The Accessible British Columbia Act (the “Act”) received royal assent on June 17, 2021.

The new legislation requires government and prescribed organizations to establish an accessibility committee for the purpose of identifying, removing and preventing barriers which hinder the full and equal participation in society of persons with disabilities.

There are requirements for the membership of an accessibility committee.  At least half of the members must be persons with disabilities, or individuals who support persons with disabilities or are from organizations which support such persons.  The members must also reflect the diversity of persons with disabilities in British Columbia.  In addition, at least one member of the committee must be an Indigenous person.

The Act requires “accessible organizations”, government and prescribed organizations, to consult with their accessibility committee in developing an accessibility plan.  The accessibility plan must assist in identifying, and advising to remove or prevent, barriers to persons with disabilities who are within the organization or interact with it.  Under the plan, the organization must also establish a feedback system to receive comments from the public regarding any such barriers.  The accessibility plan must be reviewed at least once every three years.

In addition, a provincial accessibility committee will be established by the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.  The committee must propose a suitable accessibility standard which will relate to “the identification, removal or prevention of barriers” and could be made in respect of any of the following:

  • employment
  • delivery of services
  • the built environment
  • information and communications
  • transportation
  • health
  • education
  • procurement

In developing the standard, the provincial accessibility committee must consult with representatives from the following groups: persons with disabilities; individuals and organizations supporting persons with disabilities; Indigenous persons; organizations which might be affected by the standard; and government ministries which may also be affected by the standard.

Designated inspectors will have wide powers to ensure compliance with the new legislation.  They will be able, among other things, to enter an organization's premises at any reasonable time, inspect and test samples of anything, require the use or operation of anything, examine and take away copies of records, and take photographs or make audio and video recordings.

Any contraventions of the Act may be subject to monetary penalties of up to $250,000.  Penalties may be increased in the event of a delay in payment of the penalty.

The Act complements the accessibility standards for federal organizations under the Accessible Canada Act.  It is similar to accessibility legislation in other provinces like Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.  Time will tell how the new legislation affects private enterprise in British Columbia.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.