The province of Manitoba could soon move another step closer towards adoption of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act’s first proposed standard.
The Accessibility Advisory Council was scheduled to wrap up public consultations July 15 regarding customer services and business practices, one of five proposed standards that will comprise the basic framework of the Act. Those discussions included two public meetings held June 17 and 18 in Winnipeg.
The council will use the opinions gathered during the public consultations to develop recommendations for the customer services standard that will be submitted to Jennifer Howard, the Minister Responsible for Persons with Disabilities.
The minister will then release her own discussion paper based on the council’s recommendations. Although no timeline has been established, the minister’s paper is expected to be released in September or October.
The government has previously indicated it hopes to have the customer service standard in place by early 2015. Patrick Falconer, a consultant to the Barrier-Free Manitoba Steering Committee which lobbied for the amendments to the AMA, says he sees no reason why that isn’t achievable and added he’s encouraged by the progress the province has made to date.
Falconer said Ontario required more than a year to get to the same stage with the customer service standard that is part of its Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Manitoba has been able to achieve similar results in just five months, in part because it was able to model its standard on the Ontario example, he said.
“It’s a really a sweeping piece of legislation,” he said. “That’s why the first [standard] is so important. Probably the biggest barrier people with a disability face is the matter of attitude. It can be a huge obstacle.”
Falconer cautioned that people in the disability community need to have realistic expectations when it comes to implementing a customer service standard here in Manitoba. He said it will take time to create a “smooth understanding of this legislation.”
Barrier-Free Manitoba has recommended that the Provincial government be given up to a year to comply with the standard once it is officially adopted, while recommending the other public sector organizations be given up to two years to comply. Based on Barrier-Free Manitoba’s recommendations, private and not-for-profit organizations would have three years.
“If this is done well it will take some time. It’s a big change for people,” Falconer said, adding public education will need to play a big role in getting businesses and organizations to buy in.