Barrier Free Manitoba – Accessibility Standards


Every day, most residents of Manitoba come and go on their daily business; entering buildings, stores, offices or their workplaces without even noticing that they have had to open doors and climb stairs to get to where they want to go and do the things they want to do.  It is so routine an act that half the time, we’re on auto-pilot and thinking about other things.   But for about 200,000 Manitobans, it’s anything but routine.  These are people living with one or more disability and doing these simple acts can be a formidable challenge, and sometimes, not possible.

Barrier-Free Manitoba is a non-partisan, non-profit, cross-disability initiative. The organization has been working since 2008 to convince the government of Manitoba to enact effective accessibility-rights legislation in Manitoba.

This is why the Manitoba Federation of Labour has endorsed the goals of Barrier Free Manitoba and why we urge all affiliates to do the same.  Review this organization’s work by visiting their website and support its agenda.

A year ago, your Federation contacted you when Barrier Free Manitoba was campaigning for legislation guaranteeing the right of people with disabilities to unhindered access to public building.  It’s not hard or excessively costly.  For example, in 2009 a report based on a nationwide survey, the ‘Survey of Employer Perspectives on the Employment of People with Disabilities’, demonstrated that employers are finding that workplace accommodations for disability cost about the same as for workers without disabilities.

That campaign, Barrier-Free 1.0, culminated in the passage of the The Accessibility Advisory Council Act.

Barrier-Free Manitoba began Barrier-Free 2.0 following last fall’s provincial election and they need our support.  The goal is to see effective accessibility-rights legislation enacted in Manitoba by next Spring. The right to equitable accessibility is encoded in both The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Manitoba Human Rights Code. In fact, about 40% of complaints registered with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission each year, directly relate to the rights of Manitobans with disabilities.

Effective legislation would:

  • Establish a deadline for Manitoba to become barrier free for Manitobans with disabilities. For example, the Ontario law provides for a twenty year time-frame to achieve full accessibility.

  • Identify areas in which accessibility standards must be implemented. These would include customer service, transportation, buildings, information and communications, and employment.

  • Establish a process to develop accessibility standards. That process would be led by cross-sector committees, involving all stakeholders and a majority of whose members are persons with disabilities or their representatives.

  • Charge government with the responsibility to determine which standards are to be implemented to achieve full accessibility.

  • Establish a pro-active enforcement mechanism that includes regular reporting on compliance, in addition to acting in a timely manner on complaints.  This is in contrast with the current system which is solely complaint-driven.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour and its affiliates have a vested interest in the removal of barriers that unnecessarily complicate the lives of people who are faced with challenges and “ease of access” is a daily issue.  We represent workers with disabilities from birth, injured workers and older workers who develop disabilities.

In the meantime, what steps can we take now to show solidarity with people with disabilities and support the Barrier-Free Manitoba campaign?  One thing we can do is follow the advice given by the Ontario Federation of Labour to its affiliates to help them comply with legislation in Ontario that became enforceable on January 1, 2012.

All providers of goods and services will establish policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of its goods and services to persons with disabilities to ensure that these are provided in a manner that:

  1. Respects the dignity and independence of persons with a disability.

  2. Is the same as for all other customers unless alternative measures are required for the person with a disability to use, obtain or benefit from the goods or services.

  3. Provides them with the same opportunity as other to use, obtain or benefit from the goods or services.

  4. Provides for their use of assistive devices and service animals.

  5. Considers a persons disability when communicating with them.

  6. Provides for the person with a disability to be accompanied by a support person with the cost, if any, of the support person identified in advance.

  7. Requires that a person with a disability be accompanied by a support person if this is required to protect his/her health and safety or the health and safety of others.

  8. Persons with a disability are advised when accessible services are not available due to a temporary disruption, including reason for and expected duration of disruption and alternative services or facilities that are available.

  9. Will establish and make public a process for receiving and responding to feedback about the manner in which it provides goods or services to persons with disabilities.

All staff will be trained about:

  1. How to interact and communicate with persons with various types of disabilities.

  2. How to interact with persons with a disability using assistive devices or service animals or who are accompanied by a support person.

  3. What to do if a person with a disability is having difficulty accessing your goods or services.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour will be adopting these practices and we encourages all affiliates and supporters to, as well.  Please contact the MFL if you would like more information about these practices or if you have any concerns.