000 per violation.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is authorized by the Canadian Human Rights Act to deal with complaints related to discrimination.
What Does this Mean for Web Accessibility?
ACA does not clearly define accessibility guidelines, especially for the Internet. However, other Canadian accessibility laws, such as the AODA, provide sufficient guidelines for website accessibility. AODA is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), which provides clear standards for web accessibility. Therefore, it would help if organizations referred to AODA as well while on their journey towards making their websites accessible.