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Onward to Full Accessibility

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 ( or online at: 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:

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)

Landmark Manitoba Bill 26 Given Royal Assent


Landmark Manitoba Bill 26 was given Royal Assent on December 5th. It's no longer just a Bill. It's now the law in Manitoba.

And with this, we have finally achieved the goal of securing strong and effective provincial accessibility-rights legislation. It's been five long, joyous and challenging years.

Now we all can CELEBRATE the successful completion of this historic project began back in 2008.

Next stage in this human rights saga will start soon - ensuring the full and effective implementation of the new law. Having shown leadership and commitment in enacting the legislation, the government will need some time to develop and begin to implement a robust plan to realize the law's transformative power and promise.  

Bill 26 Passes with All-Party Unanimous Support

Bison and thanks

Bill 26 passed Third Reading on the afternoon of December 3, 2013 (The International Day of Persons with Disabilites). The bill received all-party, unanimous support.

Minister Jennifer Howard introduced the bill for Third Reading and spoke about the historic importance of the legislation. Here's how she concluded her remarks:

"It [Bill 26] is going to benefit generations and generations and generations of Manitobans, and I am so thankful that we will stand united today in this Chamber and give approval to third reading of this bill, because I think today we are changing the world and those opportunities don't come along that often in this line of work.

So I want to thank the members opposite of all parties who've been along on this journey, who've offered helpful advice and their support. This is a good day, Mr. Speaker. We should celebrate. Thank you."  

Both Leanne Rowat (PC) and Jon Gerrard (Liberal) also spoke with passion in support of the bill while noting several areas where they would like to have seen it strengthened. 

What a great day for Manitobans!

You can listen to the audio transcript of the Third Party debate by clisking here (31 minutes). Full versions of the Hansard from the Third Reading are posted here. Selected highlights from remarks by Minister Jennifer Howard, Leanne Rowat (PC) and Jon Gerrard (Liberal) are posted here

The Impact of Action

Splash of water drop

We Spoke, They Listened and Made Changes

The two history celebrating/making events of October 29, 2013 lasted a little over seven hours.

The Barrier-Free Manitoba hosted reception was grand (if we do say so ourselves) with many kind words spoken by our Steering Committee, Minister Howard, PC Critic Ms. Rowat and Dr. Gerrard, lots of wonderful food and a spectacular performance by Canada's first Deaf hoop dancer.

The Standing Committee meeting started shortly after 6 pm. The place was beyond packed and they had to open an 'overflow room to accommodate the crowd. The meeting featured a range of thoughtful, moving and passionate public presentations in support of both Bill 26 and of the measures still needed to strengthen it. Click here for selected highlights from the community presentations.

The Standing Committee's review of the Bill ended a little after 11:30 pm (the meeting itself went on to 4 am). The Committee passed the Bill with six government sponsored amendments. Three amendments moved by PC Critic Leanne Rowat were debated but defeated.

Big gains in the changes passed include:

  • More inclusive definition/wording re: disabilities
  • Residential exclusion clause clarified (but not deleted)
  • Target date of 2023 for significant progress established with clear ministerial accountability
  • Requirements regarding accessibility and Legislative Assembly added
  • Requirement that reports obligated under the act are provided in accessible formats within reasonable time at no cost.

Click here for a summary of the amendments passed and also those which were defeated.

A good night's work. We walked out with what we had called for - a strengthened bill now set to go forward for Third Reading.

We did not get all we wanted. The bill is not perfect but it is now much improved. Dare we say that Bill 26 is now truly game changing, landmark legislation of which we all can be proud?

Special kudos to the ASL interpreters (Brenda and Tessa) and Darcia who provided the CART services. They all did an amazing job at the reception and the Standing Committee meeting.

We will be able to share more once Hansard from the meeting is available (this might be a week or more given the tremendous volume that must be transcribed). We may begin by posting some pictures taken at the events.

We extend our thanks to so many for their interest and unfailing support.

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

Disabilities as Tipping Point in 2016 Provincial Election?

January 28, 2015 Just released analysis looking at voting patterns and disability issues as these may play out in the 2016 provincial general election.

NDP Leadership and Disability Issues

January 28, 2015 BFM and Abilities Manitoba have teamed up to ask each of the candidates for the NDP leadership to make clear statements on their positions on three key disability issues. Letters to each candidate were sent on the morning of Tuesday, January 27, 2014.


How much do the NDP leadership candidates really care about disability issues?