Planning your consultation: choosing your approach

Planning your consultation: choosing an approach

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Consulting persons with disabilities – general

Include persons with disabilities in decision-making processes about your policies, programs, practices, and services. Consulting persons with disabilities, as the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) requires, contributes to this inclusion. It also helps your organization enact the principle of “Nothing without us” and the principles that underpin the ACA.

Before you begin your consultations, we recommend that you start by researching and reaching out. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Remember: Building relationships with disability organizations can help you develop meaningful consultations. These organizations may be willing to help with research, publicize your consultation process, and connect you with potential consultees. However, these relationships do not replace consultation itself. You must still consult persons with disabilities in the development of your accessibility plans and progress reports.

Consulting persons with disabilities – clients and the public

It can also be very valuable to consult clients or members of the general public with disabilities. Many of them will have insights on eliminating and preventing accessibility barriers.

You may wish to hire an independent facilitator who is familiar with accessibility-related issues and how to manage them. Clients may be more comfortable speaking with a facilitator from outside your organization.

You may also wish to:

We also recommend that you keep the following in mind:

Consulting persons with disabilities – employees

We recommend that your consultations include your employees with disabilities. They understand how your organization works, and are well-placed to identify and advise on accessibility barriers. Depending on the corporate structure and policies of your organization, union representatives may participate in these consultations.

Participation should be open to all employees, whether they choose to disclose a disability or not. Provide employees with the option to participate in your consultation anonymously, if possible. Having your consultations led by an independent facilitator can help employees feel more comfortable to express themselves freely.

How to approach potential participants

When inviting persons with disabilities to consultations, timing should be one of your most important considerations. Sending invitations far enough in advance will:

Personal and general invitations

Personal invitations can be useful when you have already been in contact with organizations or individuals that you would like to invite. Organizations may be willing to use their networks to invite specific people to take part in your consultations. They may also send representatives to participate on their behalf. Direct invitations can be more personal, and can offer an opportunity for you to discuss accommodations and preferences early on.

General invitations do not target specific individuals or organizations. Instead, they offer a public notice that your consultations are happening. Indirect invitations might include:

Whether you choose direct or indirect invitations, or a mix of the two, your invitation should explain:

Remember: It can be helpful to include participants who are interested in accessibility and who have experience with disability and barriers. However, avoid targeting people based solely on their specific disabilities (for example “we want to speak with persons who are deaf or who use wheelchairs”). Address participants as people first rather than simply as possessors of certain traits, health conditions, or experiences of certain barriers. Consult the annex on inclusive language for more tips and recommendations.

Planning and reporting deadlines

The regulations provide deadlines for the publication of your accessibility plans and progress reports. We recommend that you conduct your consultations long before these deadlines. This will give you time to receive, process, and act on participants’ comments.

Choosing your format

The ACA and its regulations do not require that you use a specific format for your consultations.

You should choose a format based on your organization’s resources, needs, and capabilities. You will also want to reach as many people as possible through different formats of consultation. This may also help you take into account different language, interpretation, and participation preferences.

In-person consultations

Some participants prefer in-person events to virtual events or online submissions. They can allow for live presentations, open discussion, and direct networking opportunities for both participants and facilitators.

You may decide that in-person events are the most appropriate for your organization’s needs. Remember that they can involve higher costs, more resources, and more logistical planning than web-based or other formats. Consult the annex on key disability concepts for more tips, recommendations and best practices.

In-person events may not be possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to follow all applicable local, provincial and federal health and safety protocols when planning in-person events. Even if those protocols permit in-person events, some persons with disabilities may have additional health and safety needs to consider.

If you are organizing an in-person event, we recommend that you keep the following in mind:

Emergency planning

All in-person events should have an accessible emergency response plan. Develop this plan with the venue manager. During the sign-up process for your events, ask all participants how you should accommodate them in an emergency. Present the emergency response plan to everyone at the beginning of the consultation session.

Here are a few things that we recommend you keep in mind:

Web-based consultations

There are multiple ways to consult online:

Web-based consultations may remain a preferred option during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. They are safer, and can be more accessible and affordable for participants in different locations.

Any content you post online should be accessible. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) can help you with this. These are guidelines for designing accessible websites.

The regulations require all digital versions of your accessibility plans, progress reports, and descriptions of feedback processes to meet specific WCAG requirements. They must meet the Level AA criteria in the most recent version of WCAG available in both French and English. This is currently WCAG 2.1, but it will change when official translations of newer WCAG versions become available.

We recommend that all web content for your consultations also meet at least WCAG 2.1 Level AA criteria. You can consult the European Union’s EN 301 549 standard (PDF file, 2.17 MB) for more ideas about improving your information and communications technology (ICT) accessibility.

Virtual and other events

Virtual events can be a good substitute for in-person meetings or discussions. They allow participants to interact in real time. They can also let participants see and “meet” each other while networking and collaborating. They can be more accessible and affordable to participants who would have difficulty travelling.

Some virtual events are live, with participants all online at once. Other events are pre-recorded, so discussions do not take place in real time. This allows participants to contribute at their own pace at times that are most convenient for them. Virtual events on platforms like Zoom, WebEx or Microsoft Teams have been more common during the COVID-19 pandemic. They will likely continue to be popular even after the pandemic.

Here are some things we recommend you consider when planning a virtual event:

Websites, discussions, and calls for submissions

Web-based consultation can also involve questionnaires, surveys, discussion forums, or calls for submissions. There are additional security and planning requirements to consider with these approaches:

Submission and custody of information

Always keep in mind that some of the information participants share may be personal and sensitive. You must protect this information.

Here are some things we recommend you consider when receiving participants’ information:

Developing and sharing accessible information

No matter the form of your consultations, the information you provide to participants should be accessible. This may include agendas, summaries, surveys, questionnaires, slides, or other documents.

You can make documents more accessible by applying certain basic features in your word processor or other authoring program. This may include:

Some participants may ask you to provide alternate-format versions of your documents.

The regulations require you to make your accessibility plans, progress reports, and descriptions of feedback processes available in the following formats upon request:

While the regulations do not require you to provide consultation materials in alternate formats, we recommend that you do so upon request, whenever possible. This can help make your consultations more inclusive and accessible. It can also give your organization a chance to practice fulfilling such requests.

Some consultees may communicate through American Sign Language (ASL), la langue des signes québécoise (LSQ), or Indigenous sign languages. The ACA recognizes these sign languages as the primary languages for communication by deaf persons in Canada. As such, consider:

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