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The District of Saanich on Vancouver Island has opted to merge their BC Government mandated Accessibility Advisory Committee committee with other equity groups. Historically the voice of the disability community has been suppressed by those with louder voices or popular mandates. It's Your Right President, David Willows, recently wrote a letter to the District advising them of the importance of the committee standing along if it is to fulfill its mandate.

Here is a copy of that letter:

January 23, 2023 

Mayor Dean Murdock and Council 
Corporation of the District of Saanich 
770 Vernon Avenue 
Victoria, BC V8X 2W7

Dear Mayor Murdock and Council: 

SUBJECT: Accessibility Advisory Committee: Intent and Terms of Reference 

It is fantastic to see the District of Saanich moving forward on the development of the provincially mandated Accessibility Advisory Committee. The tri-municipal Saanich Peninsula Accessibility Advisory Committee has been operational since the summer of 2022 and has a diverse range of members representing the disability community and a full docket of work to do. This said, I have concerns with the Terms of Refence and description for Saanich’s committee as appear in item H.1 “Aligning Council Committees” of the January 23, 2023, Council Meeting. 

The Accessible BC Act mandates that all prescribed organisations have an accessibility advisory committee. The province has identified that disability is underrepresented in the decision-making process to the point of enacting legislation requiring local governments and others to empower the disability community through accessibility advisory committees. In my experience using a holistic “equity, diversity and inclusion” approach proposed for the District of Saanich fails to meet the intent of the required committee and will diminish the voice of people with disabilities. Emphasis in the terms of reference has been placed on broadening the mandate of the committee, however I do not believe that to be the intent of the legislation. 

As an example, the Saanich Peninsula Accessibility Advisory Committee has 6 community members selected to represent diversity within the disability community. This committee is a safe place for people with disabilities, their caregivers and service providers to focus on disability access issues, identify barriers and propose real-world solutions. It is critical that an accessibility committee represent the spectrum of disabilities including but not limited to mobility, sight, hearing, learning, cognitive, medical conditions and more. It should also have disability representation from various age groups from students to seniors. Accessibility is a series of complex interrelated systems, not just ticking boxes on a checklist, and requires the full attention of subject matter experts – those who live it every day. Other voices are important, but the legislated intent of the committee must be the priority. A key message that should be taken to heart when considering the advisory committee’s Terms of Reference is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability’s fundamental premise: “nothing about us without us.” When I consider this statement in the context of the proposed terms of reference, I question if the disability community, the impetus for forming this committee, was meaningfully consulted.

Disability rights are often treated as “second class rights” Organizations, through ignorance, budgetary constraints or other reasons routinely try to justify provision of services and facilities with significant disability related access barriers. One need only look to the City of Victoria to see the conflict between holders of disability human rights and people outside the disability community with other priorities. That louder voice led to multiple disability related human rights complaints against the city. If any other rights seeking group is denied access for any reason, it is a major news story. When it is a disability related denial of access it is almost considered routine and there is little if any mention of it. The Accessibility Advisory Committee must be a place specific to the disability community to ensure meaningful advice on disability access remains the priority. 

I applaud the municipality’s intent to foster a welcoming community through equity, diversity, and inclusion. The intersection of different rights seeking groups is important, but each group also needs their own space for their specific needs and voices to be heard. In my opinion the Accessibility Advisory Committee must be stand alone to ensure it fulfills its mandate of adequately advising the local government on access and disability related issues. 

Thank you for your time and consideration on this issue. 


David Willows 
Accessibility Advocate
Parent of a child with disabilities

The Canadian Federation of the Blind, a not-for-profit volunteer organization, who's head office is in Victoria, will be hosting a mock trial of the B.C. Public Safety Minister Monday, March 20th, 2023 at 9:30 AM at the floating bus stop on Pandora St. between Blanchard and Douglas streets.

The British Columbia Public Safety Minister, Solicitor General and their cabinet colleagues are "charged with" dereliction of duty over the unnecessary endangerment of blind transit users' right to public safety. 

Discriminatory bus stops are not the first time politicians have failed to protect blind people's legal right to public access as evidenced by the BC Human Rights Tribunal's publicly posted case law history

Media and local residents are invited to witness this scrutiny of our elected officials who remain free from accountability to vulnerable citizen's right of safe and unimpeded public access.

Please set aside a half hour to learn more about blind peoples' safety. 

March 6, 2023

Dear Mayor Marianne Alto and Council Members,

I am writing to express my concern regarding the City's acceptance of proposals for developments with significant parking reductions or no parking. It has come to my attention that the City Council previously proposed a study be conducted on implementing parking minimums, but to date, the City has not published such a study.

As you are aware, parking is critical for access for many seniors and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the City has not acknowledged the impact of no parking developments on accessibility. It's worth noting that many people cannot use transit due to various reasons. Therefore, the City is opening itself to liability under human rights legislation if developments proceed without parking and no referral to the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

I urge the City to take into account the needs of seniors and people with disabilities in its decision-making process, particularly on this issue. I request that the City refer any proposed development with significant parking reductions or no parking to the Accessibility Advisory  Committee and consider their input carefully.

Lastly, I kindly request that this email be published as part of the agenda package for the March 9, 2023, meeting.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


David Willows

CC:        Umar Sheikh, Legal Counsel
              It’s Your Right to Equal Access Advocacy Society of BC

Local Residents Launch Non-profit to Help People with Disabilities with Human Rights Claims

VICTORIA, BC – Local residents, Graeme McCreath, Susan Simmons and David Willows have joined forces and founded a non-profit society advocating for accesses for people with disabilities. With the assistance of their legal-councel, Umar Sheikh, the paperwork was filed with BC Registries on February 27, 2023.

McCreath, a blind Victoria resident is not new to the tribunal process. He recently provided testimony for the Canadian Federation of the Blind, arguing safety concerns when crossing the marked crosswalk along the bike lane to access transit stops. Although the Tribunal acknowledged the danger of floating bus stops between the bike lanes and the road were discriminatory, simply adding an audible flashing-light to the crosswalk over the bike lanes does not remove the dangerous barrier.  The seven principles of Universal Design would have avoided the installation of these discriminatory bus stops.  The inability to hear a cyclist adjacent to a busy road places unnecessary risk of injury to blind transit users.  

Simmons and Willows are also not new to the process. The two worked with Sheihk to launch a class-action complaint against the city for removing access to Beacon Hill Park for people with disabilities. The complaint has been accepted by the Human Rights Tribunal with the tribunal imminent.

Willows, who is the father to a child with multiple disabilities had his eyes opened to the myriad of barriers faced by people very day in a world he previously thought was accessible.  He has worked with governments at all levels to improve policy, design standards, and ultimately his community, improving the lives of many disabled Canadians.

Simmons, who has a disability herself and is the President of the MS Wellness Centre for Vancouver Island and swim coach to the Spirit Orcas and Special Olympics, is concerned with the direction she sees the City Victoria is taking when it comes to accessibility. “The City needs to do more to align to the Accessible British Columbia Act and the BC Human Rights Code. When they don’t It’s Your Right will be here to help others navigate the tribunal system” Simmons said.

Sheikh, who has been instrumental in helping the three establish the It’s Your Right believes “Equity in the delivery of public services is paramount to a free and fair society. We must continually be vigilant and fight for the right of all to be equal, or we risk classism, racism and ableism to rise and erode all that we have fought so hard to achieve. Who we chose to leave behind is a reflection of who we are and to fight for those left behind is a reflection of who we want to become.”

For more information contact

Susan Simmons
itsyourrightbc @