The Accessible British Columbia Act received royal assent on June 17, 2021 and on, April 14, 2022, the government filed the Accessible British Columbia Regulation (B.C. Regulation) providing clarity to the types of organizations that will be subject to accessibility requirements under the B.C. Act. The list includes school districts, schools and other educational institutions, municipalities and municipal departments, and health authorities, among other public-sector organizations (covered organizations).
Effective September 1, 2022, the B.C. Act will require covered organizations to establish their own accessibility committees made up of people from diverse backgrounds, including Indigenous peoples, no less than half of whom must either be persons with disabilities or persons representing a disability-serving organization. Accessibility committees will be responsible for the development of accessibility plans to identify, remove and prevent barriers for individuals seeking access to their services. Accessibility plans will need to be made available to the public and should incorporate the principles of inclusion, adaptability, diversity, collaboration, self-determination and universal design. The accessibility plan must be reviewed at least once every three years.
The B.C. Act will also require covered organizations to implement processes for receiving feedback from the public on their accessibility plans and any barriers to accessibility.
All covered organizations have been given a grace period of one or two years (depending on the type of organization) to achieve compliance with these new accessibility requirements. Those organizations in the first phase will be required to comply by September 1, 2023, and the remaining organizations will be required to do so by September 1, 2024. The B.C. Act will include stringent compliance and enforcement mechanisms, which will be phased in gradually to allow organizations time to learn how best to implement the new accessibility requirements. Ultimately, directors so designated by the Minister will have broad powers to investigate non-compliance and levy monetary penalties against organizations for non-compliance.
A provincial accessibility committee is being established by the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The committee will propose accessibility standards that assist in the identification, removal or prevention of barriers in such areas as:
- delivery of services
- the built environment
- information and communications
The B.C. government has implemented a phased approach to the enforcement of the B.C. Act. Although the requirements of the B.C. Act do not yet apply to private-sector organizations, it is anticipated that requirements will be put in place for them in the future.
Any contraventions of the Act may be subject to monetary penalties of up to $250,000. Penalties may be increased in the event of a delay in payment of the penalty.