On April 22, the Manitoba government published the Accessible Information and Communication Standard Regulation (the “Accessibility Standard for Information and Communication”) under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). Organizations will need to establish policies and practices respecting accessible communication and provide information and training. The Accessibility Standard for Information and Communication became the third standard under the act.
Employers should note that this standard will apply to all organizations, even those with only one employee in Manitoba. The rise of remote work and employees living across jurisdictions means that this could have a wide effect.
The Accessibility Standard for Information and Communication took effect on May 1. The standard will be applied as follows:
- Effective May 1, 2023: to the Manitoba government only.
- Effective May 1, 2024: to government agencies, universities, colleges, regional health authorities, the city of Winnipeg and specified municipalities, public and independent schools, adult learning centers, private vocational institutions and libraries.
- Effective May 1, 2025: to all other organizations with at least one employee in Manitoba.
The second published standard, known as the Employment Standard, took effect on May 1 for private sector organizations, nonprofit organizations and small municipalities. The Employment Standard also applies to organizations with at least one employee in Manitoba.
What Does the Accessibility Standard for Information and Communication Say?
The Accessibility Standard for Information and Communication obligates employers to establish and implement the following accessibility measures:
Policies and Practices: Employers will need to create and implement policies and practices respecting accessible communication. Larger employers (that is, workplaces with 50 employees or more) will need to document the policies and practices and make the documentation available.
Training: Employers will be required to provide training to certain workers on how to identify, prevent and remove barriers to accessible communication, how to provide this information to others, as well as a review of the Manitoba Human Rights Code, AMA and the standard. Larger employers will need to create a training policy that includes the training content and when the training is provided.
Informing the Public: Employers will need to take measures to inform their employees and the public of their accessibility policies upon request through an accessible format. Websites will need to meet or exceed standards set out in WCAG 2.1 Level AA in certain circumstances. Employers will also need to make reasonable efforts to receive and respond to feedback about accessible communication, document their resulting actions and provide documentation upon request.
To provide some context, the Manitoba government passed the AMA on Dec. 5, 2013. The purpose of the AMA is to provide a clear and proactive process for the identification, prevention and removal of barriers that affect the participation of Manitobans with disabilities. The first standard—the Customer Service Standard Regulation—became law on Nov. 1, 2015, and includes ways to provide better customer service for Manitobans with disabilities. The second standard—the Accessible Employment Standard Regulation—became law on May 1, 2019, and its purpose is to remove and prevent barriers that affect current and potential members of Manitoba’s workforce.
What Should Employers Do?
Employers with one or more employee in Manitoba have time to implement the regulation’s requirements but can get ahead by developing and implementing the requirements in advance if they so choose. Employers should also review the first two published standards and ensure they are complying with them. The Accessibility Manitoba website provides tools and resources to support employers in complying with the legislation and information on all accessibility standards published.
As of May 1, employers in the private sector, nonprofits and small municipalities are now obligated to implement the requirements in the Employment Standard and can learn how to do so by reviewing the following checklist.
Not in Manitoba?
Other provinces, such as Ontario and federally regulated employers, already impose such accessibility requirements on employers and provinces like British Columbia and Nova Scotia have similar requirements. It is likely that more provinces and territories will eventually follow suit. Employers should review their province’s or territory’s requirements around accessibility and ensure that they are complying with them. Also, employers whose operations are not in Manitoba, but who have at least one employee living in Manitoba should review these new requirements and implement them with respect to these employees.
Danielle Murray is an attorney with SpringLaw in Toronto. © 2022 SpringLaw. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission of Lexology.