Larger ballots to improve the voting experience for sight-impaired voters, hearing loop technology on BC Ferries and an $800,000 Google grant for LipSync, a mouth-controlled input device for mobile phones created by the Neil Squire Society.
These are just a few of the highlights from the second-annual Accessibility 2024 progress update.
Information on these projects and dozens of others can be found in the Accessibility 2024 two year progress update, which is available at www.gov.bc.ca/accessibility in accessible formats including Braille and American Sign Language (ASL).
The report showcases dozens of innovative activities and partnerships between government, businesses and the disability community that are breaking down barriers and improving the lives of people with disabilities – all steps toward British Columbia’s goal of becoming the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024.
For example, employment opportunities for people with disabilities are expanding: over $164 million invested through the Employment Program of BC over the last four years and funding for assistive technology through the newly-launched Technology@Work program are helping people with disabilities overcome barriers to employment. The Presidents Group – a group of influential business leaders led by Vancity’s Tamara Vrooman and Vancouver International Airport’s Craig Richmond – is also encouraging employers across different sectors to hire more people with disabilities.
Significant policy changes to support people with disabilities are also highlighted in this year’s Accessibility 2024 progress update. An investment of $170 million over three years to increase rates for people on disability assistance provides more choice and transportation support to all 100,000 disability assistance recipients. Asset limits for people receiving disability assistance were increased from $5,000 to $100,000 for a single person and from $10,000 to $200,000 for a family in which two people have a disability. People on disability assistance can also receive cash gifts or inheritances with no impact on their disability assistance benefits.
Innovative projects from businesses, organizations and governments are also creating new opportunities for people with disabilities:
- The modernized Guide Dog and Service Dog Act is now in effect, supporting better access to restaurants, transit and strata properties for people with certified guide and service dogs.
- The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) Action group released the How to Start and Manage a Registered Disability Savings Plan in B.C. guide. More than 22,500 people now have RDSPs in B.C., valued at over $460 million.
- A comprehensive emergency planning guide for people with disabilities was developed in consultation with Disability Alliance BC.
- Communities across B.C. – including Surrey, New Westminster, Revelstoke and many others – are taking action to create inclusive communities, accessible built environments and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
- Cedar Opportunities Co-operative (COCO) Café – a social enterprise that won the 2015 Small Business BC award for Best Community Impact – has launched a new work experience program for people with developmental disabilities.
- Disability Alliance BC’s Right to be Safe: Creating Inclusive Services for Women with Disabilities Experiencing Violence project delivered training to enable frontline service providers to better support women with disabilities who are victims of violence.
- TrailRiders – a single-tire wheelchair powered by volunteers – and SideStixTM – a shock-absorbant crutch with attachable tips for navigating any kind of terrain - are helping people living with physical disabilities explore and enjoy the outdoors.
Accessibility 2024 was launched in 2014 in response to consultations that engaged thousands of British Columbians. Themes that emerged from the public consultation – ranging from employment to accessible service delivery – make up the 12 building blocks of Accessibility 2024.
Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –
“Accessibility 2024 has become a touchstone for our government and our partners, guiding policy and funding decisions that remove barriers and create new opportunities for people with disabilities. Strong partnerships are at the centre of these accomplishments. I would like to recognize the commitment and hard work of the members of the Accessibility 2024 leadership team and our many partners in the business and disability communities.”
Darryl Plecas, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility and MLA for Abbotsford South –
“Two years have passed since the launch of Accessibility 2024 – an ambitious set of goals to make B.C. the most progressive place in Canada for people with disabilities. It is inspiring to see so many individuals, organizations and businesses working side by side with government to make this vision a reality.”
Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancity and co-chair of the Presidents Group –
“There is a strong business case for hiring people with disabilities. I am proud to champion employment opportunities for people with disabilities through the Presidents Group and to be one of the growing number of employers in B.C. who can speak first-hand about how inclusive hiring and employment practices can benefit communities and business.”
Craig Richmond, president and CEO of Vancouver Airport Authority and co-chair of the Presidents Group –
“The Presidents Group is working to create more employment and consumer opportunities for people with disabilities because we know that inclusion pays off for everyone. Accessibility is a priority at Vancouver International Airport (YVR). Providing unique and meaningful access to all has been key to our success. It is one of the reasons YVR continues to be named Best Airport in North America year after year.”
Norah Flaherty, chair of the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) Action Group –
“People under age 50 who have disabilities may be able to get up to $90,000 in grants and bonds over a lifetime if they open an RDSP. With the launch of the How to Start and Manage a Registered Disability Savings Plan in B.C. guide and the third-annual RDSP Awareness Month coming up this October, the number of British Columbians with RDSPs will continue to grow, creating greater financial security for people with disabilities.”
Jane Dyson, executive director, Disability Alliance BC –
“Financial security, violence prevention and emergency preparedness are very important to Disability Alliance BC, and we feel a lot of progress has been made in these areas through the partnerships we have with local and provincial governments and the business community. We’re happy to see our programs and successes profiled in this year’s Accessibility 2024 progress report.”
- Approximately 550,000 British Columbians aged 15 and over self-identify as having a disability.
- The B.C. government has been working with partners in the disability community and business community since 2014 to achieve the goals laid out in the Accessibility 2024 10-year action plan.
- Accessibility 2024 was launched after a consultation process that asked thousands of British Columbians with disabilities, their families and members of the public to share their thoughts on what government, businesses and communities can do to reduce barriers and increase accessibility for people living with disabilities.
For more information on Accessibility 2024 and to view the two year progress report, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/accessibility.
View a list of cross-government services for people with disabilities in B.C., including Technology@Work and the Employment Program of BC: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/services-for-people-with-disabilities/supports-services