A Quick Guide to the Accessible Canada Act

September 21, 2022 BY REBECCA KLEIN
Updated: September 22, 2022

Accessibility in Ontario: How the AODA Impacts Web and Online Video [Free eBook]


When it comes to breaking down barriers for people with disabilities, there’s no such thing as “too accessible.” Just ask Canada.

In 2018, Canada introduced the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), an accessibility law that aims to make the country barrier-free by 2040. This article will bring you up to date with the most recent ACA developments.

What Is The Accessible Canada Act?

In June 2018, Carla Qualtrough, the Canadian Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, proposed the ACA to Parliament. Before the proposal, the Government consulted with the public to solicit feedback on what the accessibility law should include.

The bill, formally known as Bill C-81, was unanimously passed on May 13, 2019, and sent to the House of Commons for Royal Assent. Royal Assent took place on Jun 21, 2019, and the law came into full force on July 11, 2019.

A key principle of the ACA is “Nothing Without Us”, which means that persons with disabilities should be consulted when developing laws, policies, and programs that impact them. In keeping with this principle, the Government of Canada works with persons with disabilities, and organizations that advocate on their behalf, to better understand the full diversity of the community it serves.

The ACA extends to all of Canada and is a testament to the country’s commitment to improving access for people with disabilities.

Proposing an Accessibility Framework for All of Canada

The ACA aims to prevent barriers to federal jurisdiction across Canada. Canada’s provinces and territories have some of the most progressive accessibility laws in the world, including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). However, until the ACA was passed, Canada had no country-wide accessibility legislation.

The legislation establishes a framework for developing, implementing, and enforcing accessibility standards starting in seven priority areas. Those priority areas include:

  • Employment
  • The built environment
  • Information and communication technologies (ICT)
  • Communication other than ICT
  • The design and delivery of programs and services
  • The procurement of goods, services, and facilities
  • Transportation

The Accessible Canada Regulations

The Accessible Canada Regulations (ACR) came into force in December 2021. The ACR are a set of regulations under the ACA and establish the rules that federally regulated entities must follow when publishing accessibility plans, setting up feedback processes, and developing progress reports. Regulations include deadlines for accessibility plans, exceptions, and rules for alternate formats, among others.

Guidance materials are available to help federally regulated entities meet or exceed the regulatory requirements.

The Accessible Canada Act Covers All Canadian Federal Organizations

The ACA applies to any federal or private organization under federal jurisdiction, such as banking, telecommunication, and transportation.

A federal organization refers to:

  • Departments
  • Agencies
  • Crown organizations
  • Parliament
  • Private sector businesses under federal jurisdiction

Under the ACA, federal organizations are required to create an accessibility plan, in consultation with individuals with disabilities, with strategies to improve their organization’s accessibility. Organizations must publish the plans, respond to feedback from stakeholders, and post annual progress updates available to the public.

Creating New Roles, Organizations, and Committees

Thanks to the ACA, the Government created new roles, committees, and organizations to ensure proper oversight of the legislation. These include Accessibility Standards Canada and a Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, both of which were newly appointed in 2022.

Accessibility Standards Canada

The legislation established Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC) to develop national accessibility standards. ASC is a public organization and the first federal organization majority-led by persons with disabilities.

ASC has established several technical committees that actively develop standards that remove barriers in several priority areas. Compliance with standards developed by ASC is voluntary unless they are adopted into regulations.

Technical committees include accessibility experts, persons with disabilities, and representatives from organizations required to meet accessibility standards.

On September 20, 2022, ASC hosted its second annual public meeting online. In the coming year, Canadians can expect to have the opportunity to review several ASC standards. The organization will also publish its first completed standard.

Chief Accessibility Officer

The Chief Accessibility Officer advises the Minister presiding over the ACA and oversees the implementation of the act across all organizations and sectors to which the act applies. The Chief Accessibility Officer also releases an annual report on what has been achieved in realizing a barrier-free Canada.

Accessibility Commissioner

The Accessibility Commissioner is a full-time Governor in Council (GIC) appointment under the Canadian Human Rights Act on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. Reporting to the Chief Commissioner of the CHRC, the Accessibility Commissioner provides executive leadership and direction within their jurisdiction to administer and enforce the ACA and its regulations.


Learn more about web accessibility in Canada ➡️


Where to Report an Accessible Canada Act Violation

Any grievances and complaints due to an ACA violation may be filed with the Accessibility Commissioners Office, the Canadian Transportation Agency, or the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The Canadian Transportation Agency will deal with complaints related to accessibility in the federal transportation network, and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will deal with complaints related to accessibility in the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors.

Federal public servants should continue to file complaints due to an ACA violation with the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board.

Remedies for complaints include:

  • Reimbursement of expenses and lost wages
  • Compensation for pain and suffering

What’s on the Horizon?

The Government will work to measure progress on the implementation of the ACA, collaborating with Statistics Canada and other federal partners to collect and analyze accessibility data under the Accessibility Data and Measurement Strategy. This 5-year strategy proposes work in four core areas:

  • Identify Knowledge and Data Gaps, and Develop Indicators
  • Promote Common Approaches to Measurement
  • Expand and Integrate Data Sources
  • Data and Knowledge Mobilization

Additionally, to help meet the ACA’s objective of realizing a barrier-free Canada by 2040, the Government is developing a Disability Inclusion Action Plan. It will focus on reducing poverty among Canadians with disabilities, getting more persons with disabilities into good quality jobs, making it easier for persons with disabilities to access federal programs and services, and fostering a culture of inclusion.


Learn more about accessibility in Canada with our free ebook, Online Video & The AODA.

Online video and the AODA. Examine how the AODA impacts web and online video accessibility in Ontario. Download the ebook.
This blog post is written for educational and general information purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

This blog was originally published by Jaclyn Leduc in July 2019 and has since been updated for accuracy.

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