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Reflecting on the Tenth Annual Manitoba Access Awareness Week

Jun 10, 2018

Manitoba Access Awareness Week logo

Today marks the start of the 2018 version of Manitoba Access Awarness Week (MAWW) that runs through to June 16. In the Province's press release announcing it last week, Minister Scott Fielding is quoted as saying:

“We are committed to being an inclusive society and ensuring accessibility is a priority. Nearly one in six Manitobans faces barriers in daily life. As we work toward implementing the standards of The Accessibility for Manitobans Act, which sets out to identify, remove and prevent those barriers, we applaud organizations who are taking the lead to develop accessibility plans."

The press release also states that the Province is inviting Manitobans to participate in MAAW by offering suggestions to improve accessibility.

The strange juxtaposition is that MAAW is being run right smack dab in the middle of Barrier-Free Manitoba's Broken Promise campaign. The campaign's main goal is to get the Province is take the immediate measures needed to get the implementation of the landmark AMA back on track. Sadly, government's implementation efforts to date have been slow, weak and incomplete.

The great advantage of having worked on accessibility-rights issues for the last 10 years is that BFM has and can offer a bit of historical context on both MAAW and the AMA.

The original access awareness week in Manitoba started back in the late 80s. At the end of his Man in Motion World Tour (1987), Rick Hansen requested that a national awareness week be established to promote access for persons with disabilities. National Access Awareness Week (NAAW) was subsequently established in 1988 in Canada. NAAW was actively celebrated for many years in Manitoba. It had then gone unmarked in Manitoba for several years. 

Though not well known nor remembered, BFM, which had been established for less than 1 year at that point, spearheaded efforts back in the Spring of 2009 to resurrect MAAW. BFM had first called on the Province to enact strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation in September 2008. With the national week upcoming, BFM decided to push for then Minister Gord Mackintosh to declare the first week in June 2009 as Manitoba Access Awareness Week. We felt that a resurrected MAAW would help promote greater public recognition of the need for the landmark legislation. We also felt that a resurrected MAAW would help focus community demand for the legislation.

We're pleased to include links to our original concept paper (Word / PDF).  We are also pleased to post then Minister Mackintosh's proclamation of the resurrected week (Word / PDF).

BFM, with assistance from the DIO, also took the lead in organizing the activities for the first edition of the resurrected MAAW. It was a modest relaunch of the week featuring five events, one each of the weekdays. These are listed in BFM's June 1, 2009 media release (Word / PDF).

BFM stepped back from its leadership position the next year with the DIO having now played the key coordinating role since. While the events featured in MAAW have changed and evolved through time, its profile has grown and it seems to have staying power.

What's more than a little disturbing is how the patterns of history seem to repeat themselves. BFM led the effort back in 2009 to resurrect MAAW so as to promote awareness of need for strong and effective accessibiity-rights legislation. Ten years later, we've had to launch the Broken Promise campaign to call on government to fully and effectively implement the landmark legislation and to do so in a timely fashion.

It took a whole lot of determined effort to secure the 2013 passage of the Accessibiity for Manitobans Act. The AMA promised major progress toward full accessibility by 2023 - a decade of significant change. 

But that promise is being broken and it is now taking a whole lot of determined effort to get the AMA fully and effectively implemented.

So we are pleased accept the Minister's invitation to offer our advice about how accessibiity can be improved. Our advice today is the message to the Minister from the Broken Promise campaign:

  • We ask that you provide the immediate leadership and resources required to meet the promise of the AMA. This means the timely development and enforcement of strong accessibility standards with more meaningful roles for Manitoba’s diverse disability communities.

If you have not already, please join us in sending this critically important message to the Minister. Just click here.

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