Compliance deadline for federal accessibility legislation fast approaching

Large federally regulated employers will soon have to comply with new requirements of the Accessible Canada Act (the “Act”). This Act is as designed to identify, remove and prevent accessibility barriers.

As of June 1, 2023, larger federally regulated employers that had at least 100 employees in the previous calendar year will need to take certain measures to comply with the Act. Federally regulated employers that had between 10 and 99 employees in 2022 will have until June 1, 2024 to comply. Entities that launched or became federally regulated in 2023 will have until June 1, 2025 to comply.

Purpose and priority areas

The Act is intended to target the following priority areas:

  • employment;
  • the built environment (buildings and public spaces);
  • information and communication technologies;
  • other forms of communication;
  • the procurement of goods, services and facilities;
  • the design and delivery of programs and services; and
  • transportation (airlines, as well as rail, road and marine transportation that crosses provincial or international borders).

The Act aims to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity, has access to the same opportunities and is able to participate fully and equally in society. The Act specifies that persons with disabilities must be involved in developing and designing laws, policies, programs and services aimed at removing barriers.

What is required of a federally regulated employer?

Starting on the applicable date, a qualifying federally regulated employer must:

  • publish an accessibility plan that describes its policies, programs, practices and services aimed at removing barriers in the above priority areas;
  • develop the plan in consultation with persons with disabilities;
  • make available copies of the plan to the public upon request;
  • update the plan every three years;
  • implement a process for dealing with feedback on the plan and the barriers individuals face when dealing with that organization; and
  • consult with persons with disabilities to publish annual progress reports on the implementation of the plan and the feedback received on the plan.

Complaints and enforcement

To ensure compliance with the Act, the Accessibility Commissioner has the power to conduct inspections, order organizations to produce records and reports, issue compliance orders and notices of violation (including penalties of up to $250,000) and approve compliance agreements.

The Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission enforce the Act and respond to complaints in the priority areas within their jurisdiction for the federal transportation network and the broadcasting and telecommunication sectors, respectively.

For most federal public servants and parliamentary employees, the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board will deal with complaints through the grievance process.

Provincial accessibility legislation

For more information respecting compliance with provincial accessibility laws, please see the following blogs:

Next steps

If you have any questions about your organization’s legal obligations under federal or provincial accessibility legislation, please contact one of the members of our MLT Aikins Labour & Employment group to learn how we can help.

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.