British Columbia’s public sector accessibility legislation and regulations

In June 2021, the Government of British Columbia passed legislation aimed at making public sector organizations more accessible and inclusive, and removing and preventing the barriers to the full and equal participation in society encountered by persons with disabilities.

The Accessible British Columbia Act (the “Act”) established accessibility standards and rules in a range of areas, such as employment, service delivery, the built environment, information and communications, transportation, health, education and procurement. The Act requires the government and identified public sector organizations to establish an accessibility committee, an accessibility plan and a tool to receive feedback on accessibility.

The accessibility committee is intended to assist organizations identify barriers, and to advise the organization on how to remove and prevent these barriers. Under the Act, a barrier is defined as anything that hinders the full and equal participation in society of a person with an impairment.  At least half of the members of the accessibility committee must be persons with disabilities or individuals who support or are from organizations that support persons with disabilities. Furthermore, at least one member should be an Indigenous person, with the general makeup of the committee reflecting the diversity of persons in British Columbia.

The accessibility plan is intended to identify, remove and prevent barriers to individuals in or interacting with an organization and is to be developed in consultation with the accessibility committee.

The requirements under the Act were implemented in a phased approach, with the Accessible British Columbia Regulation (BC Reg 105/2022) establishing when specific organizations were required to abide by the requirements under the Act. Under Phase 1, 754 public sector organizations will be required to comply by September 1, 2023, while in Phase 2, 33 public sector organizations will have until September 1, 2024 to comply.

Enforcement and compliance mechanisms under the Act are not yet in force; however, once they are in place, inspectors will be able to conduct inspections to investigate non-compliance and may impose monetary penalties and fines.

If you have any questions with respect to your organization’s legal obligations under provincial accessibility legislation, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.

For information on the new federal accessibility legislation and requirements, see our blog here.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.