The Bookshelf, a bookstore in Guelph’s downtown, has received funding from the federal government for an elevator to improve accessibility to its second floor, Member of Parliament Lloyd Longfield announced on Friday.
The financial support came via the small projects component of the Enabling Accessibility Fund, or EAF, a press release from the MP’s office said. It is part of Ottawa’s greater initiative to break down “the barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from fully participating in all aspects of Canadian society.”
The announcement comes amidst the start of what is expected to be a competitive federal election this fall both nationally and locally. Additional recipients of funding under the initiative, as well as recipients of funding under two other components of the program, will be announced in coming months.
Organizations interested in receiving their own funding can submit applications to Ottawa during calls for proposals that are sent to Carla Qualtrough, the minister of public services and procurement and accessibility.
“Today’s announcement is another example of what our Government is doing to help Canadians with disabilities gain access and contribute to our communities,” Longfield, a Liberal MP, said.
“This funding will have a tremendous impact on persons with disabilities in downtown Guelph. I want to thank the Bookshelf for applying for funding that will help to make our public spaces and workplaces more inclusive for all Canadians.”
Qualtrough added that “Canada is at its best and all of society benefits when everyone is included. Investing in the Enabling Accessibility Fund is one of the ways our Government is ensuring persons with disabilities in Canada have opportunities to participate in society on an equal basis.”
“Through this funding and through partnerships with organizations like the Bookshelf in Guelph, we are building a more inclusive and accessible Canada.”
Since the Liberals were elected in 2015, Ottawa has supported over 2,000 accessibility projects through the Enabling Accessibility Fund, the press release says.
“These projects have helped several thousand Canadians by improving their access to their communities’ programs, services and employment opportunities,” it adds.
Over the last fiscal year of 2018 to 2019, EAF’s grants and contributions budget grew to over $20 million as the Liberal’s Budget 2017 provided an additional $77 million over ten years.
This expanded the activities of the program to support more small and mid-sized projects — including those proposed by youth — to improve accessibility in Canadian communities and workplaces, the press release says.
However, not all accessibility advocates are supportive of the Liberal moves, saying that the federal government is not doing enough, fast enough and lags behind other countries.
“When it comes to ensuring accessibility for 5 million Canadians with disabilities, Canada lags far behind the U.S., which passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act 29 years ago,” David Lepofsky wrote in the Toronto Star near the end of April.
“Canadians with disabilities still face far too many barriers in air travel, cable TV services, and when dealing with the federal government. For example, as a blind traveller, I’ve faced these barriers. I dread returning to Canadian airspace.”
A local woman who is visually impaired told The Guelph Post that she continually faces issues with accessing transit. Though it is not a federally provided service she says she has not noticed any improvements since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015.
Much of the legislation and enforcement of accessibility law for those living in Guelph are actually under the provincial mandate. Under the recently elected Progressive Conservatives, there has been criticism of cuts affecting accessibility supports.
However, the Liberal government has nearly passed Bill C-81 which has been in the parliament for several years. The Accessible Canada Act will bring all provinces to the same level in terms of regulation around those with disabilities.
Rick Hanson described the legislation in the Globe and Mail earlier this year as “an essential piece of legislation for people with disabilities that has long been missing” that will also form two new positions that will be charged with monitoring compliance with the act.