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Accessibility Standards Across Canada

Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards may change to align with laws in other places across the country.

Accessibility Standards Across Canada

Each accessibility law mandates the creation of standards governing how organizations must make themselves accessible to people with disabilities. The standards require organizations to create policies and practices that identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. The standards outline organizations’ responsibilities, and the deadlines they must meet.

A standard specifies the kinds of organizations or sectors of the economy that must follow it. For instance, some standards in the AODA have rules applying only to public sector organizations or large private organizations. In addition, some organizations must obey more than one standard. For instance, new shopping malls must comply with the AODA’s Customer Service Standards and Design of Public Spaces Standards.

Ontario was the first province to enact accessibility legislation. Other provinces plan standards mandating accessibility in the same sectors of the economy. For instance, Manitoba and Nova Scotia plan to create standards for:

Moreover, the Accessible Canada Act also lists these sectors as areas needing standards to identify, remove, and prevent barriers. In addition, Nova Scotia and Ontario are both planning to create an education standard. As a result, sectors under different jurisdictions may become more accessible across the country.

However, all these standards have developed through different processes. Therefore, although the standards cover the same sectors, some standards may be more detailed than others, or include mandates that the comparable standards in other regions do not have. Our next articles will explore the existing process of developing standards across Canada, as well as the content of existing standards outside of Ontario. As governments work together to align their accessibility laws, some AODA standards may change so that law in Ontario corresponds more closely with standards in other provinces, or with the Accessible Canada Act.