Changing attitudes and raising awareness

Official title: Federal Accessibility Legislation - Technical analysis report

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How to change attitudes and raise awareness about accessibility was a big part of the Consultations, especially in the Thematic Roundtables, public sessions and National Youth Forum. It was also the topic that received the most responses in the online engagement.

Changing attitudes and raising awareness is understood by consultation participants to be extremely important. The Consultations show there is strong and widespread agreement that changing attitudes and perceptions about people with disabilities is key to making real and permanent progress, particularly in the area of employment. One stakeholder called this goal “lasting cultural change.”

Participants made a lot of suggestions about the approaches, tools or methods that could be used communicate with Canadians, or about the information and messages that everyone should hear. These and other findings are discussed below.

Online engagement

The online engagement questionnaire began by exploring the broad theme of attitudes and awareness. Part of the four paragraph preamble to this first section included the following: “… legislation would be complemented by various initiatives to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of accessibility and of what individual Canadians and organizations can do, in general, to improve accessibility and remove barriers.”

Question: How can the Government of Canada raise awareness of and change attitudes in relation to accessibility (in the short term and long term)?

This question received a total of 2,339 responses.

As shown in Figure A, the most frequent suggestion was that the Government launch public awareness campaigns. Further analysis revealed support for the use of a wide range of communications channels, including social/digital, TV, out-of-home, etc. In terms of content and messaging, the two most prevalent suggestions were as follows:

Suggestion 1: Inclusion as a key concept. This reflects a belief that Canadians need to see people with a disability as a mainstream or “normalized” part of society; a facet of society’s rich diversity, as opposed to exceptional or apart.

To help achieve this, some suggested a “day in the life” vignettes, including one that could feature Minister Qualtrough, and would help “normalize” the idea of people with a disability as part of the workplace, while also allowing people to appreciate the challenges faced by Canadians with a disability.

We need to focus on inclusion, especially for people with intellectual disabilities. Right now, people with disabilities are marginalized and forgotten. Inclusion will reduce social isolation, it will emphasize the dignity of Persons with Disabilities AND society will benefit from the skills, knowledge, and contributions of people with disabilities.

– Anonymous

Suggestions 2: Sensitization around “invisible” disabilities (example: mental illness, chronic disease):

It is important to acknowledge that disabilities can also manifest in persons who for all intents and purposes appear to look “healthy.”

– Anonymous

Closely related to public awareness campaigns was the suggestion that accessibility be promoted through programs in schools. The emphasis here was on the importance of enjoining the conversation about disabilities at an early age, when attitudes are being formed:

Start an education program at an elementary school level to normalize the knowledge of diverse abilities for children as they transition through school systems.

posAbilities – Kalena Kavanaugh – Employment Services Manager

Sub-group analysis reveals that the suggestion of raising awareness through school programs was more likely to come from comments provided by younger respondents (for example 18 to 34 years of age) and from those who did not identify as having a disability.

Figure A: How can the Government of Canada raise awareness of and change attitudes in relation to accessibility (in the short term and long term)?
A shows the results to the question: "How can the Government of Canada raise awareness of and change attitudes in relation to accessibility (in the short term and long term?" The results follow the figure.

Text description of Figure A:

Responses %
Launch advertising/awareness-building campaign(s) 44%
Amend/create legislation/regulation (including changing the Constitution) 28%
Ensure that workplaces are accessible (including sensitivity training for employees) 15%
Lead by example by having more PWD in government (including as role models and policy architects) 14%
Programs should promote accessibility and participation in schools 13%
Require better enforcement of accessibility requirements 10%
Work with employers in all sectors to create more employment opportunities 9%
Make government services more accessible (including sensitivity training for client services) 8%
Other (e.g., increase program funding) 12%
I don’t know 1%

Many people focused their comments on the need for legislation and the enforcement of laws/standards. A few explicitly linked their suggestion to the goal of raising awareness and changing attitudes (example: through enacting high-profile legislation akin to the Americans with Disabilities Act, outreach to the business community to increase awareness of legislation). Most, however, did not make this link. Rather, they emphasized the importance of having more effective and broader legislation (example: that explicitly recognizes “invisible” disabilities, as well as the importance of “enforcement”):

Start making businesses become accountable for not being accessible by imposing fines.

– Kelly DeGruchy

A third cluster of comments revolved around raising awareness and changing attitudes in workplaces:

  • Many focused their suggestions on the federal government and federally regulated organizations, while others commented on workplaces in general. Many indicated that more training and education are needed, in the federal public service and other settings, to make workplaces more accessible and inclusive (example: through workplace accommodations):

Encourage inclusiveness in the workplace; educate managers on accommodation for people with disabilities.

– Anonymous
  • About 1 in 10 comments suggested that an effective way to raise awareness and change attitudes, particularly among employers, was for the Government to “lead by example,” by ensuring that:
    • all buildings, facilities, offices, websites, web apps, etc. under federal jurisdiction are fully accessible
    • there is better access to employment opportunities and programs (example: promoting their availability among people with a disability)
    • non-federally regulated employers are encouraged through incentives, assistance and legislation to hire more people with a disability, and
    • more people with a disability occupy senior and/or high-profile positions (example: board of directors, senior management)

In the short term, the government could lead by example and begin appointing people with disabilities to visible public offices, boards and agencies. This would demonstrate that people with disabilities can in fact do the same work and fill the same positions as other Canadians.

– Member of the Canadian Association of Optometrists

Question: How can the Government of Canada show leadership in improving accessibility and removing barriers for Canadians with disabilities?

This question received a total of 2,339 responses.

Collectively, Canadians provided a broad range of suggestions for how the Government could show leadership. As depicted in Figure B, most comments suggest that the best way to do this is through action (as opposed to mere encouragement), not only as the country’s senior level of government, but also as an employer and service provider. Permeating the comments was the view that if the Government was to lead by example, it would need to look inward to get its own house in order first (for example to at least get the basics of accessibility right).

Figure B: How can the Government of Canada show leadership in improving accessibility and removing barriers for Canadians with disabilities?
Figure B shows the results to the question: "How can the Government of Canada show leadership in improving accessibility and removing barriers for Canadians with disabilities?" The results follow the figure.

Text description of Figure B:

Responses %
Create legislation (e.g., a Disability Act) 26%
Government buildings, services and resources should be fully accessible 26%
Support persons with disabilities through funding or programs 23%
Lead by example (e.g., demonstrate through action, remove barriers, lead on accessibility) 17%
Enforce accessibility and anti-discrimination requirements/laws 15%
Accommodate PWD in GoC workplaces 11%
Launch awareness campaign 11%
Prioritize hiring PWD in government 9%
Encourage the private sector to hire more PWD 8%
Update building codes 8%
Consult and work with PWD and disability rights organizations 7%
Other 4%

One of the most common suggestions was that government buildings, services and resources should be fully accessible. Many noted that while progress has been made over the years, quite a few barriers remain; some physical, others service-related:

Government can show leadership in improving accessibility by making all federal buildings 100% accessible to those with any number of "disabilities.”

– Anonymous.

Some cautioned that the barriers that people face can differ significantly depending on the nature of one’s disability. Thus, making something accessible to some, or even most people with a disability, does not equate accessibility to all.

In a similar vein, 23% of comments suggested that the Government support people with a disability through funding or programs (example: income support, housing). These and other actions, such as prioritizing the hiring of people with a disability in the federal public service, were seen by many as key to allowing the Government to effectively and credibly lead by example. Some, including federal public servants, noted that the Government needed to work harder to ensure that its workplaces are consistently accommodating workplaces and free of “discrimination” and “bullying.”

Another major theme running through the comments received online, as well as through the entire consultations, was a desire on the part of many to see the creation of legislation, something along the lines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or perhaps even a constitutional amendment:

Make a legally enforceable Canadians with Disabilities Act! With universal standards applying to all public spaces and all new residential construction (minimal visibility standards at least).

– Emily Silva

The hope is that such overarching and high-profile legislation would:

  • have the practical effect of removing more barriers, particularly where employment is concerned
  • provide national consistency and clarity to what many describe as a confusing patchwork quilt of current laws and regulations that make it difficult for people with disabilities to know their rights, let alone fight for them, and for employers, landlords and others to know their obligations, and
  • raise awareness across Canada (and around the world) and enhance the dignity of Persons with Disabilities

Question: Do you have examples of collaborative models that have led to the creation of shared expectations and sustained culture change within organizations in relation to accessibility?

This question received a total of 1,622 responses, with about half responding “No,” “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand the question.” Sub-group analysis reveals that it was much easier for representatives of an organization to provide examples than it was for others.

The examples that were provided were almost all unique. We also saw that while people identified or described worthy examples of “collaborative models,” very few commented on how these may have “led to the creation of shared expectations and sustained culture change within organizations in relation to accessibility.”

It is also worth noting that in quite a few instances, respondents limited their comments to identifying one or more of the organizations involved, as opposed to describing a model:

  • The Rick Hansen Foundation is working on accessibility in B.C. – Anonymous
  • Tim Horton’s – Anonymous
  • Neil Squire Society – Anonymous
  • Mount Royal University – Craig Baskett
  • The AODA Alliance and Barrier Free Canada have been strong supporters and sources of information on the needs of all Persons with Disabilities. I strongly support their initiatives and proposals. – Anonymous
Figure C: Do you have examples of collaborative models that have led to the creation of shared expectations and sustained culture change within organizations in relation to accessibility?
Figure C shows the results to the question: "Do you have examples of collaborative models that have led to the creation of shared expectations and sustained culture change within organizations in relation to accessibility?" The results follow the figure.

Text description of Figure C:

Responses %
Other 10%
I do not understand the question 3%
Examples of collaboration with PWD 3%
Examples of assistive technologies or removal of physical barriers 3%
Examples of public, private or NGO partnerships  4%
Examples of private sector organizations or programs 9%
Examples of non-governmental organisations or programs 14%
Examples of public sector organizations or programs 18%
No 36%

Categorizing the many diverse examples into a handful of categories was challenging. The most efficient and practical approach was to organize responses according to the main type of organization involved (example: public, private or voluntary sector). As shown in Figure C, descriptions of models developed or led by the public of voluntary sectors were most prevalent, followed by private-sector initiatives. Examples of each are provided below:

a) Public sector examples/models

The City of Calgary has an accessible housing website. This provides options for assisted living for people with disabilities. I would like to see this available in every city across Canada. In addition http://www.visitability.org/ offers a platform for houses that would be accessible for more people with limited mobility. As there are physical and legal changes made, people's attitudes are also likely to become more accepting which will lead to sustained cultural change. Education and awareness are key.

– Kirstin Gowda

[The province of] British Columbia has many examples of how "inclusion" works. Their "HomeShare" program and individualized funding allows people with disabilities to live in the community and be supported as unique individuals. It is an inclusive model that should be replicated to all provinces.

– Anonymous

b) Voluntary sector

Independent Living Canada and its individual chapters work alongside individuals and organizations, businesses and municipalities to educate and create lasting change for inclusive practices.

– Anonymous

c) Private sector examples/models

I live in Wellington West in Ottawa. They have developed a "stopgap" program similar to a "Stop the Gap" program in Toronto where local volunteers work with local businesses to build free ramps to help those with limited mobility access these local businesses. It's a great initiative.

– Anonymous

Mark Wafer, a Tim Hortons owner, is a leading example of how hiring those with disabilities can change a cultural perception. His commitment to value, and respect for those with different abilities, showcases companies and employers what works well. A truly remarkable story!

– Anonymous

I used to work for a Canadian bank which promoted accessibility because it was the right thing to do, it was profitable and because we wanted to follow international standards for digital accessibility (WCAG2). The AODA helped too. The USA has had the ADA and Section 508 for a long time. Canada needs some federal legislation.

– Anonymous

Public sessions

The 18 public sessions held across the country included a major focus on the question of how to raise awareness and change attitudes.

a) Raising public awareness through the education system

While education is not within federal jurisdiction, by far the most discussed idea was to raise awareness and improve attitudes through the education system; it was suggested in over half of the public sessions, most notably in Whitehorse and Halifax.

Overall, it was felt that the best way to foster understanding and acceptance was to educate both teachers and students about what life with a disability is like and what providing “accommodation” really means. Participants in the Whitehorse session felt that this focus on educating the Canadian public was the first step towards a fully inclusive society, saying “we need to educate [the] Canadian public so they understand why good environmental design can change lives.” There was also agreement that the discussion should begin at the earliest stages (for example early childhood education).

b) Raising awareness about workplace issues and among employers

Another idea, most popular at the Whitehorse, Halifax, Iqaluit and Ottawa sessions, was to promote awareness of the rights of Persons with Disabilities among Persons with Disabilities, including how to “fight” for their rights (example: in a situation where someone experiences employment or housing discrimination). Participants described knowledge gaps in Canadian society, among employers, as well as within the “disability community.” In response, attendees at the Thunder Bay and Charlottetown events called for efforts to raise employer awareness about the potential of people with disabilities in the workplace and their right to appropriate accommodations.

Session participants in both Toronto and Regina voiced concerns about the attitudinal barriers surrounding employment for those with intellectual disabilities. As part of this discussion, they stressed how important it was to “provide people with intellectual disabilities with opportunities for supportive employment so [that they] can have productive lives.” Public awareness campaigns were seen as a necessary part of any strategy to help address the issue, as “barriers for people with intellectual disabilities are attitudinal, example: employer who won’t hire someone, even though supportive employment can work.”

c) Other ways of raising awareness

Along with a focus on education and Canadian workplaces, many session participants felt that one of the best ways to generate awareness was to support campaigns that enabled Persons with Disabilities to tell their own stories and to ensure that Persons with Disabilities are well-represented in media and the arts. One member of the public at the Edmonton session pointed out that, “Paralympic coverage was only a tiny percentage of Olympic coverage on TV. Increasing the coverage of Paralympics would normalize disability issues.” Some also noted the importance of having more Persons with Disabilities serve the public, pointing to Tim Hortons in Canada and Walgreen’s in the U.S. as worthy examples.

In just under half of the sessions, attendees talked about the importance of shifting the way language is used as a way of changing attitudes. From public awareness campaigns to government forms, to the wording of the legislation itself, it was urged that there be a focus on accessibility and inclusivity instead of on “disability”: “Yukon disability forms require applicants to keep emphasizing and confirming their dis-abilities, what they can’t do, what isolates them, as opposed to their abilities.” Participants in the Thunder Bay session reminded us that:

Wording used in legislation name [sic] can have important connotations. For example, Manitoba’s proposed legislation called “Accessibility for Manitobans Act.” Suggest calling [the] federal legislation “Federal Accessibility and Inclusion Act.”

In four different sessions, attendees pushed for the idea of normalizing interactions with Persons with Disabilities, not limiting the focus to traditional aspects such as accessible washrooms and sidewalks. As attendees from Whitehorse pointed out, the overall thrust of the conversation is already beginning to shift from the accommodation of disability to that of accessibility for all and full participation:

An accessible Canada is coming up in the new generation. One example is that children today show a greater willingness […] to include children living with a disability. Don’t just grudgingly include people, or have it mandated. It is important that the government shows enthusiasm in making our institutions more accessible. This social leadership creates a fertile ground for change.

Participants in Thunder Bay, Vancouver and Toronto highlighted a need for a public awareness campaign regarding the proper treatment of service animals, in part because currently, policies and procedures can vary widely:

Make it clear that Persons with Disabilities have a right to have service animals with them in schools and the workplace. Persons with Disabilities should not have to debate this right. It’s like debating whether or not you can use your wheelchair.

There were a number of other suggestions for raising awareness that were noted in only a few sessions:

  • Participants in both Halifax and Iqaluit stressed the need to see more Persons with Disabilities in leadership roles and prominent positions in order to promote normalization and inclusiveness. As those in Halifax said:

Blindness and visual disabilities are something people need to see every day. Persons with Disabilities should be put in leadership roles in order to increase more awareness of the value they bring. More deaf people with skills are needed at high levels and in education to break barriers.

  • Participants in Victoria called for a continuing consultation process to take place using a variety of platforms, including using social media, to reach Canadians across the country.
  • Whitehorse attendees suggested leveraging existing awareness and promotional campaigns, and to think big (example: ParticipAction-type campaign).

d) The Government’s Leadership Role

To the question of how the Government of Canada could show leadership, there was broad consensus around the need to improve communication and harmonization between various levels of government, regulatory bodies, external organizations and the general public.

In all of the public sessions, participants spoke about the lack of standardization from province to province, and inconsistencies in regulations, services and funding: “People experience a lot of anxiety because they have to shop around for better policies and services across Canada, [as] time from diagnosis to receiving therapies varies significantly across Canada.” As some participants in Regina pointed out, access to government services was also inconsistent: “… accommodations for people using mobility or communication devices are not in place in most public institutions and government services.” Those in Toronto added that, “immediate access to an ASL interpreter is necessary for persons who are deaf to be able to access services and to work. Governments have failed to provide adequate access in spite of UN CRPD [United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities].”

Attendees at over half of the public sessions indicated that they expected the Government to lead the way for private industry through their own policies for procurement, hiring practices, benefits coverage and employee training. For example, participants in Regina suggested the Government should strive to create equity in employment for Persons with Disabilities through “legislation, policies and incentives … [and] affirmative hiring in federal government departments and agencies, [and through] wage subsidies.”

In addition to providing benefits coverage for assistive technologies for its own employees, almost half of the public sessions called on the Government to help ensure affordable access to assistive technologies for all Persons with Disabilities. Attendees in Calgary suggested that this could be achieved by allowing “greater tax write-offs for technology (example: tablet computer) used as an assistive device.” Those in Toronto proposed that the Government lead by showing other levels of government how to promote accessibility through procurement policies: “Assistive technology is another area that can be considered in federal government procurement and in using federal spending power to influence how other levels of government make purchases. The systems that businesses buy (example: content management; customer-facing) should take accessibility into account so that Persons with Disabilities can interact with forms, etc. Persons with Disabilities should be involved in evaluating these types of technologies.”

Participants in a third of the public sessions, including those in Whitehorse, Regina, Halifax, Montréal, Victoria and Toronto, suggested tying all government funding to accessibility requirements in order to “influence provinces and have an impact on improving accessibility under areas of provincial jurisdiction by leveraging [their] power as [a] funder of investments and programs…”

There were also a number of other ideas for how the Government could show leadership that received support in the sessions in which they were raised. These included:

  • calls on the federal government to sign the optional protocol of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) to set a standard of universality and inclusivity for Canadians
  • funding grassroots campaigns, which some felt had been gaining traction;
  • funding accessible sports and recreational activities at least proportionally to other government funding, and
  • calls on governments to appoint accessibility champions in key organizations and hire Persons with Disabilities as specialists in understanding barriers to access or to conduct accessibility audits. “Hire people with disabilities, who understand the barriers, to help provide information and services to others.”

National Youth Forum

a) Raising awareness through education

Much like those who attended the public sessions, the National Youth Forum participants in Ottawa also encouraged a focus on using the education system to raise public awareness and “reframe” the public discourse from “disability” to one around access and participation.

b) Raising awareness in the workplace and among employers

Their next most prominent suggestion focused on employment. Specifically, that the Government should lead by example, as well as pass legislation that would help to normalize the presence of Persons with Disabilities across all sectors of the economy, including the private sector. It was also suggested that Persons with Disabilities need to be made more aware of their rights and how to get them respected.

A number of specific recommendations came out of the Youth Forum, including:

  • focus on invisible disabilities – provide training to service providers around invisible disabilities; educate teachers at all levels about disabilities, including invisible disabilities, and about providing appropriate learning supports and accommodation
  • raising awareness – transition to a rights-based system – change focus from meeting the basic needs to raising the quality of life/participation;
  • importance of intersectional identities (example: disability interacting with age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.)
  • service training for public service workers
  • ensure people with disabilities are well represented in media – create a positive representation/role-models, and
  • create information hub for employers interested in learning about accessibility/disability issues

c) The government’s leadership role

National Youth Forum attendees also called on the Government to show leadership by standardizing programs and services across the country, funding popular regional initiatives and serving as the model for accessibility policy. They also wanted to see “the development of co-op programs for students in federal organizations and federally controlled enterprises,” noting the lack of such opportunities elsewhere in the labour market.

Thematic roundtables

a) Raising awareness through the education system

Each of the nine roundtables held across the country addressed a specific policy area but participants also raised a number of broader issues. These broader discussions produced consensus in seven of nine sessions. Participants indicated that the best way to significantly and permanently improve societal attitudes was to focus on public education. In the words of an Ottawa participant: “The long-term goal is to create conversations in elementary schools to shift attitudes about people with disabilities in the workforce. Children will grow up informed and accepting of people with disabilities.”

b) Other approaches for raising awareness

Though awareness-raising through education was by far the most prominently discussed approach, there were a number of other popular suggestions raised at multiple roundtable discussions, such as:

  • The need to shift public sentiment away from viewing the accommodation of Persons with Disabilities as something exceptional or outside of the norm, towards automatic openness and “inclusive thinking.”
  • Enhancing the effectiveness and reach of public awareness campaigns by using a wide range of platforms, engaging with multiple groups and communities, and developing tailored messaging (example: separate messages for children, people with disabilities, community leaders, businesses, labour unions and media). In short, recognizing and responding to the diversity of audiences, and learning from them (example: the family values and inclusiveness of Indigenous communities).
  • Heavily involving Persons with Disabilities in the development of awareness building strategies and campaigns.
  • Developing the talents and leadership skills of young people with disabilities will lead to greater inclusion and visibility, leading to attitude changes and awareness among the broader public. For example, if young people with disabilities are encouraged to become artists, journalists and actors, they will have a more visible place in the media and this increased visibility will result in a shift in attitudes and perceptions.
  • Thinking boldly and long-term: “A combination of a grassroots and broad, bold awareness campaign (example: ParticipAction) to create social transformation. This requires a 10-year horizon to shift the way people think.” Another example was a high-profile and unequivocal statement from the Prime Minister and Premiers in support of an accessible Canada.
  • Measuring success (example: through baseline and longitudinal measures of Canadian attitudes towards accessibility and Persons with Disabilities).
  • The need to raise awareness among Persons with Disabilities about their own rights and avenues for redress.
  • A one-off national awareness campaign would not be the most effective approach. Instead, a targeted, incremental approach could have greatest impact, using social media and a crafted, clear message developed in collaboration with people with disabilities and each target audience.
  • Culture change requires an action-oriented strategy – moving away from hero stories and inspirational viewpoints of Persons with Disabilities and instead creating sustainable, embedded change in messages, policies and practices.
  • Reinstate National Access Awareness/Action Week across the country to celebrate accomplishments, reinforce messages and make the business case for accessibility and inclusion.
  • Identify champions of change to move the legislation forward – at all levels (senior and community).

c) The Government’s leadership role

There was an almost unanimous call for the Government to improve communication between jurisdictions at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels and to promote and facilitate the development of a unified accessibility policy framework. In support of this suggestion, Montréal and Winnipeg participants noted that it was not unusual for policies set at various levels of government to conflict, resulting in confusion, consternation and hardship, such as “the time [lag between when] EI sickness ends and Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) begins.”

Most of the invitation roundtable discussions led to calls for tying federal funding to the meeting of accessibility standards. Not only was this seen as a method to expand the potential reach of any legislation to any federally funded private enterprises, but as a way of influencing provincial and municipal levels of government: “Use both government procurement and government spending power to influence implementation by other levels of government.”

Five of the roundtable discussions recommended that government become a role model for all other Canadian employers (example: procurement policies, hiring practices, assistive technologies, benefits coverage, employee training), as well as a model for all other service providers.

Participants in Montréal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto all recommended the Government show leadership by drawing heavily on the experiences and expertize of Persons with Disabilities at the decision-making level, particularly where accessibility legislation, policies and programs are concerned.

Collectively, a number of roundtables suggested that the Government create a powerful, well-resourced, independent and non-political office, body or commission to monitor and report on progress and compliance with accessibility legislation at a pan-Canadian level. Also, that such a body or office should be well-aligned with Article 33 of the UN CRPD, and ensure a large role for Persons with Disabilities in its creation and operation.

Providing funding for community-level projects designed to break down barriers was another popular recommendation for how the Government could show leadership. Similarly, the appointment of department accessibility champions was an idea promoted by attendees in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Moncton.

d) Identification of collaborative models

In terms of collaborative models for culture change, none of the suggestions were common to more than one roundtable discussion. The following are examples of models identified by participants:

  • The St. John’s roundtable discussion spoke of how Telus worked with stakeholders and consultants to develop accessibility standards, audit the compliance of their existing products and services, report on the audit findings and then act on them. It was suggested that the development of standards across most industries would likely benefit from the same approach.
  • Participants in Moncton suggested an approach whereby organizations appoint internal champions or ambassadors with disabilities to serve as advisors. They indicated that Rogers Communications has been successful in doing this.
  • “Marine Atlantic has had a positive experience consulting with and involving their own employees who have disabilities in training and sensitivity training. While from the legal perspective, this can sound like a soft obligation, it can help achieve results.”

Stakeholder submissions

a) Raising awareness through education

Consistent with the views of others who participated in the Consultations, the most popular suggestion for promoting awareness was through the education system. It was felt that the education system provided both an avenue for lasting cultural change and opportunities to reduce the social isolation experienced by Persons with Disabilities. Barrier Free Canada illustrated both points with this example: “Deaf children in Manitoba are often isolated when they are put into the regular classrooms in regular schools. It would be important for the whole school to have the option of learning ASL so that they will have sign language to be able to communicate with the Deaf student(s).”

b) Other approaches for raising awareness

Another common recommendation was to launch sustained social awareness campaigns using traditional as well as new media to educate and inform the public about the benefits of a fully accessible Canada. For example, Vecova urged that a “social campaign be created and ongoing to educate and inform [Canadians] about what the legislation means, how it can be applied and the impact for citizens.”

A number of submissions called for mass media campaigns designed to teach the public about “invisible” disabilities, and how accessibility and inclusiveness could help alleviate the social isolation caused by them.

The Every Canadian Counts Coalition suggested having high-profile events: “The Minister and the Prime Minister to meet publicly with a range of people with disabilities and their caregivers to discuss their concerns and the options the Government is considering.”

c) The Government’s leadership role

A range of organizations, including the Every Canadian Counts Coalition, several other advocacy groups and labour organizations such as UNIFOR and the United Steel Workers, called on the Government to show leadership by tying federal funding, granting and procurement to the meeting of accessibility requirements. According to UNIFOR: “Requiring that entities wishing to engage in business with the federal government build barrier-free accessibility into proposed projects, services and into their corporate culture would further evidence the Government’s desire to be a leader in transformation.“

Several organizations called for the Government to lead by example by nominating accessibility champions in key organizations and to hold periodic reviews of the legislation with stakeholder input.

Stakeholders representing different government institutions and bodies, such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), called for the federal government to publicly recognize and support grassroots and community success stories. In the words of FCM: “Municipalities already play a crucial role in delivering accessible services at the community level. These front-line efforts should be recognized and supported by the legislative and programmatic efforts from other orders of government.”

Stakeholders advocating on behalf of industry did not directly address methods for raising awareness, but many stated that they would be preparing more in-depth responses to several issues following the planned consultations with government stakeholders in summer 2017.

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