30 May 2016

Why a Barrier Free BC?

You may not realize this, but there are approximately 604,000(1) British Columbians with disabilities. This number will keep growing as our society ages. Disability affects everyone. Everyone will develop limitations eventually, or perhaps a permanent life-altering disability, as they age.

These people continue to face unnecessary and unfair barriers in areas of provincial jurisdiction such as provincial and municipal government services, public transit, education, health services and public establishments like stores and restaurants. These barriers mean that British Columbians with disabilities can’t fully participate in all that our great province has to offer.

As a public school teacher, I see first-hand the limitations we put on some of our students with disabilities. Some schools are not accessible at all, so that students must travel out of their neighbourhood to access their fundamental right to an education.

Without disability legislation that sets out a comprehensive legislated plan to remove existing barriers and to prevent the creation of new ones, far too many British Columbians will be unnecessarily challenged and prevented from fully participating in their communities. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a part of Canada’s Constitution, and the BC Human Rights Code make it illegal to discriminate against a person with a disability. However, those laws do not set specific, detailed standards for accessibility.

A British Columbians with Disabilities Act would set standards for accessibility so we can start removing and preventing these barriers. Existing disability protections like the BC Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms require individuals to bear the undue hardship of having to personally fight to remove and prevent barriers.

A British Columbians with Disabilities Act would set out enforceable accessibility standards so that all barriers are systematically removed and prevented along reasonable time-lines without individuals having to battle these situations, often through a human rights complaint, one barrier at a time.

Everyone either has a disability now or will develop one as they age. So this issue has an impact on everyone. I’m asking tonight for your support to encourage the province to enact a British Columbians with Disabilities Act.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has much it can share with other governments concerning accessibility. Let’s encourage our provincial government to learn from us in making a barrier free BC.

A non-partisan grassroots organization called Barrier-Free BC is gaining public support as they spread the word about this. Find out more by visiting their website: barrierfreebc.org

(1) Extrapolated from Statistics Canada – 2012 Canadian Survey of Disability and Statistics Canada 2015 Annual Population Estimates

1 comment:

  1. Stuart, you are a breath of fresh air on the Park Board. I was so glad when you got elected. Really enjoyed your blog entry. Keep up the good work.