PROVINCE, MUNICIPALITIES, PUBLIC-SECTOR ORGANIZATIONS TO DEVELOP ACCESSIBILITY PLANS
– – – Goal is to Eliminate Barriers to Programs, Services for all Manitobans: Minister Irvin-Ross
The provincial government will take the lead as municipalities and public-sector organizations develop plans to remove barriers to programs and services for all Manitobans by the end of 2017, Family Services Kerri Irvin-Ross, minister responsible for persons with disabilities, announced today.
“All Manitobans have the right to access government programs and services. But sometimes physical structures, technology, poorly planned policies and practices create barriers, making it difficult for some people to access the programs and services they deserve,” Minister Irvin-Ross said. “By identifying and removing these barriers, we will create a more inclusive society for all Manitobans.”
Under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA), beginning in 2016, the provincial government, all larger public-sector organizations and municipalities must develop a multi-year accessibility plan that will identify barriers in their policies, programs and services and propose ways to eliminate them, the minister said. Smaller municipalities and public-sector bodies will have until 2017 to complete accessibility plans.
“Accessibility legislation moves Manitoba away from dealing with barriers on a case-by-case basis; instead it offers a pro-active and systemic approach to preventing and eliminating barriers,” said Allen Mankewich, co-chairperson, Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities. “Increasingly Manitobans are taking the initiative to make their communities and services more inclusive. Accessibility legislation will help guide this process.”
“This is an important step toward removing the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in all aspects of society,” said Jim Derksen, vice-chair, Accessibility Advisory Council. “The council is pleased to have played a role in consulting with the public and advising government on its accessibility legislation.”
Accessibility legislation recognizes that barriers prevent Manitobans with disabilities from going places, using services and getting information, Minister Irvin-Ross said. Barriers can be in such areas as building design, information services and hiring practices.
The legislation will apply to all organizations (public, private and non-profit) that provide goods or services, and that have one or more employees in Manitoba. Accessibility standards will be developed in the five areas of customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and design and construction outside the jurisdiction of the Manitoba Building Code, such as sidewalks, pathways and parks.
Today, an estimated one in six Canadians lives with a disability. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to one in five. About 15 per cent of Manitobans face some sort of barrier to receiving services from the public and private sectors.
“Barriers come at an enormous cost to people with disabilities, to their family and friends, to their communities and also to businesses,” Minister Irvin-Ross said. “All public bodies, including the province, must demonstrate a commitment to accessibility by eliminating barriers in the delivery of programs and services.”
Manitoba will offer assistance in the identification, prevention and removal of barriers to accessibility, the minister said. Manitoba’s Disability Issues Office offers free presentations and training events on creating an accessibility plan, including policies and strategies for action.
Deadlines for the introduction of accessibility plans by government agencies are as follows:
2016 – the Manitoba government and all its departments, universities and colleges, Crown corporations, regional health authorities and larger municipalities.
2017 – all other municipalities and public-sector bodies including any board, commission, association, agency or similar body whose management, directors or governing members are appointed by the government.