Making it real: update on the implementation of “Nothing Without Us” – Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada (2021)
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1. Message from the Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility
As the Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, I am pleased to present the second annual update report on the implementation of “Nothing Without Us”: An Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada.
On December 3, 2021, the world will once again mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. On this day, we are reminded of the rich and varied contributions of persons with disabilities, and of our shared responsibilities to remove barriers that have too often impeded inclusion. Fostering inclusion means looking inward at how we can continue to prevent and remove barriers within Canada’s federal public service.
The Accessible Canada Act (2019) aims to make Canada barrier-free by January 1, 2040. The law requires that all federally regulated organizations take a proactive and a systemic approach to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility.
As part of this effort, the Government of Canada co-developed and launched an Accessibility Strategy to guide our work to become the most accessible and inclusive public service in the world. The strategy serves as a roadmap to prepare the federal public service to lead by example and become a model of accessibility.
We have a lot to be proud of since the launch of the strategy in 2019. In December 2020, we released our first Progress Report, highlighting initial steps taken to improve accessibility in our public service, amid the global pandemic. Much of this important early work focused on identifying systemic barriers and initiating the co-design of new solutions to make our workplaces more accessible. For example, we:
- launched new projects through the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund
- began technical assessments of our built environment
- released new studies to understand barriers in the workplace accommodation process, and more.
In many ways, the focus in 2020 was on creating the critical conditions to encourage a shift from discussing accessibility to taking action on accessibility.
Our rallying call for 2021 has been “making it real.” And part of making it real is offering a frank assessment of how we are progressing in accessibility. This year’s update offers some notable highlights, as well as areas where we have an opportunity to make more impact to remove and prevent barriers in 2022.
Accessibility is not the work of one small group of individuals. Nor is it work with a start and end date. This is why this report continues to follow the “nothing without us” principle. It reflects feedback provided over the course of the past year from accessibility practitioners, public servants with disabilities, and input from professionals working in every functional community, whether it be human resources, information technology, real property, programs and services, policy or learning.
I want to thank the many leaders and early adopters across the public service who continue to take the initiative to lead on accessibility in their own organizations. I also want to thank the Deputy Minister Accessibility Group , which has, since 2018, helped guide the development and implementation of the strategy to make meaningful and measurable change in accessibility across our federal organizations.
As we look to 2022, I encourage all public service employees to commit fully to advancing accessibility even further, not just because it is our legal obligation to do so under the Accessible Canada Act, or because it is the right thing to do, but because it makes us a better, stronger and more capable public service, delivering the best possible programs and services to the citizens of this country.
Canada’s public service is the largest employer in Canada, with a workforce of approximately 267,000 employees spanning 70 distinct organizations in the core public administration. The public service provides evidence-based, non-partisan advice to support the government to deliver services to Canadians. With the pandemic ongoing in 2021, most public servants have continued to work from home this past year.
Since the launch of the strategy, the proportion of persons with disabilities employed by the public service has remained constant. According to the most recent Employment Equity in the Public Service of Canada Report 2019–2020, 5.2% of employees (or 11,087 employees) in the core public administration identify themselves as having a disability. This percentage remains below the workforce availability of 9.0%. The report also shows that:
- persons with disabilities remain under-represented both overall and in executive positions compared to workforce availability
- hiring and promotion is lower for persons with disabilities than employees in general
- separations (departures) of persons with disabilities exceed new hires across the public service, and there are a limited number of executive-ready candidates who are persons with disabilities
The Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) for 2020 confirmed that many barriers remain for employees with disabilities. For example, employees with disabilities continue to report higher work-related stress and harassment than employees in general.
PSES results also offer some promising signs. The latest results showed:
- an increase in the percentage of employees with disabilities who reported feeling valued at work and feeling supported to propose new ideas in the workplace
- a small decrease in the percentage of employees with disabilities who reported discrimination
The initial data collected over the past two years confirms that it is too early to claim success in achieving a truly accessible public service. Creating enduring culture change requires activities to build up over time, new evidence to be collected, and ongoing work to review where we are doing well and where we could do better. Much of the work advanced in the first two years has provided this critical foundation. The examples in this progress update highlight many of the new approaches being developed to inform the work to come in 2022.
3. From awareness to action: progress on accessibility in 2021
In this section
Two years since the launch of the strategy, the federal public service is making the transition from awareness to action. This year, it launched numerous initiatives related to inclusive training, workplace accommodations, accessible communications and more. These efforts are translating into promising trends, including:
- greater integration of accessibility within diversity and inclusion initiatives
- better clarity on gaps and challenges
- a growing shift in the way we are working
Greater integration of accessibility within diversity and inclusion initiatives
Too often, efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including those focused on race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, can omit disability inclusion. Accessibility is often forgotten. It requires nothing less than a culture shift to change this outlook. The good news is that we are starting to see the beginnings of that culture shift take place in the public service through greater awareness and more integrated initiatives across the public service.
Employing an intersectional lens is also critical to begin changing the work culture to include persons with disabilities and their lived realities in the conversation, and to robustly address their accessibility needs. Intersectionality includes understanding how race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, education and lived experience can affect how people experience their disabilities differently. It means understanding multiple layers of experience, stigma and discrimination. And it is necessary to arrive at a full understanding of what their accessibility needs comprise. We are beginning to see these conversations happen more often in the public service.
Consideration of intersectionality is also resulting in action. We are gradually seeing more involvement of people with lived experience of disability, and organizations with expertise in accessibility, shaping the design and delivery of new initiatives. For example, initiatives launched this year to support the promotion of under-represented groups, such as the Mentorship Plus initiative and the Mosaic Leadership Development Program, were designed with input from members of all employment equity-seeking communities.
A new pilot recruitment initiative is underway to hire 15 neurodivergent candidates into the federal public service. This new initiative will be co-designed with input from people with lived experience in disability and from recruitment experts specializing in neurodiversity, helping to ensure that the hiring process is accessible from the start, from recruitment to assessment through to onboarding.
The Federal Speakers’ Forum on Diversity and Inclusion, co-developed with members of equity-seeking groups, has also provided an important platform for public servants who are interested in sharing their expertise, lived experience, perspective and stories to raise awareness and provide knowledge on diversity, inclusion and accessibility. We also saw growing collaboration between employee networks this year. For example, in 2021, the Persons with Disabilities Champions and Chairs Committee held two open meetings with all equity-seeking employee groups and their allies to discuss their lived experiences. These open meetings:
- helped build a sense of allyship and collaboration between equity-seeking groups
- grew awareness on how initiatives for diversity, inclusion and accessibility can come together to remove barriers more effectively for everyone
Importantly, the reach of accessibility-related events and new learning products also broadened in scope this year, reaching tens of thousands of employees across the federal government. More virtual events were also made accessible with live transcription and sign-language interpretation.
Better clarity on data gaps and challenges
We can’t improve on what we can’t see and what we don’t count. Addressing data gaps and creating consistency in our accountability tools help us measure and address our progress on accessibility with transparency.
This year, we have taken steps to integrate accessibility into key accountability tools. For example, new accessibility questions have been integrated into the Management Accountability Framework , the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) , and in the data refresh for the Government of Canada’s Service Inventory . The latest PSES incorporated a more inclusive definition of disabilities, aligned with the Accessible Canada Act, as well as new questions on disability subtypes. These updates enable the public service to better assess how we are progressing in accessibility across the government and within specific organizations.
There is also more clarity on where important accessibility-related data and tracking gaps remain. For example, with the help of the updated PSES, we have learned that collecting data about self-identification remains a challenge. One in five persons with disabilities who completed the PSES indicated that they did not self-identify their disability to their organization. Reasons for not self-identifying included practical challenges, such as not knowing where to find the self-identification form, or more systemic issues, such as fear of being stigmatized. We have also taken steps to improve the way we track our progress in meeting the target of hiring 5,0000 net new employees with disabilities by 2025.
A shift in the way we are working
The public service’s growing focus on accessibility and disability inclusion is helping shift the way we work. We are beginning to see examples that accessibility is no longer considered only a niche part of government planning and operations but rather an area that must be considered early in the development of new initiatives, policies, programs and activities. The critical culture change is unfolding.
As a result, demand continues to grow for accessibility-related tools and services such as the ones provided by the Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Technology team. There now is more knowledge of how to deliver accessible events and meetings and how to create accessible documents. There is more policy direction and guidance on accessible communications, accessible procurement, accessible information, and accessible communications technology and services.
Resources such the AccessAbility Playbook, and new training on the prevention of harassment and violence in the workplace, have added depth to the training and tools available to public servants. Major service arms of the Government of Canada, such as Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency, are also leading the way in adopting accessible practices to make services easy to use for all Canadians, for example, by ensuring plain language, performing usability tests on their digital content, and providing guidance and support in the development of accessible versions (sign language, transcripts, large print, braille and audio) for key services and products. Scaling these best practices will be important.
These are just some of the important demonstrations of how accessibility is beginning to filter into the day-to-day business of the federal public service and mark a monumental culture change toward accessibility by default. For a closer look at the many accessibility initiatives launched in the past year, see the Appendix to this report.
4. Looking ahead: priorities for 2022
In this section
- Embedding accessibility in the return to the workplace
- Broadening our approach to reach the 5,000 net new employee target by 2025
- Improving workplace accommodations practices
- Building accessibility confidence in functional communities
- Advancing new policy instruments
- Harmonizing definitions, reporting and tracking
- Implementing the Accessible Canada Regulations
The Accessibility Strategy lays out an ambitious plan to make the public service the most accessible and inclusive in the world. This is no small task, and more work remains in the years to come. But with our promising start in moving from awareness to action, we can continue to pursue our goal of “making it real.”
As we move into the next phase of implementation, departments and agencies will be challenged to act more deliberately in removing and preventing barriers. Each organization will be required to:
- create their own Accessibility Plan
- involve people with disabilities in the development of that plan
- report on their progress publicly every year
The federal public service as a whole also has significant work left to do to make accessibility across the public service a reality. Some practical areas of focus where more targeted action is required include:
- embedding accessibility in the return to the workplace
- focusing on employment in the areas of recruitment and retention through improved workplace accommodation practices
- building accessibility confidence in all functional communities
- advancing new policy instruments
- harmonizing definitions, tracking and reporting on accessibility
- preparing for the coming into force of the Accessible Canada Regulations
Embedding accessibility in the return to the workplace
Over the past two years, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the public service is agile and able to adapt quickly. It has also reaffirmed how accessibility is, and must be, an integral part of all aspects of our business as public servants.
As the Government of Canada considers an easing of COVID-19-related restrictions at federal worksites, federal organizations are in the process of looking at options that will bring back some normalcy in operations while maintaining the flexibility of remote work.
This monumental shift in how we work is creating new norms in our workplace practices and in our public service culture. It offers an opportunity to prioritize accessibility and to truly embed inclusive practices in the forefront of our workplace design, from planning and policies to the ways we implement the return to the workplace in each organization.
As we assess options, we must remain aware that a flexible work model and inclusive practices are not the same. Managers, for example, must not make assumptions on the needs of employees with disabilities. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to workplace flexibility; working remotely may remove workplace barriers for some people with disabilities while also creating barriers for others.
Failing to apply an accessibility lens at all stages of this important process may add to the many barriers already experienced by employees with disabilities and risks that require more investment, retrofitting and redesign later on. Involving persons with disabilities in planning and decision-making will be critical to success.
Broadening our approach to reach the 5,000 net new employee target by 2025
Reaching greater representation of persons with disabilities remains a key priority for the public service to meet its workforce availability (WFA) targets. To help close this gap, the Government of Canada set a goal to hire 5,000 net new employees with disabilities by 2025.
The WFA represents the share of the Canadian workforce that is eligible for federal public service work. In 2019–20, the federal government met WFA benchmarks for all designated groups except persons with disabilities. Although the public service saw new employees with disabilities hired over the past two years, the rate of separation (those leaving the public service) surpassed hiring.
More work is required to improve hiring, retention and promotion. Over the past two years, the Government of Canada has made strong inroads in understanding the barriers to employment for persons with disabilities. New initiatives have also been launched this year, including new public service–wide targeted recruitment initiatives to remove barriers to hiring persons with disabilities, such as:
- inventories of fully qualified talent with disabilities in common occupational categories
- an expansion of student hiring to recruit more students with disabilities
- a larger cohort of interns with disabilities
More resources and tools have also been developed to support managers and new employees with disabilities.
Although these early actions are important, they are not enough to ensure that we will achieve the government’s target of hiring 5,000 net new employees with disabilities by 2025. Additional analysis will be required in 2022 to assess gaps and identify solutions, for example, in enabling more take-up of these new pools and inventories by hiring managers.
Improving workplace accommodations practices
Recruitment is one important aspect of addressing our employment challenges. But until we have created a truly welcoming and inclusive workplace environment—one in which employees have easy access to the tools and accommodations required to be productive—we will not be able to retain talent. And given the demographic reality of an aging public service, this is a risk.
Workplace accommodation processes continue to pose a barrier for employees with disabilities across government. Although there have been some improvements in equipping employees with the tools and supports to succeed at work, the latest PSES conducted in 2020 reports that:
- 7% of employees with disabilities who requested accommodations reported waiting more than a year to receive their accommodation
- 10% reported that their accommodation did not work adequately
Since the launch of the Accessibility Strategy, organizations across the federal government have started to review accommodation practices, and a few have established centralized accommodation processes to help lower wait times and improve outcomes for employees. However, new data collected through the Management Accountability Framework in 2020 indicated that departments and agencies continue to face some operational challenges in moving to a “yes by default” approach to accommodation. For example, some organizations reported challenges with:
- unfamiliarity and a lack of expertise in complex cases
- lack of central data collection to identify barriers
- difficulty seeking feedback (no organizational employee networks exist or no use cases are available)
More work on workplace accommodations practices will be required in the year ahead to support a more consistent and timely approach across the public service. Such work includes stronger data collection and analysis and sharing best practices across federal organizations.
The Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund will continue to fund projects that provide practical guidance to organizations on improving workplace accommodation practices and will invest in innovative practices that remove workplace barriers for employees with disabilities. Such projects include work on the Government of Canada’s Workplace Accessibility Passport, which will be expanded in 2022 to:
- reach more organizations to test the passport and collect user feedback
- develop a digital passport that facilitates and streamlines requests, implementation, and portability of workplace accommodation tools and measures
Other projects will also be explored, such as developing a library of examples to illustrate successful workplace accommodation processes using the passport and creating a service standard across government for timely and effective workplace accommodations. Updates to guidance on the duty to accommodate are also underway.
Building accessibility confidence in functional communities
The public service has begun to develop more accessibility supports for functional communities, including managers, human resource specialists, procurement officers and information technology professionals, toward improving accessibility confidence and knowledge across the full diversity of our workforce. Initial learning products have focused on awareness-raising and developing foundational accessibility and disability inclusion knowledge and skills.
In 2021, some departments and agencies also developed mandatory accessibility training tailored to their organization’s needs. For example, Innovation Science and Economic Development has recently introduced new mandatory training on accessible documents. These efforts hold promise in helping move from passive to proactive uptake of accessibility in all aspects of our work.
However, more work is needed to review critical competencies and identify where additional training or new tools may be required in specific functional communities. Some of this work is already underway, for example, in developing new accessibility-specific job descriptions in information technology.
Advancing new policy instruments
Providing enterprise-wide direction and advice will continue to be an area of focus in the year ahead. Policy instruments such as standards, guidelines and directives can help create more consistent requirements for accessibility across the government. The year ahead will include more work in reviewing existing policies and creating new policy instruments to embed and sustain accessibility efforts across government operations. Two policy instruments of focus in 2022 are:
- an information and communications technology (ICT) accessibility standard to introduce new requirements for ICT products and services across government
- new mandatory procedures for accessible communications in the Directive on the Management of Communications
Harmonizing definitions, reporting and tracking
We have made progress throughout the public service in applying more consistently the definition of “disability” found in the Accessible Canada Act. Considerable work has also been done to harmonize and simplify the ways in which departments and agencies report on their progress in areas linked to anti-racism, equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. For example, the Interim Clerk asked deputies to apply an intersectional lens to their responses to the Clerk’s Call to Action on anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the public service, considering the interconnected dimensions of identity.
Although we have made some gains this year, there is much more work required to harmonize the way we define and measure progress. Statistics Canada is leading efforts to test and develop a public service accessibility measurement framework that will help organizations better develop indicators and track their progress in accessibility.
The new legal requirement to develop accessibility plans creates an important mechanism for departments and agencies to commit to accessibility improvements, based on feedback from persons with disabilities, and to share progress starting in 2022. It will be important that these accessibility plans include elements such as:
- the steps taken in an organization to improve and track the hiring and retention of persons with disabilities
- actions taken to lower wait times and improve access to workplace accommodations
Additional key areas of focus will be identified as departments and agencies consult and engage persons with disabilities.
Implementing the Accessible Canada Regulations
The year ahead will require a sharp focus on preventing and removing barriers in all seven areas of the Accessible Canada Act. In the proposed Accessible Canada Regulations, federal government organizations, Crown corporations and the Canadian Armed Forces will be required to lead by example and publish their first accessibility plans within a year of the Regulations coming into force.
Some organizations are preparing to undertake this work by assigning accessibility leads and creating new accessibility offices to deliver on this reporting requirement. A small number have also released interim accessibility plans to begin the process of identifying, preventing and removing barriers to accessibility. Collaboration is also expanding across the government through a dedicated accessibility community of practice, with 40 organizations that meet monthly to share their work and learn from each other.
New tools and guidance will be released over the coming months to support departments and agencies to prepare their accessibility plans, including:
- a new self-assessment tool to help departments and agencies assess their current accessibility, and to find tips and resources on how to identify, prevent and remove barriers in their organizations
- regular updates to the Accessibility Hub (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) to share best practices and make resources easy to find for accessibility leads
- ongoing training and engagement events, including new “accessibility bootcamps” to help build accessibility confidence and provide support in the preparations for accessibility plans, engagement with persons with disabilities, and reporting.
Two years into the implementation of the Accessibility Strategy, federal departments and agencies are beginning to establish a solid foundation on which to build more sustained accessibility practices. We have moved from awareness to action, and are beginning the process of making accessibility real, establishing a solid foundation for a culture shift that will bring accessibility into the heart of our diversity and inclusion efforts. This process will allow persons with disabilities in the public service to flourish in their work and perform to their greatest ability. It will also enhance the work the public service performs in its service to Canadians.
Accessibility built into everything we do in the public service will benefit everyone who works in the public service and everyone who relies on the work we do.
This update has outlined a sample of accessibility highlights from the past year to help showcase the good work accomplished to date. It has also brought forward some of the challenges of advancing enterprise-wide change across a complex administration that includes 70 distinct organizations, employs 267,000 employees, and ultimately serves 38 million Canadians. More work remains to be done to advance accessibility from a promising practice to a truly enduring and embedded model of inclusion.
The government’s capacity to deliver on its accessibility commitments to date has been achieved in large part due to the public servants with disabilities who have shared their lived experiences, provided feedback and helped co-develop practical solutions. The progress that has been made is also a reflection of the strong work of a growing number of public servants from the highest level of government to the newest employees, each of whom has made a commitment to create a more inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible public service every day.
We have “made it real” in many ways this year, especially in relationship-building and awareness-raising, and in the beginnings of real action. We have had difficult and courageous conversations, established relationships with allies, and reflected on the accessibility barriers that persist in our work environments and in our attitudes. We have celebrated smaller accessibility wins while also pushing to move larger, more complex projects forward over multiple years.
As we progress along the journey to becoming accessible by default, we will need to continue to take practical steps, address challenges, and prioritize actions that advance accessibility for employees and citizens.
Thank you to all those who have contributed to making our workplace and our service to every Canadian more accessible and inclusive this year. Let’s keep “making it real” in 2022.
Appendix: highlights of accessibility initiatives in 2021
In this section
- Improve recruitment, retention and promotion of persons with disabilities
- Enhance the accessibility of the built environment
- Make information and communications technology usable by all
- Equip public servants to design and deliver accessible programs and services
- Build an accessibility-confident public service
1. Improve recruitment, retention and promotion of persons with disabilities
- The Public Service Commission of Canada’s Audit of Employment Equity Representation in Recruitment was released this year to identify potential barriers in the staffing system. It confirmed that persons with disabilities experienced the largest drop in representation at the assessment and appointment stages of the recruitment process.
- Macrosimulation modelling was conducted for organizations to better understand hiring gaps and opportunities for persons with disabilities. This year’s macrosimulation also included projections for different occupational groups and levels.
- Three targeted inventories were launched to recruit persons with disabilities into the public service in the following areas:
- A pilot to hire a cohort of up to 15 neurodivergent individuals in three federal organizations (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, Shared Services Canada, and the Public Service Commission of Canada) was also launched.
- Internship and student hiring through the Federal Internship Program for Canadians with Disabilities (FIPCD) and the Employment Opportunity for Students with Disabilities (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) continued to progress this year. The FIPCD program supported 28 organizations in hiring 55 interns this year.
- A new Virtual Door to Talent with Disabilities (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) was launched in 2020. This is a GCpedia page that offers an inventory of graduates who have participated in the Employment Opportunity for Students with Disabilities program and are eligible for student bridging. The inventory currently includes 60 graduates.
- The Government of Canada’s Workplace Accessibility Passport was expanded to 23 federal organizations to test the passport model, receive user feedback, and support the development of a digital passport.
- The Mentorship Plus initiative and the Mosaic Leadership Development program were launched to better support leadership development in the public service, with specific emphasis on supporting members of under-represented groups who aspire to leadership and executive positions in the federal public service. Since its launch in 2020, 40 departments have signed up to participate in the Mentorship Plus initiative.
- Communication campaigns to promote self-declaration in job applications continued this year. At the end of the 2019–20 fiscal year, 5% of applications self-declared as having a disability on Jobs.gc.ca applications.
- Updated guidance on staffing options was released to help increase representation of employment equity groups and to support diversity and inclusion. Updated guidance included the following:
- The Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument was updated in 2021 to include two additional requirements to strengthen employment equity obligations. Starting this year:
- deputy heads must ensure the review of their appointment and appointment-related employment systems, policies and practices, where under-representation has been identified
- a training prerequisite for sub-delegation must include training on unconscious bias
- The Assessment Accessibility Ambassadors Network (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) continued to expand its best practices and training to support the Government of Canada’s human resources community in improving accessibility of appointment processes. The network currently represents 24 organizations and has 31 ambassadors.
- In spring 2021, the National Managers’ Community, in partnership with the Canada School of Public Service, conducted a three-part Workplace Accommodation Consultation Series to help managers learn about workplace accommodations, adaptive technology, and accessible procurement. The new guidance Process and Guide to Acquisition of IT-Related Adaptive Technologies was also released.
- A new Manager’s Toolkit was developed to prepare and equip managers to hire persons with disabilities and increase human resources professionals’ confidence in providing advice and guidance. The toolkit includes resources for the various stages of the hiring process.
2. Enhance the accessibility of the built environment
- Technical accessibility assessments were completed for 17% of Crown-owned portfolio buildings against the CSA Group B651-18 standard. The next phase of technical accessibility assessments will continue over the next three fiscal years.
- The GCWorkplace Consultation Series on Accessibility was completed in the winter of 2020–21. Twenty-five workshops were delivered with 259 participants from 36 federal organizations. These consultations with employees with disabilities helped identify barriers in the built environment. Feedback received is already shaping tools developed by Public Services and Procurement Canada for fit-up projects, such as the GCworkplace Design Guide and Technical Reference Manual.
- A survey tool on accessibility in the built environment was launched to engage employees and inform assessments based on lived experience. Approximately 365 survey responses were received from client departments and the Networks of Persons with Disabilities.
- Accessibility pilot projects are being explored, and research continues to identify accessibility measures and adaptations that exceed minimum building codes and standards. The work includes pilot projects that incorporate pandemic-resiliency considerations within buildings.
- The “22 Eddy” two-year program was launched in December 2020. The test space provides examples of accessibility modifications, innovation and best practices that could potentially be implemented in federal buildings across Canada.
- Implementation of the base-building accessibility improvements are underway in 2021 across the national portfolio of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). PSPC is leveraging low building occupancy during the pandemic to advance this national initiative and implement as many improvements as possible.
- A Universal Accessibility Action Plan for the Parliamentary Precinct, developed in consultation with an external accessibility advisory panel, is underway. The project reflects universal accessibility best practices that exceed current standards of accessibility.
3. Make information and communications technology usable by all
- Consultations continue with organizations to develop an information and communications technology (ICT) accessibility standard and an ICT scorecard. These projects will serve to ensure that ICT accessibility best practices are put in place across the government.
- Shared Services Canada (SSC) has provided ICT procurement advice to technical and contracting authorities at SSC and across the government. For example, advice on accessibility was provided for 64 procurements and sole-source contracts between April 2020 and March 2021. An accessible ICT procurement guide was also released in 2021 to share advice and tools.
- A Request for Information (RFI) on accessibility conformance testing was issued from November 2020 to January 2021 and yielded 11 suppliers. The results of the RFI have helped inform the development of requirements for a subsequent supply arrangement that will be available to federal organizations.
- The Lending Library Service pilot project expanded its inventory of equipment to serve clients with temporary and episodic disabilities or injuries. The library is developing new mobile offices of adaptive technology to support hybrid workers and clients using the new GCworkplace. As of August 2021, the library has lent 241 tools to 104 clients across 32 departments.
- Shared Services Canada has created an approach to tracking the resolution of all Government of Canada Microsoft 365 accessibility issues to improve and promote knowledge of Microsoft 365 accessibility features and help government create accessible products. Training courses on Microsoft 365 accessibility and official languages are also now available.
- To support the creation of accessible documents, a new learning product on document accessibility will be offered to public servants in December 2021. A Digital Accessibility Toolkit was also launched 2021 to provide guides, resources and tools created by federal public service employees advancing digital accessibility.
- Consultations were completed for a draft mandatory procedure for accessibility communications for organizations, expected for release in 2022. The mandatory procedure would create new requirements for Government of Canada communications products, as defined in the Directive on the Management of Communications.
- American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) were provided at major events organized by the Government of Canada in 2021. For example, ASL and LSQ interpretation was provided at numerous federal COVID-19 briefings, including more than 140 press conferences delivered by the prime minister. Organizations are also increasing use of on-demand sign-language services. For example, Employment and Social Development Canada has provided services to Canadians using on-demand sign-language services in over 160 interactions since October 2020.
4. Equip public servants to design and deliver accessible programs and services
- As part of the data refresh for the Government of Canada Service Inventory, departments are now being asked to provide information on how services have been assessed for accessibility. The service inventory provides an enterprise-wide perspective on Government of Canada services.
- A new online Accessibility Data Hub was launched in 2021 to share data on accessibility. The hub serves as a central site to access accessibility-related data from the Government of Canada’s general population surveys.
The Accessibility Playbook was created in 2021 to help federal public servants apply an accessibility lens to service design and delivery. This guide provides important insights into:
- disabilities and accessibility
- how service barriers affect people with disabilities
- the importance of delivering accessible client services
- Best practices are being developed to support organizations in applying accessibility in policy application and in the design and delivery of programs. For example, work is underway to develop guidance on applying an accessibility lens to the Treasury Board Policy on Transfer Payments.
- Major service arms of the Government of Canada, such as the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), continue to improve the accessibility of their services. For example, the CRA is performing usability tests with input from persons with visual disabilities to improve accessibility of its website, forms and other digital content. The CRA has also updated several tax forms this year to improve accessibility, and is developing more guidance products available in large print or braille.
- Statistics Canada is working with organizations to create a public service accessibility measurement framework that will identify key indicators and measurement approaches to help federal organizations measure progress on accessibility in their organizations.
5. Build an accessibility-confident public service
- A variety of micro-learning products were launched in 2020–21 to allow learners to support the federal public service in implementing the Accessible Canada Act and the Public Service Accessibility Strategy. For example, three videos were developed for public servants as foundational learning on disability inclusion and barriers to accessibility.
- Two case studies were launched on harassment and violence prevention for managers, committees and representatives to increase awareness of harassment and discrimination against people with disabilities. The studies focus on workplace accommodations and barriers to career advancement.
- New resources, such as the guide “Planning Accessible Virtual Events,” were developed this year to provide information on how to design and deliver accessible virtual events.
Several government-wide events and panels were hosted in 2021 on the themes of accessibility and inclusion. Following are examples:
- National AccessAbility Week flagship event
- Canada School of Public Service events:
- Workplace Accommodation Consultation Series for managers
- Putting Accessibility Considerations First in Post-Pandemic Workplace Planning
- National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Benefits of Hiring Neurodiverse Employees
- Government of Canada’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2021
- The Accessibility Hub, hosted on the Government of Canada’s internal GCpedia site, was updated to include new best practices, resources and tools to support departments and agencies in improving accessibility in their work, including how to design and deliver accessible programs and services.
- The Interdepartmental Accessibility Community of Practice (accessible only on the Government of Canada network), first launched in 2019, has expanded to include more than 40 organizations. This community of practice meets monthly to share best practices on various accessibility topics.
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