Accessibility in the outdoor built environment is not necessarily a "fait accompli" because it has been legislated. Current regulations are not universally applied and building codes are minimal and insufficient for the many different types of disabilities that can impact how a person uses the built environment; roads, curbs, sidewalks, crossing and entrances.
Another misconception is that the number of mobility impaired individuals are few. However, Statscan reports that in 2012 14% of the Canadian population have a disability, and the prevalence increases with age (43% of Canadians aged 75 years and older have a disability). In addition, “of the 6.2 million persons with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2.4 million (39%) experienced continuous disabilities whereas 3.8 million (61%) experienced disabilities that may change over time.
The UN High Commission recognizes the rights of all persons with a disability to a full and complete life in the community supported by accessible infrastructure. In 2019, the Commission’s Special Rapporteur visited Canada to assess our progress and concluded that Canada still lags behind in the implementation of its obligations under the UN Convention, to which it is a signatory.
Among the Rapporteur’s findings were:
- Public and private infrastructure, as well as the public transport systems, are still not fully accessible to persons with disabilities, about 6 million Canadians (i.e. one in five) in her estimate;
- Many support services and programs are run by non-profit organizations, with limited funding and guidance from the provincial and territorial governments. Consequently, persons with disabilities have limited access to different forms of support;
- The Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81) aims at achieving a barrier-free Canada, but it lacks a mechanism to coordinate and harmonize the initiatives carried out at all levels of government - federal, provincial, municipal and territorial - and is only applicable to federally regulated industries.
To help address these issues, members of Voices & Choices have prepared “Beyond Code” booklet, and participated in consultations with Via Rail, the University of Ottawa, Accor Hotels, and Public Works Canada in providing input into their accessibility projects.
Alan and Meagan Perks