On Monday May 31, I spoke in response to a Ministerial statement on Access Awareness Week. I spoke of a greater need for recognition of mental as well as physical disabilities and the need to assure access and accommodation for those with disabilities. I also spoke of the need for better progress on the accessibility standards on information and communication, on transportation and on the built environment.
Mr. Gerrard: Accessibility awareness week is an important week. It's a week dedicated to achieving greater understanding and support for children and adults with disabilities–or, as we often say, special abilities.
We all need to be aware of the physical and mental or brain disabilities. Too often the mental or brain disabilities are hidden and not recognized and, as a result, not accommodated for. Such mental and brain disabilities include, as an example, learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities, in part because they're less visible, are often inadequately recognized and inadequately helped. We need to do much better to accommodate such learning disabilities as well as to recognize and accommodate physical disabilities.
Under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act, there are five accessibility standards. Two of these, the regulations have been passed–customer service and employment standards. But we are still waiting for progress on three of these standards: the information and communication standards, which addresses barriers to accessing one-way static information, as well as two-way interactive communication; the transportation standard, which applies to barriers for Manitobans that are encountered when getting to work or school, shopping, socializing or other aspects of daily life; and the design of public space standards–the built environment–deals with the accessibility to the design and construction that falls outside the jurisdiction of the Manitoba Building Code.
We have objected right from the beginning to the exclusion of addressing issues in the Manitoba Building Code, and this needs to be changed. But there have been major delays in the last three standards, and there needs to be a lot of more progress and a lot more emphasis on achieving these.
The excuse may be given that the pandemic has been upon us but, in fact, the pandemic has realized, for all of us, the deficiencies that we have in achieving these standards. And the pandemic should have been a time when more, not less, effort was dedicated to achieving these standards for those with disabilities.