Government of Canada funds digital technologies to improve accessibility for Canadians with disabilities

News release

Investment of more than $3 million will help more Canadians with disabilities fully participate in the digital economy

May 17, 2018 – Vancouver, British Columbia

The Internet is an important gateway to developing and maintaining professional, social, economic and cultural networks within the digital economy. However, many Canadians are still not taking full advantage of these benefits—not by choice, but because of significant barriers to accessing technology and the Internet.

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the Government of Canada announced its commitment to helping more Canadians with disabilities participate in the digital economy.

More than $3 million in funding for the Neil Squire Society was announced by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, at the Rick Hansen Institute (RHI), a Vancouver-based not-for-profit organization that drives innovation in spinal cord injury research and care.

The funding is a part of the $22.3-million Accessible Technology Program, which provides support for the development of assistive and adaptive digital devices and technologies to help Canadians with disabilities take full advantage of technology.

The ministers also highlighted Budget 2018 funding of $23.6 million for the Rick Hansen Institute to support the institute’s efforts to achieve breakthroughs in spinal cord injury research and care.


“Despite new assistive and adaptive technologies that empower people with disabilities to participate in the workforce, we still see barriers to accessing technology and the Internet in our communities. Accessible Technology Program projects, like the ones announced today, will help us overcome these barriers and give all Canadians an equal opportunity to obtain the well-paying middle-class jobs of today and tomorrow.”

– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Global Accessibility Awareness Day reminds us all that when everyone is included, all of Canada benefits. That’s why I am proud that our government's funding and support are helping people with disabilities to participate fully in their communities and workplaces. I look forward to introducing new federal accessibility legislation this spring to help further break down barriers.”

– The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

“Today’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day announcement is an example of our government’s commitment to making the world more accessible for Canadians with disabilities. The Accessible Technology Program will help reduce the costs associated with developing assistive and adaptive technologies, and help address the employment challenges people with disabilities face. I am proud to see this kind of life-changing innovation happening in my riding of Vancouver Granville that will see more Canadians with disabilities participate fully in the digital economy.”

– The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“We are grateful to the Government of Canada through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Western Economic Diversification [WD] for sustained funding to support spinal cord injury research and care. This critical contribution will enable the Institute to support key initiatives and foster strategic alliances that will move us closer to a world without paralysis after spinal cord injury. We look forward to working with WD and our clinical and research network to continue improving health outcomes for Canadians with spinal cord injuries.”

– Bill Barrable, Chief Executive Officer, Rick Hansen Institute

“I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the Government of Canada for renewing its support for and partnership with RHI. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Western Economic Diversification Canada have been instrumental in funding the development of technologies that are vital to accelerating progress, improving health outcomes, finding cures for patients, and supporting their community of family and friends who have been impacted by spinal cord injuries. As founder of RHI, it’s promising to see a lasting legacy that is propelling a made-in-B.C. global movement that will continue to unite the world in finding a cure for paralysis after SCI.”

– Rick Hansen, Founder and CEO, Rick Hansen Foundation 

“First I want to acknowledge the leadership of ministers Bains and Duncan to not only put into place the Innovation Fund for Assistive Technology but also ensure Canada’s whole Innovation Agenda includes a disability lens. More specifically, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the ministers for their support of the Neil Squire Society. This funding will enable us to continue to develop an open source assistive technology model across Canada that greatly reduces the cost of many assistive technologies. This model not only incorporates innovation in the actual technologies but also further develops an innovative model that efficiently delivers those assistive technologies to each individual, meeting their unique needs. Thank you for this important support that I believe will help significantly improve opportunities for Canadians with disabilities to participate more fully in all aspects of society.”

– Gary Birch, Executive Director, Neil Squire Society

Quick facts

  • With the $3 million announced today, the Neil Squire Society will develop and distribute switches, mouth-operated systems and mounting solutions for digital technologies to make computers, laptops and mobile devices more user-friendly for people with disabilities.

  • Assistive and adaptive technologies include screen readers, alternative keyboards, refreshable Braille displays and various software and applications.

  • For-profit organizations, not-for-profit organizations and research institutes can still apply for funding under the Accessible Technology Program. The next calls for proposals close on June 2, 2018, and January 2, 2019.

  • This program is part of the Government of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan, a multi-year strategy to create well-paying jobs for the middle class.

  • May 27 to June 2 is National AccessAbility Week. This is a time for Canadians to promote inclusion and accessibility in our communities and workplaces and to celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities. It is also a time to recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces who are actively removing barriers to give Canadians of all abilities a better chance to succeed.

Associated links


Follow the department on Twitter: @ISED_CA

Karl W. Sasseville
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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