There are almost one million British Columbians over the age of 15 living with some form of disability, and the provincial government is planning to develop new laws to better support their needs by 2020.
Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, said the legislation will complement the Accessible Canada Act that passed in Ottawa in June and is designed to identify and remove barriers to accessibility.
Simpson is asking for public feedback until Nov. 29 to help inform similar provincial legislation.
“We are going to have this law in place next year is my expectation,” said Simpson in an interview on CBC’s The Early Edition Wednesday, adding the legislation will create a standards board that will set rules focusing on five specific areas including: employment access, customer service delivery, information and communication accessibility, as well as transportation and built environment — which includes access to buildings and infrastructure such as sidewalks.
Simpson said he has heard already from individuals and organizations that finding employment is a top priority for many people living with a disability.
“We keep getting nods from people in the business community and now the trick is to get there,” he said.
Employment a top priority
Justina Loh, executive director of Disability Alliance BC, said a lot needs to be done in terms of service delivery to help create full or part-time employment that is accessible to all British Columbians.
“There are a lot of people with disabilities who want to work,” said Loh. “They just haven’t had the opportunity.”
Simpson said he is hopeful real change is coming in B.C. and wants to hear exactly what people want those changes to be.
“People who are living with disabilities know the kind of things that they want to see and they are the people we are trying to talk to in this process,” he said.
The public can provide feedback online, by telephone, and in-person at scheduled town hall events.
Organizations and advocates can also submit formal submissions to the government online during the public consultation process.
Information is available here.