September 1 will mark one year until public institutions and organizations will be required to have accessibility committees and plans in place as part of the implementation of the Accessible B.C. Act.
Starting September 1, 2023, over 750 public sector organizations including local governments, public libraries, school districts, post-secondary institutions and municipal police departments must have each established an accessibility committee, an accessibility plan as well as a tool to receive feedback on accessibility.
A number of other organizations, including health authorities, are required to have those aspects in place by September 2024.
Some local governments, such as the City of Nanaimo, have accessibility committees and plans established already. The Regional District of Nanaimo does not at this time, but the RDN is in contact with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to review the steps necessary to come into compliance with the regulation, according to Jacquie Hill, RDN manager of legislative services.
To comply, at least half of an accessibility committee’s members must be persons with disabilities or represent a disability-serving organization. Committee members can be from inside or outside of the public sector organization.
Accessibility plans, which must be reviewed every three years, need to demonstrate how the organization will identify, remove and prevent barriers to people within the organization or interacting with it. The regulation does not require organizations to make physical upgrades to buildings to improve accessibility.
The B.C. government has set aside $3 million over three years to support organizations to meet the legal requirements.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder