In excess of 15% of the population of Manitoba face barriers to their full participation in the activities of daily living, according to recent estimates. Addressing and removing these barriers is the purpose of Bill 26, Manitoba’s proposed Accessibility for Manitobans Act, introduced in the Legislature today.
This legislation has been in the works for some time. In its November 2010 Discussion Paper for Made in Manitoba Accessibility Legislation the government stated that:
“The proposed legislation will provide for a long-term, systematic and proactive approach to dealing with accessibility issues for seniors and persons with disabilities. With this approach, Manitoba can advance beyond a complaints-based process for the removal of barriers to full inclusion. This will complement The Manitoba Human Rights Code in ensuring the rights of all Manitobans are protected.”
Following up on that discussion paper, The Accessibility Advisory Council Act came into effect in June 2011 to “enhance accessibility by identifying barriers that disable people and the ways in which those barriers can be prevented and removed.” Under that Act, the Accessibility Advisory Council was established to consult, consider and make recommendations to government on proposed legislation to address barriers to accessibility. The Council issued its recommendations within one year as required. Their Initial Recommendations to the Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities on Accessibility Legislation (June 15, 2012) were largely accepted by government, as set out in the March 2013 document: Government Response to Recommendations of the Accessibility Advisory Council for an Accessibility Act and form the basis of the Bill introduced today.
Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard, minister responsible for persons with disabilities, in the accompanying news release, noted that:
“Nearly every Manitoban has a disability, knows someone with a disability or will acquire a disability as they age….We all benefit from preventing new barriers where we live, learn, work and play and by implementing long-term plans to remove existing ones.”