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Canadian MP Creating Federal Disability Legislation

We like to think that we live in an accessible culture, but the reality is that many busy public places are still not inclusive to all Canadians— and many people with disabilities in particular still struggle to see their rights recognized.

Carla Qualtrough is a human rights lawyer who is legally blind herself. An accomplished athlete — she’s a former Paralympian and world championship swimming medalist — she has also been put in charge of creating Canada’s first accessibility legislation.

Online consultations for this new law opened last month and will last until February 2017. Since the consultations have started, there have already been over 700 submissions sent in.

Next spring, Carla is set to report on the consultations that the government has received. Her aim is to have her legislation prepared to read in the Commons between the end of next year to the beginning of 2018.

Carla is an MP from Delta, B.C, and says that the fact that Trudeau gave her this cabinet position demonstrates that the rights of people with disabilities must be recognized in all of the cabinet’s decisions. According to Carla, while the country’s current laws may allow for people with disabilities t0 defend their rights, it does not do enough to sufficiently protect them in the first place. She says that it’s high time that the creativity that people with disabilities are forced to use every day to navigate the world around is recognized by the government.

However, some individual provinces have already set up legislation that recognizes the rights of people with disabilities. In 2005, The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was introduced with the objective of transforming Ontario into a fully accessible province in twenty years — by 2025.

Carla says she will study how other provinces and countries define accessibility in their laws, and that many of Ontario’s own regulations will be a model for Canada’s federal laws. One of her primary objectives is to create a universal, common definition for what a disability is. Once created, this definition would apply to all of the federal laws that would be created, and be recognized by provinces as well.

For more on this story, visit The Toronto Star.

Featured image source: CBC

Jessica Fishbein

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