A press release from the BC NDP ‘swooshed’ into my inbox today catching my eye. It highlighted a campaign promise that if re-elected John Horgan’s government would introduce and pass accessibility legislation in the first legislative session.
Moving to Prince Rupert, from a province that had enacted accessibility laws years ago in 2005 and as a parent of children with disabilities who has struggled with public washrooms, it was an “Aha” moment to complete the math and realize that B.C. is almost 16 years behind in protecting its citizens and creating fair access to everyone.
Legislation for fair accessibility in the workplace, in public places, private businesses and buildings is long overdue. I can not fathom how in a province so progressive with medical pandemic protocols it can be so far behind in human rights. One can only hope any new government or re-elected one would make good on this promise to equalize its residents with basic human function on the same accessible playing field.
Sadly, even in as late a day as it is in 2020, I have been witness, here in Prince Rupert, to the lack of fundamental human rights to enter a doorway easily or use a public washroom when needed because there are no requirements to door widths or the ways in which they swing, no rules about ramps to business entrance ways, or guidelines to grab bars in toilet stalls or winged taps to wash one’s hands.
I have personally seen the indignity of an adult patron needing to be lifted out of his wheelchair to gain access to a downtown office for a task as mundane as paying his rent. While the extremely caring gesture from a stranger was greatly appreciated, this type of assistance should not be necessary in our society today to enter through a door.
The press release stated that after public consultation last fall, “The act will follow a legislative framework informed by the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and complement the federal Accessible Canada Act. It will work towards the creation of accessibility standards in areas such as service delivery, employment (including hiring and retention), the built environment (using the lens of universal design), communication and transportation.”
New legislation needs to be far more than just accessibility requirements, like counter heights or larger print – whichever government is in power after Oct. 24, hopefully, it will use that power to legislate needs, not just for accessibility but full inclusion for the sake and dignity of the humans in British Columbia.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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- K-J Millar, The Northern View