Canadian Laws

The Accessible Canada Act

The Government of Canada, in keeping with its responsibilities, passed
Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act on May 29, 2019. Bill C-81 will benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, by helping create a barrier-free Canada. By working together with provinces/territories and public, private and not-for-profit sectors, the Government of Canada aims to ensure equality, inclusion and full participation in society for all citizens.

The Act applies to all federal government departments and agencies, crown corporations, Parliament and First Nations band councils, and private sector businesses that are regulated by the federal government. The Accessible Canada Directorate (ACD) in Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is responsible for overall implementation of the Act. This includes measuring progress in the identification, removal and prevention of barriers by regulated parties and Canadians more generally.
The ESDC Canada Federal Data and Measurement Strategy for Accessibility 2022 to 2027
Strategy covers an initial 5-year period. This is because accessibility is a relatively new area of research. Working across a 5-year time frame will allow the Government of Canada to leverage new data sources as they become available, and to identify the best ways to measure progress on accessibility. The goal is to see how measurement progresses over the next 5 years, and adjust the Strategy going forward, as required. The mission of this Strategy is to develop a framework for collecting and analysing information on accessibility. This will allow the Government of Canada to track, measure and report on progress in all areas under the Act. This will include measuring and reporting on Government of Canada accessibility initiatives. The data collected under this Strategy could also help Canada meet its international reporting obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The purpose of this Strategy is to:

  • Develop consistent methods for collecting and analysing information across all organizations under federal jurisdiction; this will ensure progress in removing and preventing barriers to accessibility by different organizations can be compared,
  • Promote accountability to Canadians; this will be done by demonstrating how the Act is improving accessibility for all Canadians including persons with disabilities, and
  • Support evidence-based decision-making by ensuring knowledge is shared broadly; this will foster greater action in advancing accessibility.

There are an increasing number of accessibility standards and guidelines being employed across Canada as federal and provincial levels of legislation.
Teh Canadian Roadmap for Accessibility Standards 2020 report, produced by the CSA Group, identifies three key opportunities for future standards development, which related to Emergency services and response, Recreational and green spaces, and Wayfinding and navigation systems. This report presents the results of:
(1) An environmental scan that identified the voluntary and mandatory accessibility legislation, standards, or guidelines currently employed across Canada;
(2) A literature review that summarized current barriers to accessibility that Canadians are facing; and
(3) An opportunity analysis that determined key priority areas for future standards development.

Supreme Court Ruling

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into effect on April 17, 1982, already guarantees specific human rights and freedom from discrimination to all Canadians (including on the grounds of disability). For more information see
Guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 2010 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government was discriminating against blind persons, and was mandated to make all government websites comply with accessibility standards. See
Court orders Ottawa to make websites accessible to blind, Globe and Mail, November 29, 2010. This ruling has established an accessibility expectation for Canadian society. Organizations across Canada must prepare by developing a best practice inclusion strategy. The best way to prepare for and minimize risk is to adopt an accessibility compliance policy based on the current Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) accessibility standards.
The TBS Web Experience Toolkit (WET) conforms to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level AA. The Canadian federal government has established an accessibility expectation of WCAG-AA compliance for Canada. The objective of this standard is to ensure that a high level of web accessibility is applied uniformly across Government of Canada websites and web applications. It is highly recommended that Canadian organizations aim to follow the Government of Canada accessibility policy.

Provincial Rulings

Recognizing a history of discrimination against persons with disabilities, the province of Ontario in 2005 took a global leadership role in setting legislative Accessibility Standards for a more inclusive society. The purpose of the
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) 2005 Regulations is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities – with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises, on or before January 1, 2025. Following the Ontario lead, the province of Manitoba established the
Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) on December 5, 2013, and the province of Nova Scotia established the
Accessibility Act (Bill 59) on April 28, 2017.