Scan of other jurisdictions : Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada

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  • Ontario, Nova Scotia and Manitoba have enacted statutes that define accessibility standards for all businesses and institutions.
  • Quebec has passed a statute governing the obligations of organizations, Crown corporations and municipalities with respect to services for persons with disabilities.
  • British Columbia is working on adopting an accessibility statute.
  • Several provinces have developed strategies and action plans on accessibility and inclusion specifically designed for their public services.


Representation rate

The representation rate of employees with disabilities in the public service varies significantly across Canada’s provincial and territorial governments.

  • In Ontario, 12.1% of employees self-identify as having a disability.
  • A number of provinces and territories survey their employees to monitor satisfaction. These surveys ask about employees’ disability status, which makes it possible to identify the differences between the responses of employees who self-identify as having a disability and those who do not.

Recruitment of youth and students with disabilities

  • Ontario has introduced internship and summer experience programs intended for youth and students with disabilities.
  • British Columbia:
    • has created a 12-month paid internship program for recent graduates with disabilities
    • offers specialized services for students who require support in making the school-to-work transition
  • Prince Edward Island has created partnerships between organizations that are dedicated to promoting employment in order to facilitate the placement of young persons with disabilities in summer jobs within the public service.

General recruitment

  • Manitoba includes employment equity in its selection criteria and holds competitions that are preferentially dedicated to priority employment groups.
  • Prince Edward Island encourages persons who wish to apply for a public service position to self-identify as having a disability, thereby:
    • placing them in a recruitment pool dedicated to enhancing diversity
    • making them eligible for special mentoring and counselling services

Service delivery

Ontario measures its citizens’ satisfaction with government services through a survey conducted every four years. However, the sample of persons with a disability has been low, so a survey devoted to them is now being developed.

ServiceOntario has an online tool that lists accessibility-related features of each of its offices so that citizens can plan their visits according to their needs.

The Government of Manitoba has implemented a mechanism that allows citizens to give their opinion on services, particularly in terms of their accessibility.

Built environment accessibility

In Ontario and Manitoba, accessibility legislation has been designed to surpass the provisions on accessibility found in building codes in defining accessibility standards for all public places such as parks, trails and sidewalks.

  • In Ontario, 76% of provincial parks have been modified to remove barriers to persons with disabilities.
  • Prince Edward Island is working to improve the accessibility of social housing funded by the province.

Accessibility culture within the public service

Ontario has created a Legislative Review Tool to help identify and prevent barriers to accessibility when laws and regulations are being drafted. Workshops have been developed for administrators on the themes of inclusion and accessibility.

Manitoba has created a series of mandatory courses for employees, human resources officers and administrators.

Prince Edward Island holds awareness and education sessions for its employees to inform them of best practices when interacting with colleagues with disabilities.

Information and communications technologies

There are many government initiatives across the country to raise accessibility standards for government websites and intranet tools intended for employees that are aligned with international standards such as WCAG 2.0 and 2.1.

International initiatives in support of public service accessibility

Many countries have established measures to actively encourage the hiring of persons with disabilities in the public and private sectors. It is usually possible to distinguish two principal families of policies.

In many European countries such as France, Germany and Italy, and in a number of countries in Asia such as Japan, China, Thailand and South Korea, the hiring of persons with a disability is mandated in the form of quotas that are sometimes accompanied by financial incentives. If a target is not reached, it is often possible to pay a fine or to contribute to a special fund. Some businesses opt for that option rather than address accessibility issues.

Other countries, including Australia, the United States, New Zealand, several northern European countries and the United Kingdom, have adopted employment equity legislation. The idea is to:

  • make any kind of discrimination on the basis of disability illegal in recruitment, promotion and dismissal
  • promote equal opportunity in the workplace

In a number of these jurisdictions, an employee who feels aggrieved can sue the employer.

Accessibility plans for public services

As a major employer in most countries, governments are in a good position to:

  • lead by example
  • establish ambitious initiatives for enhancing the employability of persons with disabilities in the public service

Following are examples of countries that have implemented a public service accessibility strategy.

The government of the United Kingdom has set itself the objective of becoming the most inclusive employer in the country by 2020.

  • Every department is encouraged to develop its own employability plan, factoring in its location and the socio-demographic characteristics of its environment.
  • Because employees with disabilities are concentrated in more junior positions, special emphasis is placed on the senior civil service, where rates of representation remain three times lower than in the wider working population.
  • By compiling all departmental plans, the government aims to ensure that 11.3% of all new employees are persons with a disability in 2025 (the current percentage is 3.3%).

Australia has adopted the “As One” policy for its federal public service.

  • Within their operational budgets, departments are encouraged to adopt flexible work arrangements and incorporate diversity promotion into all documents related to human resources.
  • Departments must incorporate inclusion indices into their annual performance report.
  • To facilitate access to the public service for persons with a disability, a new, more accessible career-management tool has been developed for applying for positions within the public service.
  • The guaranteed-job-interview principle has been put in place, ensuring that all applicants meeting the minimum skill level are considered.
  • The RecruitAbility program goes further by eliminating steps in hiring or promoting of employees with a disability, while continuing to adhere to merit-based allocation of positions.
  • A number of Australian states have implemented their own strategies for their public service.

New Zealand has adopted a national disability strategy and developed a set of tools for promoting implementation of the policy within its public service. Best practices are detailed at all levels of the employment cycle, including recruitment, intake, development, performance management and retention.

In Spain, the autonomous community of the Basques Country has chosen to make use of the authorities’ purchasing power. As such, the government has opted to:

  • double its overall target of employees with a disability
  • reserve 10% of new jobs for persons with a disability in order to reach its target
  • not enter into a contractual arrangement with companies that don’t meet the country’s legal target, increasing to cost of non-compliance for government suppliers
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