British Columbia

B.C. NDP recommits to disability legislation, say COVID-19 has made need more pressing

The B.C. New Democrats are promising to introduce a comprehensive piece of legislation ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities within the first sitting of the legislature.

Proposed act would cover accessibility in public and private sector, candidates say

The NDP say more than 9,000 people have already been involved in consultations about a proposed disability act. (Getty Images/EyeEm)

The B.C. New Democrats are promising to introduce a comprehensive piece of legislation ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities within the first sitting of the legislature.

Wednesday's campaign announcement from the NDP is a recommitment to a promise that was made during the last election. The party says more than 9,000 people have already been involved in consultations with the previous government about the issue.

Shane Simpson, the party's out-going minister of social development and poverty reduction, said he had hoped for the proposed disability act to hit the legislature this fall, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed that.

"The legislation, I believe, becomes increasingly valuable because of COVID-19. We have learned a whole lot about people who are vulnerable and how they have been impacted, and about shortcomings to support for vulnerable people," Simpson told reporters.

An estimated 25 per cent of British Columbians have a disability, he said.

Selina Robinson, the NDP's candidate for Coquitlam-Maillardville, said the legislation will cover both the private and public sectors, dealing with issues including housing, transportation, employment and delivery of services. She said the legislation will be designed to ensure people with disabilities have equitable access and care.

Spring Hawes, the party's candidate in Kelowna-West and a wheelchair user, said it's important for people with disabilities to be heavily involved with any law addressing disabilities and accessibility.

"I think people would be surprised at some of the things that are not available on a reliable basis" for people with disabilities, she said.

"How many people would go to a restaurant for dinner if they knew that there was no washroom there? This happens on a very regular basis — and to go to the washroom, that's a very basic human right."

The NDP candidates did not, however, promise to match a pledge from the Greens to make permanent a $300 monthly top-up for those on disability and income assistance that was brought in because of COVID-19.

Simpson said discussions about renewing that top-up will come before the end of the year, but questions about making it permanent will be left until the next provincial budget.

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