Pat Berrel, the president of the Yukon Association of Community Living (YACL), announces an new accessible bathroom and kitchen at the YACL offices in Whitehorse on June 28. Berrel says the territory should come up with its own accessibility legislation after Ottawa rolled out its own proposed version. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon should have accessibility legislation: YACL president

‘Whether it’s 10 minutes before you die or 10 years as you’re getting older you will be disabled’

The president of the Yukon Association of Community Living says the territory should come up with its own accessibility legislation after Ottawa rolled out its own proposed version.

The Accessible Canada Act was presented hours before the house rose for the summer. If passed, it would only cover areas where the federal government has jurisdiction such as federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial or territorial borders.

Ottawa’s legislation promises to remove “architectural, physical, technological or attitudinal” barriers that hinder “the full participation in society of a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication or sensory impairment.”

The federal government says it will set standards for accessibility, require regulated services to come up with a plan for becoming accessible and eventually set regulations to enforce those standards.

Ottawa has promised $290 million over six years towards supporting its implementation.

When federal officials were in town to consult on the legislation they said some provinces and territories were considering following suit with similar legislation of their own.

Pat Berrel, the president of the Yukon Association of Community Living (YACL), which offers programs and services for people with disabilities, said the territory should come up with its own legislation.

“It just makes sense,” Berrel said.

“And I understand for some buildings it’s really hard to get accessible but there are ways to do that and I think provincial governments or territorial governments and federal governments should help business make sure that it is accessible.”

Yukon’s MP Larry Bagnell was at the YACL offices June 28 to announce approximately $40,000 in federal funding for a revamped accessible bathroom that was completed in April.

The money came from a federal government fund to help businesses and community organizations become more accessible.

“In this day and age 14 per cent of Canadians have a disability, that’s one in seven and the number is only going to grow as people are aging,” Bagnell said. “And it’s bad if you’re a business owner and you had to say that one in seven of your customers can’t come in.”

Berrel said the previous washroom was “virtually impossible” for people who use wheelchairs and walkers to use.

The organization rearranged the plumbing and moved the door so that people who use wheelchairs can get in directly without having to make multiple difficult turns.

Bagnell said he couldn’t comment on another government’s need for legislation. He said he has spoken to his federal colleagues to make sure disabilities like fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are included in Ottawa’s law.

An email from Yukon cabinet press secretary Sunny Patch only said that the “Yukon government will review the federal legislation that was tabled on June 20 before determining a Yukon specific approach.”

Berrel argued that everyone is going to be disabled at some point in their lives and should care about accessibility.

“Whether it’s 10 minutes before you die or 10 years as you’re getting older, you will be disabled. So it’s not something that just the disabled community needs to get behind, it’s something that every human being that lives in the Yukon needs to get behind.”

With files from the Canadian Press

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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