Transcript - My Accessible GC - Episode 2
(0:00-0:09) Screen Description: The screen reads: My Accessible GC (English) followed by Mon GC Accessible (French). On the right-hand side of the text, there is a circular logo of three stick figures, colored pink, blue and green with a black maple leaf in the centre. Surrounding the text are images of persons with physical and invisible disabilities. The background is image-gradient following the pink, blue and green colour scheme, which is associated with accessibility initiatives in the federal public service.
(0:09) Screen Description: Deputy Minister Yazmine Laroche is sitting on the right-hand side of the screen with Graham Spero (Public Health Agency of Canada) on the left side of the screen in an interview style set-up.
(0:07-0:50) Yazmine Laroche: Hi everyone and welcome to episode 2 of My Accessible GC video series. I'm really thrilled that today I'm joined by Graham Spero who's a Junior Program Officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada and Graham is one of the most committed co-chairs of the Persons with Disabilities Champions and Chairs Committee, a great contributor. We're here today to talk about an amazing initiative that the agency has launched and it's all about accessible and inclusive meeting spaces. It's a super cool project, and I think we have a lot to learn from it. So Graham why don't I ask you a little bit, how did this all come about? How did the accessible and inclusive meeting spaces initiative start?
(0:50-1:24) Graham Spero: First of all, Yasmin thank you for having me, the accessible and inclusive meeting spaces initiative came to be because persons with disabilities we have a duty to accommodate them in the public service at their workstation; but the duty to accommodate wasn't going beyond the cubicle and into the boardroom. We needed to create an accessible and inclusive meeting space so that people persons with disabilities would be able to work to the best of their ability no matter where they're working, be it at the cubicle or in the meeting space. So it was really to remove barriers for everyone regardless of one's ability.
(1:24-1:31) Yazmine Laroche: So, tell me a little bit about that pilot project then, what how did it roll out and where are you at with it now?
(1:31-2:10) Graham Spero: For sure, so we actually just launched our first pilot accessible and inclusive meeting space at the Public Health Agency and that incorporates a lot of different accessibility features from accessible lighting to wayfinding technologies to even a tactile map. So the list really goes on, but we were trying to go above and beyond building code standards because accessibility it's not just wheelchair ramps and automatic door openers, it includes cognitive disabilities, cultural sensitivities, and social diversity as well. I mean the list really goes on, we wanted to make a meeting space that is inclusive and accessible to everyone regardless of who they may be.
(2:10-2:18) Yazmine Laroche: I think you might have brought a tactile map with you, is that something you might be willing to share and maybe show the camera?
(2:15-2:18) Screen Description: Graham Spero reaches next to him to retrieve an example of a tactile map.
(2:18-2:28) Graham Spero: For sure, so this is a prototype tactile map that would allow someone to… say you can't see a map you can at least feel it.
(2:28) Screen Description: Close up of the tactile map showing the raised markings that outline how a space is laid out.
(2:28-2:36) Graham Spero: And this is something we created in collaboration with the University of Ottawa to allow people with vision impairments to feel their way around.
(2:36) Screen Description: Video returns to interview style set-up with Yazmine Laroche and Graham Spero.
(2:36-2:42) Graham Spero: This is a very early prototype we're working on this to enhance it and make things more accessible for all.
(2:42-3:02) Yazmine Laroche: That's fantastic. Now that's a big range of disability inclusion and so I'm just wondering, I know you guys are really keen on the whole concept of Nothing Without Us. So can you talk a little bit about how did you actually engage people with disabilities as you went through designing this project?
(3:02-3:40) Graham Spero: For sure. So I was hired through the employment opportunity for students with disabilities, great program, and I was bridged indeterminately through it. I am a partial hand amputee by birth or someone with a limb difference and so we wanted to take that Nothing About Us Without Us approach so that lived experience would inform our work at the Public Health Agency, but we also had to engage persons with disabilities throughout the agency and externally as well to ensure that we included everyone. So we allowed people that call us, to email us, to visit us in person. We really opened up the lines of communication so that everyone had an accessible way of providing their feedback so that we can ensure that we did this right for them.
(3:40-3:44) Yazmine Laroche: So now that you've launched the pilot project, what are the results?
(3:44-4:10) Graham Spero: Well now we're under the evaluation, so you can't make universal accessibility. It's a pretty big goal to achieve. It's hard to meet everyone's needs in one common space but what we're doing now is working with persons with disabilities to really identify what we did right, but most importantly what we did wrong so that we can enhance accessibility going forward and make the built environment more accessible at the Public Health Agency.
(4:10-4:29) Yazmine Laroche: I'd really like to get your views on that. So you've already you've gone through this pilot project around the built environment. What advice would you have for other organizations because you know a lot of departments are starting to figure out how are they going to become more disability inclusive and accessible. What kind of advice would you give them, as they start this journey?
(4:29-5:06) Graham Spero: Yeah, I would say make it accessible from the get go accessible by default because to build up a building that isn't accessible, to change that, it's going to cost twice as much if you do it later on. So make things accessible and begin that early engagement of persons with disabilities right from day one on any project. And know that accessibility is not just accessibility standards within the building code it goes well beyond that. So involving persons with disabilities is crucial. It's crucial to ensure that anything we do with regards to accessibility is done right for persons with disabilities.
(5:06-5:15) Yazmine Laroche: As someone living with a disability in the Canadian public service, can you tell me a little bit about your own experience and how has that been for you?
(5:15-5:51) Graham Spero: For sure, my own experience as someone with a limb difference, I don't use workplace accommodations, I use accommodations in sports using prosthetic devices to allow me to play different activities. But in the public service and in the workplace in general persons with disabilities need accommodations much like the ones I might use in sports. So, it's important to consider the different approaches to accommodating everybody and everybody has a different way of doing things. So that's kind of been my experience, my personal experience and how it translates to the work that we do in the public service.
(5:51-6:10) Yazmine Laroche: Well that's so great, Graham and I'm delighted that you were able to join us today and share a little bit about this great experience. So everybody, thanks so much for tuning in and stay tuned because we'll be having lots more of these My Accessible GC videos. And thanks for watching. Thanks Graham.
(6:09-6:10) Graham Spero: Thanks so much.
(6:10-6:19) Screen Description: The screen reads: My Accessible GC (English) followed by Mon GC Accessible (French). On the right-hand side of the text, there is a circular logo of three stick figures, colored pink, blue and green with a black maple leaf in the centre. Surrounding the text are images of persons with physical and invisible disabilities. The images are gradient-coloured following the pink, blue and green colour scheme, which is associated with accessibility initiatives in the federal public service. Image fades away with a black background that emerges with the Government of Canada logo in white appearing in the centre.