Does the Accessible BC Act apply to your charity?
Does the Accessible British Columbia Act, SBC c 19 (ABCA) apply to your charity? For many charities, it does not; but, if your charity is an independent school or a post-secondary education institution, the ABCA does apply.
Part 3 of the ABCA, entitled “Accessible Organizations” lists to whom the ABCA applies. It applies to two groups:
- the government (s 8(a)), and
- prescribed organizations and organizations in prescribed classes (s 8(b)).
What are prescribed organizations and prescribed classes?
Prescribed organizations and prescribed classes are listed in BC Reg 105/2022, Accessible British Columbia Regulation, section 3 (sidenote: when you see “prescribed” in a piece of legislation, that means further information is included in a related regulation).
Government & Administrative Bodies
Section 3(a) lists (by reference) a Schedule of prescribed government and administrative bodies. This includes organizations such as BC Pension Corporation, Community Living British Columbia, Elections BC, the Employment Standards Tribunal, First Nations Health Authority, Labour Relations Board, Office of the Ombudsperson, Public Guardian and Trustee, Workers’ Compensation Board, etc. (effective either Sept 1, 2023 or 2024).
Section 3(b) lists specific organizations (effective Sept 1, 2023):
- francophone school districts;
- independent schools;
- municipal police departments;
- post-secondary education institutions;
- public libraries;
- regional districts; and
- school districts
Section 3(b) of the above Regulation lists health authorities as prescribed organizations (effective Sept 1, 2024).
IMPORTANT! Be sure to review the ABCA to determine whether and what responsibilities your organization may have.
If yes, what does your charity need to be doing?
Establish an Accessibility Committee
The government and prescribed organizations must establish an accessibility committee. The accessibility committee must – to the extent possible – be made with the following goals (section 9(2)):
- At last half the members are persons with disabilities or who support (or are from organizations that support) persons with disabilities
- Reflect the diversity of persons with disabilities
- At least one member is Indigenous
- Reflects the diversity of BC generally
While neither section 9 of the ABCA or the Regulation seem to have a specific date for establishing committees, BC’s AccessibleBC page notes that “In September 1, 2022, over 750 organizations will have to develop an accessibility committee, accessibility plan and public feedback tool.”
Either way, with compliance deadlines less than 1 or 2 years away, it would be advisable to have the committees in place in a timely manner.
Work of the Accessibility Committee
The Accessibility Committee must do two things (section 9(1)):
- Identify barriers for people who interact with or are within the organization
- Advise the organization on how to remove those barriers
Work of the Organization
An organization needs to:
- Develop a plan to identify, remove and prevent barriers to access (s 11(1))
- Consult its accessibility committee in plan development (s 11(4))
- Must take into account inclusion, adaptability, diversity, collaboration, self-determination, and universal design in the plan (s 11(3))
- Establish a process for receiving public comments on its accessibility plan and barriers (s 12)
- Review and update its accessibility plan at least once every 3 years (s 11(2))
- Consult its accessibility committee when updating its plan (s 11(5)(b))
- Consider public feedback when updating its plan (s 11(5)(a))
If not, what should your charity be doing?
Even if your charity isn’t formally required to do so, it is best practice to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to access. For Christian charities in particular, a sincere desire for full inclusion of people with disabilities is a beautiful way to show the love of Christ. It’s also a very practical application of a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. And, it’s a great opportunity to lead by example in how to treat and care for people with disabilities.
What else do you need to know?
The ABCA leaves room for the government to require organizations not currently listed in Part 3 of the Regulation to prepare accessibility plans, including the development, contents and form of those plans (s 32(2)(e)). It also gives Cabinet the authority to develop accessibility standards (s 13-20).
The ABCA has different requirements for a Provincial Accessibility Committee. This committee is subject to the direction of the Minister (s 10).
The ABCA Regulation established an annual AccessAbility week, beginning on the last Sunday in May (s 2).
Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.