Promising practices within the Government of Canada - Accessibility strategy for the Public Service of Canada

Government of Canada departments and agencies have already taken steps to improve accessibility in employment practices. Examples of promising practices are outlined below as they relate to each of the strategy’s five goals. A more comprehensive inventory of promising practices will be included in the online accessibility hub that will be developed.

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Goal 1: Improve recruitment, retention and promotion of persons with disabilities

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have established a Workplace Wellness Service Centre that provides services related to disability management, duty to accommodate, and occupational health and safety services. Establishing the Centre has involved:

  • a fundamental change in approach to a “yes” approach and priority processing to solutions for accommodations for persons with disabilities
  • a national call centre that serves as a single point of entry for services to managers and employees that focuses on client-centred services
  • a coordinated services approach that integrates, aligns and simplifies processes between corporate service providers

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has created a Health Accommodation Office to:

  • help facilitate the workplace adjustment process
  • ensure fair and consistent access to necessary workplace supports and services

In addition, it has implemented a new fund that offers financial support to managers when purchasing eligible work-related ergonomic and adaptive equipment and services.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The Maritime Region Strategic Onboarding Program of Fisheries and Oceans Canada highlights the importance of a human connection when onboarding new employees and supporting their managers. Once a letter of offer is issued, the onboarding team meets with the hiring manager to initiate the onboarding process to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities, including accommodations, to make sure that employees have all the tools and equipment they need on their first day.

The program is already demonstrating positive results. As an example, last year 100% of new employees indicated that they were aware of the duty to accommodate policy, compared with 50% the previous year. Although this initiative was designed for all public servants and not employees with disabilities in particular, employees with disabilities stand to benefit disproportionally from the focused attention to their needs during the onboarding process.

Quebec Federal Council

In October 2018, the Quebec Federal Council’s Innovation Lab held a one-day design thinking workshop to address challenges in attracting, recruiting and retaining persons with disabilities as federal employees. The workshop brought together:

  • employees with disabilities who had experienced the hiring process and had careers in the public service
  • experts from banks, non-governmental organizations and Crown corporations

Nearly 90% of the workshop participants identified as having a disability. Using an innovative role-playing technique designed to put users’ experiences at the centre of solutions, participants identified the need to:

  • reduce harmful attitudes and increase social inclusion within organizations
  • enhance the adjustments process

Solutions proposed involved:

  • offering additional training to managers
  • developing a centralized fund for adjustments rather than relying on operating budgets
  • having adjustments follow employees throughout their careers

The need for specialized recruitment processes was also identified.

Goal 2: Enhance the accessibility of the built environment

Department of Justice Canada

In consultation with an advisory committee on persons with disabilities, the Department of Justice Canada developed a Disabilities Considerations Checklist that lists 25 items to consider to make the physical workspace more accessible for all, such as signage, the size of rooms and colour schemes.

Shared Services Canada

Shared Services Canada’s Human Resources and Accommodations sought feedback from employees with disabilities on accessibility of its new Skyline GC Workplace Hub facility.

Public Services and Procurement Canada

PSPC is rehabilitating the Parliamentary Precinct. In doing so, it intends to be a model in the development of accessible environments, making the site and buildings more accessible, family-friendly and open to the public. Among the accomplishments to date are:

  • a new, fully accessible Visitor Welcome Centre, which offers visitors an improved and barrier-free gateway to the Parliament buildings
  • the rehabilitation of five buildings, including improved accessibility features in the chambers, public galleries, offices, meetings places, washrooms and corridors

Public Health Agency of Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada is making the workplace more accessible and inclusive, one meeting space at a time. The Accessible and Inclusive Meeting Spaces project is a collaborative initiative between the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Persons with Disabilities Network to enhance meetings for all employees.

During the first phase of the project, a boardroom at the department’s Carling Avenue location in Ottawa will be equipped with:

  • dimmable and indirect lighting to accommodate people with light sensitivities
  • audio-visual links for assistive technologies for people with hearing and vision impairments
  • way-finding
  • height-adjustable tables
  • many other features to make the space accessible and inclusive to all employees

Key partners include:

  • Health Canada’s Corporate Services Branch
  • Shared Services Canada’s Accessibility, Accommodations and Adaptive Computer Technology Program

The agency’s employees have been engaged in this project from the beginning and are excited about the new space. Feedback and lessons learned will inform future phases of the project and potential scale-up across government.

Goal 3: Make information and communications technology usable by all

Canada Revenue Agency

The Canada Revenue Agency has set up an Accessibility Centre of Excellence for internal IT systems, which:

  • serves as the single entry point for all resources related to the accessibility internal IT systems
  • provides services such as auditing existing systems for compliance, testing new systems, and assisting in accessibility training plans for employees

Employment and Social Development Canada

Employment and Social Development Canada, in preparation for the Accessible Canada Act, established the Information Technology Accessibility Unit in October 2017. The unit developed an information technology accessibility strategy for the department that focuses on:

  • education, outreach and communications
  • accessibility governance and accountability
  • accessible procurement
  • compliance and assessment
  • accessibility standards and guidelines
  • enhancing service delivery to employees with disabilities

Goal 4: Equip public servants to design and deliver accessible programs and services

Canadian Transportation Agency

Part of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s mandate is to protect the right of persons with disabilities to an accessible federal transportation network. Among the ways it has helped improve service to persons with disabilities are:

The committee and its working group help the Agency develop regulations, codes of practice and industry guidelines on accessibility.

Elections Canada

Elections Canada works with an Advisory Group for Disability Issues to:

Prior to an election, returning officers in each electoral district review all polling places across the country against a checklist of 37 accessibility criteria, 15 of which are mandatory.

During an election, the voter information card and online Voter Information Service indicate the accessibility of polling places so that electors can arrange for a Transfer Certificate if a site does not meet their needs.

There are also many tools and services for persons with disabilities at the polls, including:

  • magnifiers
  • sign language interpretation (on request)
  • lists of candidates in braille
  • tactile/braille voting templates

Canada Revenue Agency

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has a Disability Advisory Committee, which provides advice to the Minister of National Revenue and the Commissioner of the CRA on:

  • the administration and interpretation of the laws and programs related to disability tax measures
  • ways in which the needs and expectations of the disability community can be better taken into consideration
  • increasing the awareness and take-up of measures for people living with disabilities
  • how to better inform people living with disabilities and various stakeholders about tax measures and important administrative changes
  • current administrative practices and how to enhance the quality of services for people living with disabilities

CRA will further improve the accessibility of its services by:

  • developing standardized, integrated tools and methodologies for understanding CRA’s clients and their interactions with the organization at a horizontal level
  • building internal design thinking capabilities to better meet client needs and expectations, and tackle pain points and areas for improvement
  • launching public consultations with Canadians to better understand their needs, improve their relationship with the CRA, and identify areas for improvement
  • strengthening CRA’s internal culture by soliciting employee feedback through in-person and online engagement sessions (underway)

Employment and Social Development Canada

ESDC has incorporated accessibility and inclusivity-by-design principles into its in-person service delivery at the Ontario Region’s Toronto North York Service Canada Centre.

The centre serves as a flagship for future Service Canada centres. Developed through engagement with persons with disabilities, it boasts cutting-edge, hi-tech features such as:

  • tactile maps and flooring to provide navigational assistance for all clients, including those with visual impairment
  • access stations with height-adjustable desks so clients can sit or stand
  • roving Citizen Services Officers equipped with radio headsets and tablets to proactively triage clients when there is a line-up
  • software that reads material on computer screens out loud

Goal 5: Build an accessibility-confident public service

Public Services and Procurement Canada

Since the introduction of the Accessible Canada Act, PSPC has taken many steps toward changing its culture regarding accessibility. As a common services provider for the Government of Canada, improvements to accessibility will have widespread effects on the government as a whole and to the Canadians that the department serves.

PSPC took initial steps in June 2018 by holding a departmental workshop to discuss innovative ideas for accessibility that could be developed. Fifty-five accessibility initiatives have since been planned or are in various stages of implementation.

In September 2018, PSPC created an Accessibility Office to oversee PSPC’s efforts to strengthen accessibility and make the department more accessible and inclusive. The Accessibility Office provides focused leadership and strategic coordination across the department to ensure that the PSPC’s facilities are designed to be accessible and inclusive for people of all abilities. The Accessibility Office has conducted many engagement and consultation activities that are helping to build an inclusive culture in the department. Some its activities to date are:

  • creating the Deputy Minister’s Employee Advisory Committee on Accessibility
  • holding engagement sessions with employees across the country, including presentations to branch and regional management teams
  • hosting the International Day of Persons with Disabilities showcase event at the Canadian War Museum on December 3, 2018, and coordinating the delivery of the #PurpleLightUp campaign at Government of Canada buildings
  • implementing a communications strategy, including an online presence, to raise awareness and promote a culture change around accessibility in the department

PSPC is also drafting its first Accessibility Plan, expected to be published in 2019. This plan, created in consultation with persons with disabilities, will highlight the department’s plans and priorities for making its programs and services accessible to persons with disabilities. The plan will pave the way for further strides toward removing barriers to full participation of employees and clients.

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