Provincial Forum Discusses Improving Accessibility Legislation

The forum is one of many being hosted across the province until Nov. 29

The forum took place in Surrey on Nov. 29. (Breanna Himmelright)

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction hosted an open forum on accessibility legislation at the Surrey Civic Hotel on Oct. 6. The forum, which went from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, is one of several being hosted across the province from Sept. 16 to Nov. 29 as part of an ongoing consultation process on provincial accessibility legislation.

The forum, which saw attendance from both disabled British Columbians and their friends and advocates, discussed several important aspects of proposed accessibility legislation, including the purposes and principles of it all, accessibility standards for employment, service delivery, transportation, incentives around developing and the enforcement of accessibility legislation, and changing the culture around disability in B.C.

The Framework for Accessibility Legislation booklet provided at the forum cites the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Accessible Canada Act. Additionally, it looks to existing accessibility legislation in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec and consultations with Canadians with disabilities in 2016 and British Columbians with disabilities in 2013.

During the opening and closing speeches for the forum, captions were provided for participants that were hard of hearing, and a facilitator was present at each table to streamline the discussion. Another worker wrote down the most important points brought up in the discussion.

Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson outlined the importance of consultations of this nature prior to the event.

“[Statistics] Canada tells us there are 926,000 people in this province who live with a disability,” Simpson said. “That’s just under 25 per cent of the population over the age of 15.”

He went on to state that current disability legislation in B.C. does not have a fully coherent view on the subject of accessibility, and that the proposed legislation in the future should embrace the foundation of UNCRPD: “Nothing about us without us.”

For those looking to participate in future discussions, another forum will be held on Nov. 2 in Vancouver at the Sandman Vancouver City Centre from 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm.

“The B.C. Government is committed to developing new laws, standards, and policies to better support people with disabilities to live with dignity and to meaningfully participate in their communities. Accessibility legislation would empower government, persons with disabilities, and the broader community to work together to identify, remove, and prevent barriers,” reads the event description.

If you are unable to attend the upcoming Vancouver forum, there will be a virtual town hall on Nov. 20 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. You can also submit your thoughts via email, telephone, or an online questionnaire until Nov. 29. The Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. is also providing up to $2,000 in resources for community groups and other organizations to host their own meetings on the proposed legislation.


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