2023 Health Canada Accessibility Progress Report

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Organization: Health Canada

Date published: December 19, 2023
Cat.: H2-7E-PDF
ISSN: 2817-9889
Pub.: 230687

Table of Contents


Message from the Deputy Ministers

We are pleased to share with you Health Canada's first Accessibility Progress Report. This report outlines the progress made in year one of the implementation of the Health Canada 2022-2025 Accessibility Plan. It demonstrates the Department's ongoing commitment to improving the lives of all Canadians by taking action to meet its responsibility as part of the Government of Canada's goals to make Canada barrier free by 2040.

In this report, you will learn about initiatives underway to address barriers through new ideas and concepts. The work of Health Canada has relied on the collaboration and consultation with persons with disabilities, the Health Canada Persons with Disabilities Employee Network and our program partners; all of whom have shared valuable insight into addressing or removing barriers to accessibility.

We invite you to read the Progress Report and encourage you to share your thoughts or feedback with us as we move toward a barrier-free Canada by 2040.

Thank you,

Stephen Lucas, PhD
Deputy Minister, Health Canada

Eric Costen
Associate Deputy Minister, Health Canada

About Health Canada

Health Canada (HC) is the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. HC is committed to improving the lives of all Canadians and to making this country's population among the healthiest in the world as measured by longevity, lifestyle, and effective use of the public health care system. The raison d'être, mandate and role are available on the HC website.


The Accessibility Readiness Team (ART) at HC is responsible for reporting on the feedback received about the Accessibility Plan, and progress made in its implementation, in accordance with regulations under the Accessible Canada Act and direction provided in the Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada.

To request a copy of this Progress Report, the 2022-2025 Accessibility Plan, or a description of the feedback mechanism tool, in an alternate format, or to provide feedback, please contact the Director of ART, in one of the following ways:

Contact: Director of Accessibility Readiness Team

Mail: Health Canada Accessibility Feedback
70 Columbine Dr; Brooke Claxton Building
Address Locator 0913B
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K9

Email: art-epa@hc-sc.gc.ca
Toll free telephone: 1-833-725-2751
Facsimile: 1-613-941-5366
Teletypewriter: 1-800-465-7735 (Service Canada)

In 2022, HC launched a feedback mechanism to receive, acknowledge and address feedback received about accessibility. Internal processes are also in place to monitor, report on, and incorporate the feedback related to accessibility barriers. Feedback received will be acknowledged in the same manner in which it was received unless it was submitted anonymously.

To submit feedback related to the Plan, Progress Report, feedback mechanism or about any barriers faced when interacting with HC, visit the Accessibility Feedback Form page.


The Accessible Canada Act (the Act) requires all organisations under federal responsibility to publish an Accessibility Plan every three years that outlines how they will identify, remove and prevent barriers in their policies, programs, and services. A Progress Report, outlining progress made towards meeting HC's actions to removing barriers must be published annually between plans. This is HC's first Progress Report, and it charts the progress to removing barriers in the eight priority areas listed in the Accessibility Plan.

In keeping with the Federal Public Service's 'Nothing Without Us' accessibility strategy, which aims to build to Public Service into a model of an inclusive and accessible employer, HC, with the Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs), consulted and collaborated with the Persons with Disabilities Network (PWDN) to establish realistic, achievable activities to address barriers in the Department. Themes emerged around access to training, internal resourcing support, subject matter expertise, and accommodation requests. These themes were incorporated, where possible, into the development of the activities, many of which are underway.

HC also established a mechanism for employees and Canadians to share feedback on barriers faced when interacting with the Department or on the HC Accessibility Plan. Given the legislated deadline for publication, the feedback data included in this Progress Report is for the first eight months of 2023; feedback for the remainder of the year will be included in next year's report. Feedback shared was on barriers under each of the eight priority areas. Suggestions for improvements based on this feedback, and correspondence from the Office of the Accessibility Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, will guide HC's work to improve accessibility in the workplace, and within policies, programs and services. This feedback will also guide the development and implementation of the next Accessibility Plan, which will be published in 2025.

Areas in Section 5 of the Accessible Canada Act

In early 2023, ART held consultations with the PWDN on each of the following eight priority areas in the Accessibility Plan to review and seek feedback on proposed activities. Through these consultations, and input received from the feedback mechanism, HC challenged itself to design, experiment and innovate with realistic and achievable activities for year one – many of which are in progress or on-track, and are outlined in this report.


HC's employment objective is centered on ensuring access to HC jobs and long-term career prospects for persons with disabilities. Commitments focused on working collaboratively with stakeholders on inclusive and accessible staffing approaches, enhancing the recruitment experience of persons with disabilities and managers alike, and providing an accessible and barrier-free workplace to enable career success and progression for employees with disabilities. In addition, the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results guide the work for all priority areas of accessibility and will be used to measure Departmental progress in achieving the goals and commitments outlined in the Accessibility Plan. The PSES is a critical tool that provides information to help improve people management practices in the federal public service.

Commitment: Working with the HC PWDN and key disability stakeholders, revise staffing and assessment tools, approaches and resources to ensure they are accessible and inclusive.

Commitment: Support managers in meeting or exceeding HC hiring targets using an enhanced recruitment experience.

Commitment: Enable career success and progression of employees with disabilities through onboarding, training, access to accommodations, talent management and mentorship.

The Built Environment

HC is working to modernize all physical spaces to meet or exceed accessibility standards by 2040. With many HC public servants returning to the office, this includes collaboration with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) regarding new facility accessible fit-ups and new construction; as well as engaging with internal and external stakeholders to identify and remove any barriers.

Commitment: Work with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to ensure that all new facility fit-ups/construction are accessible; implement an assessment process for existing facilities to identify potential accessibility upgrades to be incorporated into planned/future projects.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

The ICT Accessibility Team at HC has committed to strengthening the level of accessibility of new systems and applications for all users, improving support for the development and procurement of new software, and promoting accessibility awareness. The HC ICT Accessibility Team continues to collaborate with the branches of HC to educate on requirements for sites and training for developers. The Team is also committed to strengthening internal policies and procedures to support accessible ICT.

Commitment: Strengthen the current level of accessibility of ICT at HC by continuing to ensure new (internal and public facing) systems, including internally developed or procured hardware and software, meet modern accessibility standards.

Commitment: Improve accessibility support (guidance and advice) to users in the development and procurement and acquisition of new software.

Commitment: Promote accessibility awareness across the Department by providing training and raising awareness to foster an accessibility-first mindset for all IT projects.

Commitment: Strengthen the accessibility governance and process by developing internal policies and procedures for accessible ICT.

Communication, other than ICT

HC envisions an environment where everyone can readily access and understand communication materials; this means that content is accessible by default, wherever possible. To that end, HC is committed to providing products and organizing events in accessible formats.

Commitment: Ensure HC external digital content and new internal digital content are accessible by default.

In 2023, HC implemented several measures to support this vision, including:

Commitment: Provide Departmental communications products and events in accessible formats.

The Procurement of Goods, Services and Facilities

Implementing modern procurement practices for accessible goods, services, and facilities for HC is the objective. HC is committed to incorporating accessibility into processes and documents, as well as increasing awareness of accessibility through training and guidance.

Commitment: Incorporate accessibility into procurement and contracting documents, templates, and guidance.

Did you know?

Health Canada's Office of Grants and Contributions has developed an Accessibility Framework and action plan to improve the accessibility of programs, such as the HC transfer payment programs.

The Design and Delivery of Programs and Services

HC's objective is that programs and services are accessible and designed in consultation with persons with disabilities. HC committed to building internal capacity to better design and deliver accessible programs and services.

Commitment: Build capacity to consult, develop, design, deliver and evaluate accessible and inclusive programs and services.

Commitment: Integrate accessibility features into new and existing programs and services.


Assessing accessibility requirements for HC fleet vehicles, focusing on current and future accessibility standards, and ensuring fleet purchases meets those standards were all identified as HC priorities in the Accessibility Plan.

Commitment: Identify any potential accessibility features available that can be included in new fleet vehicle acquisitions.


HC envisions a culture that supports all persons with disabilities, proactively eliminates and prevents barriers, and creates greater opportunities for persons with disabilities through a 'Nothing Without Us' approach. As a priority area in the 2022-2025 Accessibility Plan, HC committed to the promotion of an accessibility-informed culture that fosters an accessible work environment through trainings that cover topics such as document accessibility, accessible meetings and events, and how to best support accommodation needs. The Department also committed to supporting all HC employees so that they have the knowledge and tools to become accessibility confident which is defined as the ability of organizations to manage disability as a business priority related to customer experience, talent, productivity, innovation, new product development, brand reputation and investment in human potential.

Commitment: Ensure all HC employees have the knowledge and tools to become accessibility confident through training and engagement.

Commitment: Promote an accessibility-informed culture that creates a positive, inclusive workplace.

Did you know?

In the Fall of 2023, HC piloted a course called "Introduction to neurodiversity in the workplace". This training for employees is designed as an introduction to the subject, enabling participants to review their perceptions and question their stereotypes. It also provides a grounding in the high-level universal inclusion model, and identifies how these principles can be applied to a neuroinclusive approach.


HC is proud to have collaborated, and continues to collaborate, with the HC PWDN for the development and publication of this first Progress Report. The HC PWDN has recurring meetings with its membership at large. These meetings are open to all HC employees.

In this inaugural year of the implementation of HC's Accessibility Plan, consultations with persons with disabilities have guided efforts to address accessibility barriers through the co-development and implementation of meaningful and impactful activities with OPIs. In keeping with the 'Nothing Without Us' strategy, there were a series of consultations and touchpoints, for example:

Themes that emerged in 2023 were centered on knowledge about accessibility; including, access to training, internal resourcing support, subject matter expertise, and accommodation requests or inquiries, to name a few. This feedback was considered, and incorporated where possible in the development of strategic activities - HC recognizes that addressing barriers is an ongoing process and will be key to developing accessibility competence, and future commitments and activities.

Health Canada Persons with Disabilities Network

HC has a very active persons with disabilities employee network, which plays an important role in outreach and raising awareness of accessibility needs and is integral in addressing them. At HC, the PWDN consists of a full time Chair, a Vice-Chair and ten employees in the Executive Committee who each dedicate 5 hours per week towards Network activities as well as a communications officer who works part-time. These passionate members work on departmental and government wide events, support the persons with disabilities community and develop proposals to improve the working conditions of employees with disabilities.

The HC PWDN works closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) PWDN to help advance accessibility within both organizations. The two Networks hold monthly listening sessions to hear from employees on challenges and objectives they'd like the Networks to address. The Networks co-led two events for National Accessibility Awareness Week, the first on the built environment, which showcased the PHAC inclusive meeting space and promoted the ongoing initiatives to make the workplace more accessible throughout both organizations. The second event was focused on raising awareness of Neuro-diverse employees and how colleagues could best support them.

The HC PWDN organized a series of events for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October 2023. These events raise awareness to managers and employees on challenges faced by the persons with disabilities community and best practices for supporting employees. Each year the Networks organize an event for International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

The HC PWDN has put forward several proposals this year to improve the accessibility of the Department and make the workplace more inclusive. They have proposed to make accessibility related training mandatory for all staff, which is currently being finalized. They have recommended that all senior management meetings include a requirement that all supporting documents be provided in an accessible format and have received support from the Deputy Minister on this. A proposal has been developed to request funding for a career navigator and development program. This navigator will help employees with disabilities with career advancement through coaching for the application and interview process as well as help connect candidates to managers with open positions. The PWDN receives many requests to be consulted and the Network is developing a dedicated advisory committee for these, so that they are not only relying on volunteers from their Network on an ad hoc basis. The Network also sends out biweekly accessibility newsletters and launched a Microsoft Teams channel for members and allies.

The PWDN is crucial in advancing accessibility within the department and their expert advice is indispensable for the Department to meet accessibility commitments and objectives.

Accessibility Steering Committee

The Accessibility Steering Committee is a forum of senior executives from both HC and PHAC, as well as the PWDN Chairs and Champions (an executive from each PHAC and HC), that oversees, supports and provides guidance on the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act and the Accessibility Plans to advance accessibility within both organizations.


Along with its Accessibility Plan, HC also launched a feedback mechanism tool to enable employees and Canadians to share feedback on barriers faced when dealing with the Department, or on the plan itself. This feedback is integral in guiding the development and implementation of the next Accessibility Plan.

How Feedback was Collected

HC can receive accessibility feedback from the public and employees through different channels. Both employees and Canadians were able to share accessibility feedback via an online form available to the public on Canada.ca, or by email, telephone, letter mail, or fax. In addition, HC employees are able to submit their accessibility feedback via an online form posted to the intranet, or by emailing ART directly.

To raise awareness of the various ways to provide accessibility feedback, HC's outreach initiatives included a January 2023 social media campaign on the government's Healthy Canadian's Facebook page and HC LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) accounts. Additional outreach to employees included ongoing promotion of the internal feedback process in the departmental news bulletin and internal emails.

What We Heard

For this reporting period, starting from publication date of the Accessibility Plan in December 2022 through to the end of the first eight months in 2023, HC received a total of 27 individual feedback submissions. The balance of the feedback for the last 4 months of 2023 will be included in the 2024 Progress Report. For this first year, all of the feedback was received electronically either via the employee or public online feedback forms or by email directly to ART.  It is anticipated that, with greater awareness of the Accessibility Plan and the Progress Reports, HC will receive feedback through the other channels.

Feedback received often targets multiple priority areas. For example, the feedback mechanism received feedback concerning barriers to both built environment and culture, which are two different priority areas. This would be counted as one piece of feedback concerning built environment as a barrier, and another concerning culture as a barrier. As a result, the count of feedback for each priority area will be higher than the count for barriers received by the mechanism.

For this reporting period, of the 27 individual feedback submissions received by HC, 17 were from HC employees (internal sources) and 10 were received from the public (external sources). Of the 17 employee submissions, 14 were received via the online form, and 3 via email. From these 27 individual submissions a total of 38 barriers were identified. The breakdown of the number of barriers per priority area from all sources is shown in the following table:

Barriers identified by priority area
Pillar Number of Barriers Identified
Employment 9
Built Environment 9
Information Technologies 8
Communication 2
Procurement 1
Transportation 0
Programs and Services 5
Culture 4
Total 38

After reviewing the feedback, given that accessibility concerns crossed multiple priority areas and that barriers impacted persons with disabilities in different ways, this first Progress Report groups the feedback according to themes.

One of the challenges of grouping the feedback into themes was that most of the feedback for the eight priority areas were general opinions or comments about nonspecific barriers at the Government of Canada and were not specific to HC. ART shares all feedback with the appropriate OPIs, however if comments were high-level, generic or came anonymously, the OPIs were unable to fully address the barriers. Below is a summary of key themes identified as barriers for each pillar and commitments to address the barriers.


HC is committed to building and supporting a diverse, accessible and inclusive workplace. The comments about employment barriers were reviewed and grouped into the following themes:


Built environment

HC strives for accessible and inclusive design solutions so that all persons can use physical spaces. With this feedback, 56% of the comments were about inaccessible facilities or spaces. The comments for built environment were summarized and grouped into the following themes:


Procurement of goods, services and facilities

HC is working towards identifying accessibility barriers in the purchasing process. Procurement received one comment in the following area:


Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

Technologies must be accessible to all employees. The comments for ICT barriers were reviewed and grouped into the following themes:



HC is committed to ensuring all internal and external communication products meet accessibility standards. The two comments about communications barriers were reviewed and were equally split into the following themes:



Transportation at HC refers to the fleet of vehicles it owns, leases, or rents that are used by employees to carry out their work. No feedback was received for this reporting period.

HC will continue to support and adhere to accessibility standards for the HC fleet.

Programs and Services

To be effective, programs and services must be accessible to all Canadians. The comments about programs and service barriers were reviewed and grouped into the following themes:

For the programs and services feedback, 40% of the comments were related to policies and 40% was regarding the development of the HC Accessibility Plan.



The ART offers guidance on the development and implementation of the HC's Accessibility Plan and Progress Report to support a HC culture that is accessible by default. The culture barrier comments were grouped into the following themes:

For the culture feedback, 75% of the comments were related to increasing awareness about accessibility.


Did you know?

In May 2023, the HC PWDN collaborated with the Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch to deliver a highly engaging event on neurodiversity in the workplace. It featured employees sharing their lived experience, and a recording was made available for those unable to attend.

Canadian Human Rights Commission, Accessibility Commissioner

In addition to feedback from the public and employees, HC received correspondence from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) - Accessibility Commissioner's Office, identifying areas of improvements in the consultation process for the Accessibility Plan, as well as the formatting thereof.

The CHRC also conducted a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) inspection of the web pages containing the Accessibility Plan and feedback tool. CHRC produced a Findings Report,  and found that the URLs for the Accessibility Plan and feedback process description meets WCAG 2.1 Level AA conformance.

HC was pleased to have participated in both of these assessments and looks forward to learning about best practices and ongoing advancement of accessibility within the public service. The Department will take all feedback from the CHRC to continually improve the way in which HC plans for, and reports on, accessibility.

HC is committed to working with its partners and the CHRC to improve upon the following:

Reflecting upon the feedback received in the development of this report, it is clear that HC has more work to do to improve upon accessibility in the workplace, and on policies, programs and services. HC aims to continually improve the feedback mechanism process to ensure transparency and accountability in data collection and interpretation.


This first Progress Report is the first step in a journey of learning and improvement, and supports HC's ongoing goal of being barrier free by 2040. HC thanks all respondents for providing comments and feedback on the HC Accessibility Plan and barriers faced, through the feedback mechanism tool. With future consultations and ongoing feedback and collaboration with partners, HC will continue to strengthen and improve upon the commitment of an accessible by default workplace where inclusion and acceptance is paramount.

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