Manitoba ‘poor performance’ mars accessibility standards report card
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Manitoba accessibility advocates have issued the provincial government a passing grade — barely — when it comes to implementing and enforcing accessibility standards legislation on behalf of people with disabilities.
Barrier Free Manitoba has published a mock report card with an overall D grade, outlining its concerns with the province’s progress — and what the organization describes as a lack of consultation — in bringing into force the Accessibility for Manitobans Act.
However, the non-profit coalition gave Manitoba F grades on protecting people with disabilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, on the existing complaints process, and on what it describes as a provincial failure to honour a human rights focus and basic intent of the legislation.
Copies of the report were sent Jan. 13 to the office of the premier and Families Minister Rochelle Squires.
Squires said the government plans to fully enact the Accessibility for Manitobans Act by the end of this year.
The highest mark the report bestows on the province is a B+ for promising to implement all but one of the 22 recommendations issued by an advisory council.
Barrier Free is also urging the province to implement the sole un-endorsed recommendation, which would widen the number of Manitoba businesses who have to comply with certain accessibility standards set out under the legislation.
The customer service accessibility standard will apply to all businesses with more than 50 employees, but advocates want to see it broadened to businesses with more than 20 employees. They also want the scope of the “built environment” accessibility standards to go beyond exterior public spaces to include inside buildings and public transit.
“It is our hope that our mid-term report card will be received by the government of Manitoba as an opportunity to redress its poor performance. Time is of the essence — and we are watching,” the report states.
The provincial government has until 2024 to fully implement the Accessibility for Manitobans Act. Part of its implementation plan involved setting up a $20-million fund to help organizations and municipalities get up-to-date on accessibility.
Barrier Free stated in its report that fund is not enough, and called on the government to provide more resources to Manitoba communities.
In a phone interview Monday, Squires said the government is committed to building a more inclusive and accessible society. She thanked Barrier Free for its work and said she looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the group, and “working with them on all of their recommendations.”
“Manitoba’s going to continue to press forward. We are a leader in this space in many regards, and we’ve done a lot but we recognize that more needs to be done, and we’re going to continue working with all partners to ensure that we remove barriers.”
Accessibility for All report card
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.