Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of our mandate, the Prime Minister has made it clear many times that disability inclusion and accessibility are a key priority.
Since 2015, we have committed $1.1 billion in funding to ensure greater accessibility and supports for Canadians with disabilities, and we have made huge strides in breaking down barriers. This includes appointing Canada's first-ever cabinet minister responsible for persons with disabilities, passing and implementing the historic Accessible Canada Act and establishing Accessibility Standards Canada.
It also includes acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty, which makes the production and international transfer of accessible books for people with print disabilities easier, and the optional protocol of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, strengthening the protection of human rights for persons with disabilities in Canada.
In 2019, when the Accessibility Canada Act came into force, the government focused its efforts on identifying, preventing and helping remove barriers to accessibility. We are communicating to Canadians how we are shortchanging the economy and ourselves if we exclude people. We have removed barriers to employment, making buildings physically more accessible and making accessibility and inclusion part of the design and the delivery of our services and programs.
Then the pandemic hit.
It is clearly documented that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected the health, social and economic well-being of those individuals living with disabilities. However, even before the pandemic, persons with disabilities suffered from long-standing inequities, and COVID made these inequities worse.
It is for this reason that we have taken a disability inclusive approach into our pandemic response by setting up a COVID-19 disability advisory group and providing a one-time payment to persons with disabilities.
In 2020, we committed to developing a disability inclusion action plan, the DIAP, and that work is being finalized. The DIAP is a blueprint for the change to make Canada more inclusive of persons with disabilities. It has four pillars: financial security, employment, accessible and inclusive communities, and a modern approach to disability.
At its core, the plan is simple, and that is to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities. However, the work required to accomplish this, to make Canada inclusive, fair and free of physical, societal and attitudinal barriers, will be extensive.
The bill before us today represents bold action on the first pillar of the plan, namely that of reducing poverty and providing financial security to persons with disabilities. Consultations with Canadians on the disability inclusion action plan show that poverty and financial security of persons with disabilities are overwhelming priorities, and the proposed benefit, a cornerstone of the action plan, would help respond to these concerns.
We recognize that not all persons with disabilities are able to be gainfully employed and others are not able to work at all. The objective of the proposed benefit is to improve the financial security of individuals in these situations.
We are also taking action on the second pillar of the action plan, employment, which is critical to financial security of persons with disabilities.
Budget 2022 recently provided more than $270 million toward the employment strategy for persons with disabilities, and that strategy has three prongs: first, to help persons with disabilities gain jobs, advance in their careers or become entrepreneurs; second, to support employers as they develop inclusive workplaces; and third, to aid organizations and individuals who are helping persons with disabilities find employment.
Most recently, the minister launched a call for proposals under the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities to fund up to 180 projects that would help people find and keep jobs, and that is not all.
We have modernized and increased support for the enabling accessibility fund, or EAF. The EAF provides money for projects that make Canadian communities and workplaces more accessible for persons with disabilities. It aims to give persons with disabilities a greater chance to be a part of community activities and to get the services they need to find work.
The EAF provides money for three types of projects. First are youth-led projects of up to $10,000 that help persons with disabilities in their communities. Some supported activities have included the purchase of para hockey sleds, construction of raised gardens in community gardens and the creation of an accessible sensory room. Second are grants of up to $100,000 to fund infrastructure and construction projects and information communications technology projects that improve accessibility in communities or workplaces. The funds have supported building ramps, accessible doors, accessible washrooms, installing screen reader devices and hearing loop systems, and constructing a specially designed office. Third, there are also large contributions of up to $3 million to support larger projects. Last year, we added a simpler method for people to apply for funding to pay for single items such as accessible doors, accessible washrooms, ramps and the like.
I know that many of us in this House have had projects funded by the EAF in constituencies, and I know that the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and many of our colleagues have had a chance to visit these projects in our communities. We have heard first-hand how these investments have improved accessibility for Canadians with disabilities. In budget 2022, we proposed to make new investments in accessible books, including the creation of the new equitable access to reading program, which would enable people with print disabilities to better participate in our society and economy. This is all part of the work we are doing to include Canadians with disabilities in all aspects of everyday life.
In spite of the pandemic, we have also taken significant strides in implementing the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act regulations, published in December 2021, marked the first step in operationalizing the act. These regulations require over 5,000 federally regulated entities to publish plans indicating how they plan and intend to proactively identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility and to outline how they will report their progress as well as how they will establish feedback mechanisms by which persons with disabilities can provide input.
Most recently, we have appointed Stephanie Cadieux as the first-ever accessibility officer, and shortly after, Michael Gottheil was named as the first accessibility commissioner within the Canadian Human Rights Commission to enforce compliance with the Accessible Canada Act and its regulations.
With regard to standards, in 2019 we established Accessibility Standards Canada, whose board of directors is primarily comprised of persons with disabilities. It is working with disability communities, industry and other partners to create national accessible standards that aim to raise the bar in terms of the requirements and approaches to the seven priority areas that are set out in the act, namely transportation, employment, information and communication technologies or ICT, communications other than ICT, the built environment, the design and delivery of programs and services, and the procurement of goods and services and facilities. The accessibility standards are a critical part of a barrier-free Canada for persons with disabilities, because while they are norms, they are not the law and they have the power to drive widespread adoption of inclusive design.
Accessibility Standards Canada is looking at setting norms for plain language on forms and websites, how we shape our outdoor spaces from sidewalks to parks, emergency egress and how people with disabilities can get out of buildings in a hurry if needed, as well as removing physical barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from accessing the workplace—