Saskatchewan government introduces new legislation for accessibility improvement

The government of Saskatchewan has introduced new legislation it says will improve accessibility in the province.

The province says over the next five years, new rules will be drafted for the public and private sectors.

On Wednesday, the Accessible Saskatchewan Act received its second reading in the provincial legislature. Officials said it will set new standards for accommodating those with physical and mental disabilities.

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“Our goal for this proposed legislation is to remove accessibility barriers,” said Gene Makowsky, social services minister. “Proud to say, if passed, this bill will help fulfil one of the major recommendations in Saskatchewan (in the) disability strategy that our government released in 2015.”

A few highlights if the proposed legislation is passed are ensuring that organizations are supported, the appointment of an accessibility advisory committee and the establishment of a Saskatchewan Accessibility Office to increase public awareness and education of the new Accessibility Act.

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The social services minister said this legislation will take time to come into effect but will continue to look out for the best interests of those it serves.

“I want to reaffirm, we remain committed to the principle of Nothing About Us, Without Us and we will continue to engage with persons with disabilities on this important work,” said Makowsky. “We are working to create a Saskatchewan where persons with disabilities can fully participate because a strong province is one where everyone is included.”

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The regulations will extend to areas including construction, employment and transportation and will be developed with the help of an advisory committee made up of people with disabilities, as well as advocacy organizations.

According to advocates at the legislature Wednesday, examples of regulated accessibility measures could include things like tactile markings, audible signals at crosswalks and accessible transit.

“I think we really want to see legs to it, so while it’s great to see legislation, we need something that’s enforced,” said Christall Beaudry, CNIB Foundation Western Canada vice-president. “So, we’re really hoping the enforcement happens, and we really want to see inclusion happen for our communities across the board. They’ve been left out and marginalized and inclusion is really important to all of us.”

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Makowsky added that since the release of the strategy, the province has been on a journey following the roadmap set out in the strategy’s 10-year plan.

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