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Minister Posts Implementation Plan for 2016-17

Nov 07, 2016

The public accountability requirements are critical features in The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). One of these relates to the requirement that the Minister develop and publicly release an annual plan that s/he intends to undertake in the comng year in carrying out his or her mandate.

Minister Scott Fielding, the minister responsible for the AMA, has now posted his plan on the AMA website. We have also posted his plan here for your conveneince (WordPDF).

This is the second annual implementation plan and the first such plan developed by the new government. The posting of the plan, expected in the spring time or early summer, was delayed by this year's general provincial election.

This year's plan commits to progress in six strategic priorities:

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

Selected Highlights

Following are selected highlights from the plan.

Accessibility Standard for Employment: The first discussion paper, including an initial proposal for an accessibility standard for employment, is scheduled to be released very shortly. This will be followed by a 60-day period for public feedback. Based on this input, the government will be developing a final proposal for this standard to be made public in late 2016-17 or early in the new fiscal year.

The plan includes the following statements of commitment regarding the employment standard.

  • The Government of Manitoba is committed to strengthening our economy. We believe that by investing in accessibility, we are investing in new business opportunities, promoting innovative design and expanding Manitoba’s market potential. By investing in accessible infrastructure, customers, employees and private and public sector employers will all benefit. Manitobans with disabilities are a valuable asset to current and future labor needs. The 2016-17 consultations on an accessibility standard for employment will offer you an opportunity to join government in considering how we can promote more accessible employment processes to ensure all employees – new and senior staff - will benefit.

Accessibility Standard for Information and Communication: The plan reports that work began in September 2016 on the development of an accessibility standard related to information and communication. The plan says that this standard will "ensure that Manitobans disabled by barriers have equal access to information and communication in its many forms."

Manitoba Government Accessibility Plan: The plan commits the government to the public launch of its own overall accessibiity plan before the end of December 2016. This includes the commitment to reach every civil servant with a minumum of online training on the AMA and accessible customer service. 

Areas of Continuing Concern

While touched on in the implementation plan, there are two areas of continuing concern for Barrier-Free Manitoba.

Resources: One of these is the lack of a clear commitment by government to invest the level of human resources to required to provide for the timely and effective implementation of the AMA. At this stage of implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (Ontario's version of the AMA), the Ontario government's equivalent to Manitoba's Disabilities Issues Office (DIO) had a staff complement of 33 full time equivalents (FTEs). Manitoba's DIO seems to have access to only 5 to 7 FTEs to get all this critical work done. Barrier-Free raised this concern with the former government well before the last election. We raise it again with the new government.

Compliance Framework: Government still does not have a clear plan for how it will assess and publicly report on compliance with the accessibility standards by external organizations. It's not even clear that governemnt has a plan for how it will assess and report on its own compliance. 

Last year's implementation plan committed to the completion of "preliminary work will assist the Province in developing a more comprehensive regulatory regime in 2016." It is now 2016 but this year's plan does not go much further. It only commits to "take the next steps to analyze the findings [of the preliminary work] for futher consideration by the new government". Barrier-Free Manitoba is very concerned over this apparent lack of substantive progress. 


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