Message from Kathryn Oviatt, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission
(April 29, 2022)
Canada's new Accessibility Commissioner highlights the importance of accessibility legislation
On behalf of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, I congratulate Michael Gottheil on his historic appointment as Canada's first Accessibility Commissioner to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Gottheil served as Chief of the Commission and Tribunals at the Alberta Human Rights Commission from August 2018 until January 2022, where he championed improvements to human rights for Albertans, including calls to advance the rights of persons with disabilities and complaint process improvements.
The Alberta Human Rights Commission has long supported accessibility legislation in Alberta as an active member of the Alberta Ability Network. This disability sector collaborative launched the Barrier-free Alberta campaign, a grassroots initiative encouraging Alberta to enact strong and effective accessibility legislation. In 2020, Mr. Gottheil participated in the Alberta-bility webinar, a panel discussion outlining the need for accessibility legislation in Alberta and how it would help address gaps in protections for persons with disabilities.
More than six million Canadians aged 15 and over (22 per cent of the population) identify as having a disability, according to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability. Mr. Gottheil's appointment serves as a reminder of the ongoing need to improve participation and inclusion of people with disabilities. As Accessibility Commissioner, Mr. Gottheil will continue advocating for people with disabilities by providing leadership and direction on administering and enforcing the Accessible Canada Act and its regulations.
Canada's first Accessibility Commissioner will accelerate progress on inclusion and accountability for Canadians with disabilities, promoting compliance with the Accessible Canada Act, ensuring organizations meet their accessibility obligations, and meaningfully addressing human rights complaints related to disability. At the Alberta Human Rights Commission, we have firsthand knowledge of Mr. Gottheil's vision and leadership in the areas of human rights, organizational systems, fairness and transparency, and of his commitment to eliminating barriers to full participation in the community for all Canadians.
Year over year, physical disability and mental disability account for roughly half of complaints accepted by the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Accessibility legislation that creates consistent standards is beneficial for all jurisdictions. Most Canadian jurisdictions have already established comprehensive laws that address systemic barriers affecting people with disabilities. This moment is a great opportunity for Alberta to join with other provinces in implementing accessibility legislation.
The Alberta Human Rights Commission will continue to champion efforts to remove barriers for persons with disabilities. I encourage all Albertans to learn more about this important issue and lend support to the Barrier-free Alberta initiative. We wish Mr. Gottheil success in his new role and celebrate with the millions of Canadians who will benefit from the creation of this office.