Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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Dear Library Community,

This post is an introduction to the legislative milestones which have moved us towards a more inclusive Manitoba. The summaries also include important highlights for libraries. In light of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, and the focus in Manitoba on accessible services, it important for librarians and their staff to have a strong understanding of the rights of persons with disabilities, from a provincial, national and international perspective. As libraries are in the business of providing access to information, special attention is paid to the right of access to information.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On December 13th 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first human rights convention of the 21st century. Canada announced that it had ratified the convention on March 11th 2010, with the full support of the provinces and territories. Important for libraries is Article 21, which codifies access to information in accessible formats as a right. Article 21 of the convention is copied in full below:

Article 21 - Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information

Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention, including by:

a.Providing information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost;

b.Accepting and facilitating the use of sign languages, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions;

c.Urging private entities that provide services to the general public, including through the Internet, to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities;

d.Encouraging the mass media, including providers of information through the Internet, to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities;

e.Recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages.

The UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities is available at: www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml and at http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

In Canada, persons are protected from discrimination under Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 15, identifies Equality Rights under the act, and protects persons with disabilities from discrimination. Section 15(1) is copied in full below.

Equality Rights Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law.

15(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is available at: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html

Manitoba Human Rights Code

On July 17th 1987, Manitoba Passed the Human Rights Code. The Code was an important step in addressing the prejudices which limit Manitobans from being full citizens. Parts a and b of the preamble are copied below:

WHEREAS Manitobans recognize the individual worth and dignity of every member of the human family, and this principle underlies the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and other solemn undertakings, international and domestic, that Canadians honour;

AND WHEREAS Manitobans recognize that

(a) implicit in the above principle is the right of all individuals to be treated in all matters solely on the basis of their personal merits, and to be accorded equality of opportunity with all other individuals;

(b) to protect this right it is necessary to restrict unreasonable discrimination against individuals, including discrimination based on stereotypes or generalizations about groups with whom they are or are thought to be associated, and to ensure that reasonable accommodation is made for those with special needs;

The Manitoba Human Rights Code is available at: http://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/statutes/ccsm/_pdf.php?cap=h175

The Accessibility for Manitobans Act

In December of 2013 Manitoba passed Bill 26, The Accessibility for Manitoban’s Act which addresses barriers to access for all Manitoban’s in both the public and the private sector. Important for libraries is section 2(1)(d) of the act which states that:

The purpose of this Act is to achieve accessibility by preventing and removing barriers that disable people with respect to (d) the delivery and receipt of goods, services and information;

Manitoba’s public libraries are an essential source of information for Manitoban’s providing access to reading material, music, DVDs, and the internet.  The Accessibility for Manitoban’s act is available at: https://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-2/pdf/b026.pdf