The past few years have brought some major developments on the accessibility front impacting employers across Canada. One advancement being the Accessible BC Act (ABCA), which received royal assent in 2021 and requires impacted employers to comply with new accessibility requirements.
This blog post provides some additional clarity around the Act and upcoming compliance requirements for BC employers impacted by this new regulation.
What is the Accessible BC Act?
The legislation was designed to help identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility, including access to goods, services, facilities, employment, customer service and society in general.
The ABCA requires organizations listed in the regulation to meet the accessibility requirements outlined in Part 3 of the Act. Government and listed organizations must establish:
- An accessibility committee,
- An accessibility plan, and
- A tool to receive feedback on accessibility.
Who is Impacted by the Accessible BC Act?
The types of organizations subject to accessibility requirements under the ABCA include:
- Municipalities and regional districts;
- Post-secondary education institutions;
- Public libraries;
- Municipal police departments;
- Francophone school districts;
- Independent schools;
- School districts;
- Health Authorities; and
- Other public-sector organizations including boards, agencies, tribunals, and commissions.
Upcoming Deadlines for BC Employers
Employers in BC have a grace period of 1 or 2 years from 2021 to meet new accessibility requirements, depending on the type of their organization.
September 1, 2023
Those included in the first phase will have already complied and published their accessibility plans, as their deadlines was September 1, 2023. Many of the organizations listed above are included in this phase.
September 1, 2024
Those in the second phase will need to comply by September 1, 2024. This includes health authorities and some of the boards, agencies, tribunals, and commissions.
Failure to Comply
Organizations that do not follow the rules can be fined up to $250,000. To read more about compliance with the ABCA and associated penalties for non-compliance, click here.
What to Include in your Accessibility Plan
An accessibility plan should outline how your organization will identify, remove, and prevent barriers to people within your organization and/or those interacting with it. The cadence for reviewing and updating your plan is (at least) once every 3 years.
In developing or updating your plan, you must consult with your designated accessibility committee and consider the principles outlined below:
- Universal design
When updating your plan, you must also consider any comments received through your public feedback process. The feedback process should enable the public to provide comments on your accessibility plan and/or any barriers they encounter as it relates to your organization.
Recommended Next Steps for Impacted Employers
- Assess current policies and practices. Evaluate existing policies and practices regarding accessibility within your organization. Identify areas that might need improvement or updates to align with the new standards set by the ABCA.
- Educate and train employees. Ensure that all employees are aware of the changes and the importance of accessibility. Offer training sessions or workshops to familiarize everyone with the new requirements and the significance of fostering an inclusive environment. (Which we can support with – connect with us to learn more!)
- If your accessibility plan is due in 2024, start now. These types of plans require lots of time and intentional planning. If you haven’t started your plan yet, now’s the time!
- Get in touch. If you’re not sure where to begin or would appreciate some extra support, we’re here to help. From offering guidance to ensuring compliance to providing DEI training for your team, we’re your people. Don’t hesitate to reach out – we’d love to connect and discuss how we can support you in your accessibility and DEI journey.