Spinal Cord Injury BC

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Accessibility Legislation is Inspirational, even when it isn’t.

Posted on June 30, 2021
by Chris McBride

When the federal government passed into law Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, the mainstream media heralded this historic event with resounding silence. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that no members of the fifth estate turned up at an online media event to celebrate the introduction of BC’s long-awaited accessibility legislation—Bill 6, the Accessible BC Act.

Given how transformative these pieces of legislation are intended to be, why do they attract so little media attention? Is it because the media doesn’t know how to talk about disability, doesn’t know which questions to ask, or are scared to say the wrong thing? Is it because they don’t think enough people are interested in issues concerning accessibility? Do they not understand what the impact of accessibility legislation can be?

Maybe it’s all these things. And maybe it’s also because legislation, in isolation, isn’t particularly inspiring. After all, legislation like this is written in highly technical English with every single word scrutinized to ensure it’s legally sound and, in the case of the Accessible BC Act, to ensure it’s as broadly inclusive as it needs to be. Not many of us are fluent in legalese, and not many of us read the laws that govern our lives. The written words of legislation are rarely inspirational. This is true of the Accessible BC Act which, on its own, is a rather sterile document.

The fact that the Accessible BC Act is enabling legislation may further diminish its appeal to the media. This type of legislation is devoid of the types of specifics that would likely help the media understand the magnitude of change the Act is intended to achieve. It’s intentionally written this way, as the standards and regulations that will affect the real changes in access and inclusion in this province will be developed over time.

So perhaps the Accessible BC Act doesn’t appear to be inspirational at first glance. But it’s not the legislation itself that provides the inspiration—it’s what it represents and what it sets in motion that truly is inspirational.

By the time you read this, the Accessible BC Act should be enacted as a law and will have started the long, involved process of gradually removing barriers to access and inclusion, bringing about change that, for decades, SCI BC and so many other organizations and individuals have been advocating for. All this requires a level of faith that government will carry out the plan as promised. Having served on two of the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction’s advisory committees, I have seen firsthand the sincere engagement of people with disabilities throughout the consultation process that led to the Accessible BC Act, and I know that people with disabilities will be at the centre of establishing priorities for the accessibility standards and regulations that will move us toward full access and inclusion. The process will be slower than any of s will like, but it’s critical that it be done right if it’s to succeed. Still, we must hold government to account on making progress sooner than later.

People with disabilities inspired the creation of the Accessible BC Act, and while it may not be an inspirational read, it is a historic piece of legislation that’s the foundation for the movement to make BC accessible and inclusive for all. To me, that’s inspirational, and when achieved, the media should think so, too.

—Chris McBride, PhD, Executive Director, SCI BC

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of The Spin.

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