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Onward to Full Accessibility

Public Sector Charged with Lead Role in Making Manitoba Fully Accessible

Abstract of umbrellas

The development and enforcement of accessibility standards is the best known feature of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). But another key requirement under the AMA is the creation of Accessibility Plans by public sector bodies. The plans are on top of the standards.

In 2016, all government of Manitoba departments and large public sector bodies with significant interaction with the public are required to create Accessibility Plans. This includes government departments, crown corporations, regional health organizations, colleges, school divisions and cities of more than 10,000.

Each of these plans must be made in consultation with the disability community and must incorporate the following:

  • A report on the measures taken to identify, prevent and remove barriers that disable people.
  • Measures that will be taken in the period covered by the plan to identify, prevent and remove barriers.
  • Measures that are in place to assess the effect on accessibility for persons disabled by barriers when new policies, activities or initiatives are undertaken.

These plans must be made public. The plans must also be reviewed and renewed every two years.

Smaller public sector bodies and government agencies will also have to create Accessibility Plans but these won't be required until 2017.

As they say, "a goal without a plan is just a wish." While these plans won't make full accessibility a reality by themselves, they are another important tool in reaching this goal.

The Disability Issues Office has now released a guide to help public sector organizations develop Accessibility Plans. The guide, for the time being, is only available as a PDF. Click here to download it. The guide has many strengths and is one of the most useful resources developed by the DIO in recent years.

There is, however, one area that needs improvement: the listing of disability resource information and contacts (Appendix C). The guide lists only 22 local services and organizations that can help public sector agencies respond to common barriers to accessibility. While the guide presents these only as "examples" of community resources, it is a very partial and selective list given that there are more than 300 non-profit disability organizations operating in Manitoba and many profit making firms that offer disability-related services.

How and why the DIO chose the 22 local services and organizations remains unclear. What is clear is that the current list does not provide a level playing field for the many organizations with primary mandates to represent and/or serve Manitobans with disabilities.

We have already recommended that the DIO address this significant limitation in revised versions of the guide - hopefully to be released soon.

By the way, Barrier-Free Manitoba is not listed in the guide. As an advocacy initiaitive, our preference would be to not be listed as we do not provide any direct services.

As they also say, "don't let perfect be the enemy of the good" (i.e., you need to start somewhere and nothing you develop will ever be perfect). The current guide is a very good start. But clearly, the listing needs a lot more work. 


Minister Releases First Annual Implementation Plan to Erase Barriers

Erasing the dis in disability

On May 19, 2015, the Honourable Kerri Irvin-Ross, Minister responsible for persons with disabilities and the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA), released the first annual implementation plan (Word / PDF) as required under the AMA.

The implementation plan sets out six strategic priorities and the actions that Government will take on these by March 31, 2016.

  1. Development and Implementation of Standards
  2. Government Leadership
  3. Resource Development
  4. Training
  5. Public Awareness
  6. Development of Compliance Measures

Are we pleased with the plan?

We think that is it is a pretty good start. Far from perfect but definite proof that the Minister and the Government are serious about this landmark legislation.

The positive highlights for us include:

  • the commitment to establish the Customer Service Accessibility Standard as a legally binding regulation in 2015.
  • the commitment to continue work on an accessibility standard for employment with the initial discussion paper ready and released before March 31, 2016 (and the coming election).
  • the work being done to ensure that all major public sector organizations have accessibility plans in place by 2016.
  • the work being done to ensure that the Province has a comprehensive regulatory regime in place in 2016 to enforce compliance with the AMA.

These are all absolutely essential for the Government to achieve the AMA's legislated mandate to have made significant progress toward full accessibility by 2023.

There are two limitations. One is the delay in requiring accessibility plans by small public sector organizations. The deadline for these is now 2017. This is one year later than we had originally expected. The delay might actually be necessary but only because the Government left it so long to start work on this requirement.

The second limitation, a much more serious one, is the lack of any clear commitment to more effectively resource the Disability Issues Office (DOI) and the Accessibility Advisory Council. These two bodies have critical roles to play in the implementation of the AMA and don't seem to have the resources needed to take on the development of the promised standard in the areas of transportation, information and communication and the built environment until after March 31, 2016. 

Ontario's version of the DIO had 33 staff persons at the beginning of that province's implementation process. In contrast, the DIO has a staff complement of only around 7 full time staff. So while Ontario was able to work on five standards concurrently, Manitoba only has the resources to manage one standard at a time. And as it is now taking more than 12 months to develop a standard from start to finish, it might take five more years before the first set of accessibility standards are in place. That's just way too long!

We think that the standard development process needs to be significantly sped up. This will require additional resources. Sadly, the first annual implementation plan does not speak to this issue.  

Good work on your first plan honourable Minister. Now the challenge will be to complete the work set out in the plan and to secure the additional resources needed to make much faster progress.


Final BFM Comments

BFM Submits Final Comments

Barrier-Free Manitoba submitted our final comments on the 'consultation draft' of the proposed customer service standard this morning (May 11, 2015). We are pleased to post our comments for your download and review.

Full version (Word / PDF)
Executive Summary (Word / PDF)

Based on the breadth of the very positive feedback we received on our preliminary draft, we are calling for seven specific improvements that will:

  • Ensure that it applies to those who own or operate buildings and organizations that provide information, not just those who provide goods and services.
  • Require that accessible customer service policies and practices developed by organizations are consistent with The Accessibility for Manitobans Act and The Human Rights Code.
  • Require that all persons (staff and volunteers) involved in developing customer service policies receive training on accessibility issues.
  • Require that reviews of both The Accessibility for Manitobans Act and The Human Rights Code are covered in training.
  • Require that organizations be responsible for providing public notice when any services and barrier-free equipment and facilities (e.g., lifts, accessible washrooms) are temporarily unavailable.
  • Prohibit organizations from charging any additional fees to persons with disabilities when using accessible customer services or alternative customer services that are provided until barriers are removed or equivalent service is available.
  • Set out how government will monitor and assess whether organizations are meeting requirements, and any responsibilities this will place on these organizations to report on the actions they have taken.

We have called for these improvement to be made without delay so that this first standard under this landmark legislation can come into effect this summer.

Of note, the Steering Committee met for the first time with Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross late last week to discuss our comments and the need for substantial progress in implementing other aspects of The Accessibility for Manitobans Act over the next 12 months. The meeting went very well and we are hopeful that we will be able to share more promising news with you over the coming weeks.
 


Bison on the prairie

Last Chance to Provide Feedback on BFM's Call for Significant Improvements to the Proposed Customer Service Standard

April 30 Deadline

Yes, indeed. It's our very last chance to make to ensure that the Minister gets this first accessibility standard 'right'. BFM is pleased to have received such positive feedback on our preliminary report that calls for seven important changes.

We will start working on our final submission to government this weekend so, if you have not already given us your feedback, we'd love to hear from you.

Our preliminary review is posted here (bottom of page).

Please provide your feedback online here.


Rights to Equitable Service

Put an end to discrimination in customer services in Manitoba! 

Man with megaphone

How much longer will tens of thousands of Manitobans with disabilities have to put up with second or third class service or no service at all?

It's our last chance to ensure that the Minister gets it 'right'! True, the latest draft regulation (that will set a minimum standard for accessibile customer services across Manitoba) is better than what they started with in April 2014. But, after more than a year of work, it is still not nearly good enough.

We strongly encourage you to:

  • Review our preliminary report on the proposed regulation (Full version - Word / PDF | Executive Summary - Word / PDF).
  • Send us your feedback by April 30, 2015 on the seven changes we are calling for (just click here).

Based on the feedback we receive, we will prepare and submit our final review on the draft regulation by the May 11th deadline. We will also be posting our review here and asking that you to contact the Minister directly.

And read more below.

The Details

In mid-March 2015, the Minister released what is referred to as the “Consultation Draft” of the proposed accessible customer service regulation.

The public now has until May 11, 2015 to provide comment on this Consultation Draft. Thereafter, the Minister will review the public feedback and consider revising the regulation before forwarding it to Cabinet for final approval. Once approved by Cabinet, the regulation will have the force of law and be binding on all public, private and non-profit organizations with one or more employees that operate in Manitoba.

For the very first time ever, the regulation will set out mandatory minimum standards for accessible customer services throughout the entire province.

Potentially pretty powerful stuff. But most of the potential rests in the details.

  • Does the regulation as proposed cover the essentials?
  • Does it create clear obligations that will ensure that persons with disabilities receive the same quality and responsiveness of service as those without disabilities?

Our Review

Based on Barrier-Free Manitoba’s preliminary review, we believe that the draft regulation goes a long way toward meeting these criteria.

But we have also found that the draft regulation still does not go nearly far enough – further improvements, some of them substantial, are needed to ensure that the regulation is both strong and effective.

Getting this standard ‘right’ is crucial. As the first deliverable from this landmark legislation, the regulation must set a high bar for the standards that are expected to follow in the areas of employment, transportation, communication and information, and the built environment.

The Essential Changes

The draft regulation needs to be revised to:

  • Ensure that it applies to those who own or operate buildings and organizations that provide information, not just those who provide goods and services.
  • Require that accessible customer service policies and practices developed by organizations are consistent with The Accessibility for Manitobans Act and The Human Rights Code.
  • Require that all persons (staff and volunteers) involved in developing customer service policies receive training on accessibility issues.
  • Require that reviews of both The Accessibility for Manitobans Act and The Human Rights Code are covered in training.
  • Require that organizations be responsible for providing public notice when any services and barrier-free equipment and facilities (e.g., lifts, accessible washrooms) are temporarily unavailable.
  • Prohibit organizations from charging any additional fees to persons with disabilities when using accessible customer services or alternative customer services that are provided until barriers are removed or equivalent service is available.
  • Set out how government will monitor and assess whether organizations are meeting requirements, and any responsibilities this will place on these organizations to report on the actions they have taken.

And finally, we are calling for these seven changes to be made without any further delay. The Province of Manitoba has had more than enough time to develop the first regulation under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act. Any further delays are unacceptable.

The Kicker

During the NDP leadership race, Barrier-Free Manitoba was understandably delighted that Premeir Selinger publicly re-stated his commitment to:

  • The timely implementation of The Accessibility for Manitobans Act.
  • Ensuring the necessary government resources are in place to do this work is done properly.

 With only one year left in the mandate of this government, which rightfuly took great pride in passing the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act, the time for action is NOW!


Final Draft Customer Service Standards Released

Final Draft Image

On March 12, 2015, the Province of Manitoba released its final draft (called a consultation draft) of the accessible customer service standards. This release followed by four working days the NDP Convention that reconfirmed Greg Selinger as Premier.

Persons concerned with disability issues and the general public have until May 11, 2015 to provide comment. Thereafter, the Minister, in consultation with the Accessibility Advisory Council, will review all comments received. If the minister considers it appropriate, the proposed standard may be revised before forwarding it to the Cabinet for approval.

We are pleased to post the draft standards for download (Word / PDF).

Barrier-Free Manitoba will be preparing a preliminary review of the final draft in the weeks ahead and distributing this widely for comment. Based on the feedback we receive and further review, we will submit a final set of comments by the May 11 deadline.

Our very initial review suggests that there is a great deal to support in the Province's draft, including promsing new elements related to the accessibility of public events. At the same time, the draft fails to address a number of recommendations we have made previsouly, including ones that were supported by the Accessibility Advisory Council. This is cause for significant concern.


Premier Selinger's Commitments

Congratulations to Premier Greg Selinger whose position of leader of the NDP and Premier of our fine province has now be reconfirmed.

We were also very pleased that Premier Selinger, along with the other two candidates, set out their positions on accessibility and disability issues as part of the leadership race.

Here are the highlights of Premier Selinger's letter to us:

The Accessibility for Manitobans Act

  •  (I)t is my intention as Premier to continue implementing the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, an Act I was very pleased to support as Premier in 2013 when it was enacted.
  • I will ensure that the requirements under the Act for an Annual Plan, for public entity targets, for the development of regulations and for the development of terms of reference for every proposed accessibility standard, will be met in a timely fashion.
  • I commit to consult with all parties affected by our accessibility initiatives and to make transparent what we intend to implement.
  • I will ensure that the Accessibility Advisory Council has the necessary resources to undertake its work properly and that provision will be made for organizations and individuals to participate in consultative processes.

Employment

  • I have asked the Premier’s Advisory Council on Education, Poverty and Citizenship to review government-wide benchmarks for employment equity for civil servants, and to explore how infrastructure initiatives might help increase employment for those with disabilities.

Pension-Like Basic Incomes

  • I have asked the Premier’s Advisory Council on Education, Poverty and Citizenship to examine the possibility of introducing a pension-like basic income for people with severe and prolonged disabilities.

Social Housing

  • My commitment to build more social housing should also be of great benefit to people with disabilities.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  • I am committed to fulfilling our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Persons with Intellectual Disabilities

  • I support in principle the Five Priorities developed by Abilities Manitoba under their Action plan.
  • As Premier, I was pleased to be able to introduce the Wage Enhancement Fund last year, designed to improve the wages of service workers. I commit to further increases in the Fund as the budget permits so that we can make steady progress towards paying service workers a living wage.
  • I commit to improving training and standards of care.

Premier Selinger's governemnt has only have a little more than one year left in its current mandate  to make good on these commitments. Barrier-Free Manitoba, along with many others, will be looking for ACTION.


Signed and Sealed - Yet to be Delivered

Signature

All three of the NDP leadership candidates have now responded to the joint Barrier-Free Manitoba / Abilities Manitoba request for their positions on key disability issues.

While we all know that commitments made during an election can be different from action after, this is a remarkable development:

  • Disabilities are the only major public issue that all three candidates have addressed in their campaigns so far.
  • Like the candidates themselves, their responses are quite different but all three have committed, if elected, to the full and timely implementation of the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). 
  • All three candidates also made important commitments on related disability issues (click here to see what each candidate said). 
  • One of the three candidates will be the Premier of Manitoba after March 8.

This is good news indeed.

The even better news is that Manitoba’s disability communities worked together once again to make this happen. We’ve proven once more that there is real strength in numbers and in collective action. 

We urge you to share the candidates’ responses with others you know who are concerned about disabilities. As the contest is for the NDP leadership, we also strongly encourage you to share them with people you know who may be party members and ask them to consider the candidates’ positions in deciding who they support in the leadership race.

Once the leader has been elected, we will need to continue to work together to ensure the leader and the government fulfill the promises that have been made. And we will need to work together yet again to ensure that disability issues are key priorities in the general election scheduled for next spring.

Thank you for your incredible support.


Thousands of Manitobans Join Request

Linked hands

Thousands of concerned Manitobans have now joined Barrier-Free Manitoba and Abilities Manitoba in asking each of the NDP leadership candidates for their positions on the following three key disability issues.

  • Fully implementing the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act, including the early development of strong compliance measures and funding to support independent community participation.
  • Endorsing and immediately acting on Abilities Manitoba’s five-priority pathway to improve the quality and ensure the sustainability of services and supports to Manitobans with intellectual disabilities.

If you have not already done so, please join with us in asking these important questions. 

Just click here (or copy and paste https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/leadership_barriers into your browser)


NDP Leadership and Disability Issues – Act Now

leadership on compass

Please join us and Abilities Manitoba today to make sure disability issues get the priority attention that is so long overdue:

  • Send an email with a link to this page to others you know who are concerned with disability issues and invite them to join us.

Doing both will take you less than 5 minutes (depending on how many family and friends you share this page with) and will make a huge difference.

Here's a copy of the letter we sent to the three candidates (Word/ PDF)


Impactful or What?

splash in green water

We Spoke Again and They Made Changes Again

The Accessibility Advisory Council released its revised recommendations for the proposed customer service standard in October 2014 (Word / PDF). This was the Council's second go at it following the release it an initial discussion paper and a 60 day period for public consultations.

Barrier-Free Manitoba, with input and support from throughout Manitoba's fine disbility communities, submitted a thoughtful and thorough brief (Word / PDF) that made a total of 17 recommendations on improvements that needed to be made to this standard, the first to be developed under the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act.

The Council's revised recommendations fully incorporated eight of Barrier-Free Manitoba's recommendations with rationale and wording that reflected the positions outlined in our brief. The Council remained slient on four of our recommendations and seem not to have adopted a final five of our recommendations.

So we're batting somewhere between .471 and .705. Now if only the Goldeyes had this average, our baseball team would be league champions every year.

Of course, we are not going to rest on our laurels. There is still one more stage in this process. We expect that the Minister will be releasing her own recommendations for this standard early in 2015. This will be followed by another 60 day period for public consultations. This should set the stage for the standard to be made official through regulations that will come into force later in 2015.

With your help, we will be shooting for a perfect batting average. Stay tuned.


 Respect in Scrabble tiles

Final Brief on the Proposed Accessible Customer Service Standard

What an incredible start to the summer! We hope you are well and not affected by the flooding.

We are pleased to post copies of our final brief on the proposed Accessible Customer Service Standard. We have attached both the full brief (Word / PDF) and Executive Summary (Word / PDF) versions.

As you may recall, the July 15th deadline for comment on the current discussion paper completes the first of a two part public consultation process. The second part will involve the release of another discussion paper by Minister Howard with a further period for public comment. This is expected to provide the basis for putting this first standard into regulation in late 2014 / early 2015.

My own role in this process will be interrupted by a 6-month sabbatical running from mid-July 2014 until early in the New Year. Members of our Steering Committee will be taking over my responsibilities during this time.

Thank you for your continued interest and support.

Patrick Falconer
Consultant to the Barrier-Free Manitoba Steering Committee


Deaf Sign

English Public Consultation on Proposed Customer Service Standard Complete

The English-language public consultations on the initial discussion paper on the proposed accessible customer service standard are now complete. These consultation sessions were held on June 17th and 18th. The sessions were very well attended events and provided for thoughtful comment and discourse. Representatives from Barrier-Free Manitoba attended and contributed extensive comments at both of the sessions.

Those unable to attend these sessions are invited to view an audio-visual webcast archive of the session held on June 17th. Just click here.

While the webcast is meant to provide for greater access to the discussions, the archived version did not include closed captioning when it was first posted. This is a significant oversight given the purpose of both the Accessibiity for Manitobans Act (AMA) and the proposed customer service standards. If accessibility is a journey of learning, then we expect this will shortfall be addressed for all future consultations.

A final French-language consultation will be held June 26, 2014 from 12:00 p.m.- 2:00 p.m. at the Bilingual Service Centre, Room 100, 614 Des Meurons Winnipeg, Manitoba. Click here for more information.

Based on the consultation sessions and feedback on our preliminary comments (see below), Barrier-Free Manitoba is currently preparing our final brief in response to the discussion paper. We will be submitting it to government and posting it on this website on or before July 15th.


 

Ready for Your Review

We are pleased to send post our preliminary review of the proposed Customer Service Standard.

Full Report (45 pages) Word / PDF
Executive Summary (11 pages) Word / PDF

The proposed standard is the critical first step in a process that will lead to sweeping requirements that address inaccessible business practices across the public, private and non-profit sectors. The standard needs to be strong and effective. As the very first accessibility standard in Manitoba, it also needs to set a high bar for the others that will follow.

We invite you to provide feedback on our preliminary review by June 20, 2014 via email (barrierfreemanitoba@shaw.ca) or online at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/MBservicestandard. Based on the feedback we receive, Barrier-Free Manitoba will prepare and submit our final review on the proposed standard by the July 15th deadline set by government.

We will be sharing the findings from our preliminary review at the public consultations scheduled for June 17 and 18. We strongly encourage you to attend one or both of the sessions. You can find information on where and when these are being held and on registration at: http://www.barrierfreemb.com/whatsnew/173/278.

Less than six months ago, we made history together in Manitoba by securing landmark provincial accessibility-rights legislation. Please join us now in ensuring that the standards developed under this legislation make real and lasting differences in the lives of the 200,000 of our citizens with disabilities.


crossword of qualities of service

Just Imagine!

A Manitoba where every person who provides goods or services in Manitoba is trained to provide accessible customer services, as well as to meet their human rights obligations relating to disabilities.

That’s what will be required by the first standard (Word / PDF) that has been proposed under the new Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). This certainly is not going to fix everything overnight but it is a critical first step and it is only one in a much longer list of new requirements in the proposed standard. These proposed province-wide requirements are also an early indication of the substantial progress that can be made under the AMA, the landmark legislation we all worked so hard to secure.

But right now, this standard is only at the proposal stage. There will likely be stakeholders who would like to ‘water’ it down. Barrier-Free Manitoba (BFM), on the other hand, believes this to be incredibly important. We also believe that the proposed standard needs to be substantially strengthened, not weakened.

That’s why we woke up early from our hibernation.

Our Plan

  • May 30: BFM will release our initial review of the proposed Customer Service Standard and invite your comment, suggestions and feedback.
  • June 17 & 18: BFM will participate in the public consultations on the proposed standard that have been announced for those dates. The views we express will be based on our initial brief, as well as the comments we have received.
  • Early July: BFM will release our final review of the proposed standard and formally submit it to the Customer Service Standard Development Committee (the deadline for submissions is July 15).

We also strongly encourage you to read and provide your own feedback on the proposed Customer Service Standard. Information on both the proposed standard and the consultation process is posted here, as well as on the website of the Disabilities Issues Office.

As we've said, waking up from our long nap is easier said than done. But we’re starting to get our bearings and we are very much looking forward to working with you to ensure the timely and effective implementation of the AMA.


Sleeping Bear Awakening Early

Yanwing poloar bear

After the spirited 5+ year campaign that secured provincial accessibility-rights legislation, Barrier-Free Manitoba decided to go into hibernation mode from January through to June. We needed this break to recharge our batteries and refocus our thoughts. To be honest, we also did not expect that much would be happening on the implementation front before we awoke in the late spring.

What a pleasant surprise! The Manitoba Accessibility Advisory Council and it's newly formed Customer Service Standard Development Committee got right down to business and, on Thursday, April 19, 2014, released a discussion paper on the first proposed standard. Following Ontario's approach, this first proposal is for a Customer Service Standard.

But awakening unexpectedly from a long nap is easier said than done. It's going to take us a short spell to get our bearings and catch up with recent developments. So stay tuned for updates.

In the interim, we are pleased to share the discussion paper for your review.

Discussion Paper on an Initial Proposed Customer Service Standard (Word / PDF).


Good intentions don't move mountains, dedicated and committed people can and do.

Barrier-Free Manitoba is a non-partisan, non-profit, cross-disability initiative. We have been working since 2008 to secure strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation in Manitoba.

Nearly 200,000 Manitobans with disabilities face barriers everyday that prevent their full participation in activities that most others take for granted.

These barriers harm individuals, families and communities. These barriers are also in fundamental conflict with the basic rights of persons with disabilities established in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in federal and provincial human rights codes.

It’s the sad and unjust reality. But we are on the road to change it!

With the support of many, Barrier-Free 1.0 concluded with the passage of The Accessibility Advisory Council Act. Barrier-Free 2.0 represents the next stage of our work – the drive to the passage of substantive and landmark legislation that requires the timely removal of current barriers and the prevention of new ones.

It has been a rather exceptional journey to date. We invite you to join us along this rights path toward an inclusive Manitoba that ensures and celebrates opportunity and equity for all.

What's New

Minister Responds to BFM's Concerns Regarding First Annual Implementation Plan

June 17, 2015 Minister Irvin-Ross has official responded to BFM's May 22, 2015 review of the first annual implementation plan as required by the Accessibility for Manitobans Act
Read More...

Ontario Announces $9 Million Capacity Building Pilot Program to Address Barriers to Employment

June 09, 2015 Ontario's "Path to 2025" Accessibility Action Plan includes a major pilot program to engage employers to address barriers to employment faced by persons with disabilities.
Read More...

Poll

Will the public sector Accessibility Plans make a difference in improving accessibility in Manitoba?