Culture: Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada 

Building an accessibility-confident public service

Where we are

Accessibility-confident organizations “manage disability as a business priority related to customer experience, talent, productivity, innovation, new product development, brand reputation and investment in human potential.” (Source: Business Disability International)

Current state

Accessibility is generally not integrated into the everyday business of the public service:

  • it is often treated as an afterthought
  • although there are some accessibility initiatives across departments and across functions, these are often siloed
  • there is no governance to link initiatives together strategically, and there are few mechanisms for departments and employees to share best practices
  • in the consultation for developing this strategy, respondents noted a need for a centre of expertise on accessibility

“I think one of the keys that needs to be really highlighted is the fact that inclusion has to be thought of on the front end as opposed to being thought of on the back end.”

Participant in Toronto town hall (March 2019)

Desired state

Public servants understand what accessibility means and why it matters, and have the resources to make the public service a more accessible and inclusive employer and service provider.

What we are doing

Develop an accessibility hub

An online accessibility hub is being created that will serve as a source for guidance, tools, tips and best practices for departments and agencies. It will be linked to the Centre for Wellness, Inclusion and Diversity, which seeks to support leaders in renewing and transforming the public service into a healthier, more inclusive and diverse workplace.

Embed accessibility into training

In 2018, the Canada School of Public Service launched the Digital Academy to ensure that Canada’s world-class public service is prepared for the digital age. The curriculum covers accessibility, among other topics.

“There has been a lot of progress in terms of accessibility...but at the level of mentalities, I think there is still a lot of education to do.” (translation)

Participant in Montréal town hall (January 2019)

What each department and agency can do now

  • Identify an executive lead to coordinate the organization’s overall accessibility strategy.
  • Develop and maintain a vibrant network of employees with disabilities.
  • Ensure that concerns from employees with disabilities can be provided confidentially.
  • Where appropriate, develop and maintain an external advisory committee that can provide advice on the accessibility of the department’s or agency’s programs and services.
  • Develop an accessibility roadmap (diagnostic of barriers in all seven areas covered by Bill C-81) in preparation for Bill C-81’s requirement to have accessibility plans.
  • Share best practices with OPSA and other organizations.

Where we want to be

What we will do next

  • Continue to embed accessibility into the design and delivery of the curriculum of the Canada School of Public Service and in all training and tools for all functional communities.
  • Review existing Treasury Board policies with an accessibility lens and embed accessibility into guidance provided by TBS policy centres.
  • Develop tools and training to focus on developing inclusive and accessible environments from the start rather than seeking accommodations after the fact.
  • Develop training and awareness-raising events through the Canada School of Public Service and the Federal Speakers’ Bureau on Healthy Workplaces, among other venues, to combat myths and remove stigma regarding disability.
  • Promote self-identification and self-declaration of employees with disabilities in order to reduce the stigma regarding disability and to improve reporting on the state of persons with disabilities in the public service.
  • Help small departments and agencies establish a common advisory committee of persons with disabilities.
  • Strengthen networks of employees with disabilities.

“I do think culture is the biggest piece of it. I think the awareness…is very low in the public service. So I think awareness and training is really needed. And I think a lot of people don’t understand that diversity and inclusion are not the same things. They think that we hit our numbers and we’re inclusive, and there’s nothing worse than hitting your numbers and treating those people terribly, and then…they don’t want to stay.”

Participant in Halifax town hall (March 2019)

Where we expect to be in 2021

  • All departments will have the internal governance and capacity to meet or exceed the requirements of the proposed Accessible Canada Act, including any associated regulations.
  • Communication and coordination between departments will be improved through the development of communities of practice and networks at various organizational levels, and a large number of best practices and accessibility initiatives will have been shared on a common, accessible platform.
  • All departments will have named champions and chairs for employees with disabilities who will provide visible and sustained leadership and help maintain a vibrant network of employees with disabilities.
  • A number of specialized training sessions and learning resources that target various communities within organizations will have been developed through the Canada School of Public Service, and ongoing feedback and evaluation of the training will be sought.
  • Numerous awareness-raising events will have been delivered by the Canada School of Public Service and the Federal Speakers’ Bureau on Healthy Workplaces, among other venues, to combat myths and remove stigma regarding disability.
  • All of these initiatives, in conjunction with the actions identified in the Safe Workspaces report and the Federal Public Service Workplace Mental Health Strategy, should lead to a decrease in reported rates of harassment and discrimination among employees with disabilities.
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