Disability-rights bill applauded, but group wants changes
Advocates for Manitobans with disabilities are showing their support for a bill that aims to improve accessibility, while also calling for changes to the legislation.
Bill 26, the accessibility for Manitobans act, proposes ways to make private businesses and public spaces more accessible to people with disabilities.
The bill sets guidelines on everything from curb heights to the availability of Braille. If approved, it would also require employers to ask themselves if, for example, job applicants really need a driver's licence for a given position.
The proposed legislation also lays out penalties for those that don't follow the rules.
"The goal here is make Manitoba more accessible for everyone," Jennifer Howard, the minister responsible for persons with disabilities, told CBC News on Tuesday.
"We want to do that work before somebody notices and challenges us to do it. We want to build that into our thinking from the beginning."
Barrier-Free Manitoba is sponsoring a gathering on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate Bill 26 and call for improvements to the legislation while a standing committee is reviewing it.
"It's an extraordinary change," said Patrick Falconer of Barrier-Free Manitoba.
"This law says it's not the responsibility of the individual now to address a barrier. It's a responsibility of the system."
The organization, which has been calling for accessibility legislation in recent years, has a list of 11 changes it would like to see in Bill 26, including stricter penalties, a more concrete timeline, and a broader definition of what constitutes a disability.
Leanne Rowat, the Progressive Conservative for people with disabiliities, said her party has come up with four of its own amendments to Bill 26.
"We are calling on the government to consider a few significant changes that will take this bill from a step-in-the-right-direction to a huge leap forward," Rowat said in a news release.
"We believe this could be breakthrough legislation and we want to help get it there."
Howard said she is open to amendments, and she will set the year 2023 as a deadline for significant improvements to be made in terms of accessibility.
Bill 26 is expected to be passed by the end of the year.