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“Nothing without us”

The principle of “Nothing without us” recognizes that persons with disabilities are equal participants in all areas of life. They should contribute to all decision-making on policies, programs, practices, and service delivery.

This principle should inform how your organization approaches its responsibilities under the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) and the Accessible Canada Regulations (regulations). It should guide the way you identify, remove, and prevent barriers. It should also guide your approach to consulting persons with disabilities and acting on their input.

Section 6 of the ACA sets out principles that your organization must take into account in carrying out your obligations under the ACA. You must take these principles into account when planning your consultations:

  1. all persons must be treated with dignity regardless of their disabilities
  2. all persons must have the same opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have regardless of their disabilities
  3. all persons must have barrier-free access to full and equal participation in society, regardless of their disabilities
  4. all persons must have meaningful options and be free to make their own choices, with support if they desire, regardless of their disabilities
  5. laws, policies, programs, services and structures must take into account the disabilities of persons, the different ways that persons interact with their environments and the multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination faced by persons
  6. persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services and structures
  7. the development and revision of accessibility standards and the making of regulations must be done with the objective of achieving the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities

The introductory sections of the ACA provide additional context for these seven principles.

With these principles in mind, this guidance will help you ensure that your consultations:

Since organizations have different resources, needs, and capabilities, there are different ways in which to consult. Your organization must decide whom, when, and how to consult. This guidance offers recommendations, tips, and best practices for consultations that are:

What consultation means

Consultation involves communicating with stakeholders to gather comments, opinions, and other information. Your stakeholders are people affected by your policies, programs, practices, and services. Consultation could take many different forms, ranging from in-person group discussions to online surveys to hybrid models involving multiple forms.

The ACA requires that you consult persons with disabilities in the preparation of your accessibility plans and progress reports. Effective consultation is essential to ensure that these documents are truly meaningful. It is also important for identifying, removing, and preventing barriers.

Remember to uphold the principle of “Nothing without us.” Whenever possible, involve persons with disabilities in planning your consultations.

Ensure your consultations are accessible and inclusive. Take into account the different types of disabilities and the different accommodations persons with disabilities may need. Read our annex on understanding disability for tips, recommendations and best practices.

Consider other kinds of accessibility as well. For example, remember that:

No matter what format or formats you choose, think about how consultees could participate through alternate means. Consider allowing some people to participate in an in-person event through a videoconference platform, for example, or submit spoken answers to a written survey. This flexibility makes it easier for people to participate when health, personal obligations, or other factors may change their availability from day to day.

Obtaining a variety of perspectives is important to meaningfully improve accessibility in your organization. Your consultations should involve persons with disabilities who have different backgrounds, roles, and experiences. Participants may include:

What the ACA and its regulations say about consultation

The ACA says that your organization must consult regarding its accessibility plans:

“The regulated entity must consult persons with disabilities in the preparation of its accessibility plan and every updated version of its accessibility plan. […] The accessibility plan must set out the manner in which the regulated entity consulted persons with disabilities in the preparation of the plan.”

The ACA also says that your organization must consult regarding its progress reports:

“The regulated entity must consult persons with disabilities in the preparation of its progress report. […] The progress report must set out the manner in which the regulated entity consulted persons with disabilities in the preparation of its progress report.”

The regulations say that your accessibility plans and progress reports must include a “Consultations” heading. Under this heading, you must describe how you consulted persons with disabilities in preparing the plan or report.

Being accessible while consulting

To deliver effective results, your consultations should be accessible.

This means allowing everyone you invite to participate fully and meaningfully. It means recognizing that some participants may face barriers that prevent them from fully participating. It also means that you should make efforts to prevent and remove those barriers.

There are many different types of disabilities, and barriers may differ significantly from person to person.

Barriers can take different forms, including:

Being accessible also means considering participants’ backgrounds, religions, socio-economic status, languages, genders, and more. It means recognizing that each person’s experience is unique, and no one can speak for everyone. It also means recognizing that multiple identity factors can intersect or overlap with disability, producing barriers for some people and not for others.

You can find more tips and ideas in our annexes on cultural considerations and inclusive language.

In this guidance, you will find recommendations, tips and best practices that will help you:

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