The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) is a set of legislation designed to remove barriers for citizens of Manitoba, especially those with disabilities. The AMA became law in December 2013, and the Government of Manitoba set a goal to make Manitoba more inclusive for everyone by 2023.
Manitoba is working with people with disabilities, as well as public and private sector organizations to develop five accessibility standards. These standards are the foundation for developing a more inclusive Manitoba and will help Manitoba become barrier-free in stages.
What are the AMA Accessibility Standards?
The AMA is divided into Accessibility Standards that focus on five key areas of daily living:
Customer Service Accessibility Standard – This standard addresses the business practices and training required to provide better customer service to people with disabilities.
Employment Accessibility Standard – This standard addresses the practices related to employee recruitment, hiring, and retention.
Information and Communications Accessibility Standard – This standard addresses barriers to accessing information, including information provided in print, in person, on websites, or other formats.
Built Environment – This accessibility standard deals with access to those areas outside the jurisdiction of The Manitoba Building Code. These spaces include sidewalks, pathways, parks, and other aspects of the environment that are designed and constructed.
Transportation This accessibility standard applies to public transportation and addresses barriers citizens might encounter while travelling to work, school, shopping, or other aspects of daily life.
The Customer Service Accessibility Standard is now law. The Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communications Accessibility Standard are currently under development.
How do AMA Standards become law?
When a standard is developed, the Accessibility Advisory Council puts it forward for public review. Once public review is complete, the Accessibility Advisory Council finalizes the standard for submission to the minister responsible for persons with disabilities. This minister then reviews the final proposed standard and recommends whether or not it should be enacted as a regulation. This can be in whole, in part, or with changes. When the standard is enacted as a regulation it becomes law.
Website Accessibility Compliance in the AMA
Website accessibility compliance falls under the Information and Communications Accessibility Standard. On May 14, 2019, the Disabilities Issues Office coordinated a three-hour public consultation to receive feedback on the Information and Communications standard. This standard is currently under development, but it is expected the requirements will follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), as well as several other legislations around the world.
The AMA specifically calls out small print size, low color contrast between text and background, and the use of language that is not clear or plain as barriers to accessibility. These are also requirements within WCAG.
Who must comply with the AMA?
Each accessibility standard outlines the organizations or people who are subject to the standard and the corresponding time period for compliance. Different types and sizes of organizations may have different requirements and timelines. Once a standard has been approved by the government, all organizations must comply within the given timelines. Non-compliance or infractions may result in penalties for the organization or people.
Standards take into consideration the type of barriers that are being addressed, as well as any technical or economic factors that are involved in its implementation. In this way, fair timelines for compliance are established.