Minister Nicholas Simons introduced the Accessible BC Act last year
By Paul Caune
September 6th, 2022
The Accessible BC Act won't force public sector organizations to remove the barriers they've built, writes Paul Caune
Last year, the Greens, Liberals and NDP unanimously voted in favour of the Accessible BC Act (ABCA), which became law on June 17, 2021.
In the Act, a barrier is defined as anything that hinders the full and equal participation in society of a person with an impairment.
The ABCA states, “Barriers can be caused by environment, attitudes, practices, policies, information, communications or technology.”
The ABCA also states that the Provincial Accessibility Committee, which will be making accessibility standards, must “consider” the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Let's consider Article 19 of the CRPD:
“Living independently and being included in the community.
States Parties to the present Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full employment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:
A) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;
B) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community...”
The important phrases are: “people with disabilities…are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement… persons with disabilities have access to... personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community.”
Minister Simons, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility Dan Coulter, and members of the Provincial Accessibility Committee
Any disabled voter reading this essay: can you think of any Ministry of Health or Health Authority attitudes, practices, and policies which hinder your full and equal participation in society?
How about, for example, the scarcity in your health authority of in-home personal assistants necessary to support living in the community, which obliges you, if you want to survive, to live in a long-term care facility (LTC)?
It's common sense that living in LTC is a barrier to full and equal participation in society. And it's been the policy since 1977 of Socred, NDP and Liberal governments not to incarcerate voters with developmental disabilities.
The Ministry of Health and the Health Authorities built the barriers that oblige disabled voters to live in long-term care, where freedom and dignity are impossible. It's now the law in BC that these barriers must be removed.
The Ministry of Health and the Health Authorities built the barriers which oblige disabled voters to live in long-term care, where freedom and dignity are impossible
Last April, the BC government made it a regulation that the health authorities had until September 1, 2024 to make a plan to remove the barriers they've created that hinders disabled citizens full and equal participation in society.
I want you to imagine an accessibility committee meeting of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCH), when some of its members state that VCH's home support and LTC policies and practices are barriers to the full and equal participation of disabled citizens in society.
Of course, VCH, after admitting they are systemically racist against Indigenous people and reminding the committee the authority is changing the name of George Pearson Centre because GP persecuted Japanese Canadians, will refuse to remove the barriers they've created.
The question would then be: will the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (MSDPR) force VCH to be in compliance with the ABCA? (It's MSDPR's responsibility to enforce the ABCA.)
Last year when the NDP proposed the bill which became the ABCA, Disability Alliance BC and several other disability organizations pointed out a major flaw:
“Bill 6 does not create any rights for individuals. It allows the government to hire inspectors to monitor how organizations comply with accessibility standards, but it does not require the government to do so.
It does not provide any process for submitting complaints to inspectors, or anyone else, when organizations fail to comply with accessibility standards.
We are concerned that the lack of an individual complaints process within Bill 6 will, ironically, create further barriers for people with disabilities in seeking remedy on the infringement of any rights which they may be granted in subsequent regulations and standards developed by the Act.”
Did the NDP amend the bill to give it an effective enforcement mechanism. Nope.
Instead the NDP mandated each prescribed public sector organization must have a “public-feedback mechanism.”
No matter how loud the shriek of the feedback gets, it will not force public sector organizations (VCH, for example) to remove the barriers they've built, to be in compliance with the ABCA.
Disabled voters should ask the Greens, Liberals and NDP during the next BC election: “You voted in favour of an ABCA that has no effective enforcement mechanism, why should I vote for you?”
Paul Caune is a writer, disability advocate, and former long-term care resident. He was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and the Courage To Come Back Award in 2014.