Leading the way in accessible workplaces
There are about 6.2 million Canadian adults with a disability. That's one in five of us who face one or more physical, social or economic barriers. These barriers can often keep people from being and/or feeling like equal members of society.
Many disabilities are invisible. We can't see cognitive or learning disabilities, carpel tunnel syndrome, or long-term effects from a concussion.
Changing attitudes and removing barriers gives people with disabilities more job opportunities and the chance to thrive in the workplace.
The Government of Canada is aiming to make the areas it oversees barrier-free. We will lead the way and become a model for accessibility. Shared Services Canada helps achieve this goal through its Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology Program (AAACT).
An inclusive and custom approach
AAACT staff meet with workers and listen to their needs and challenges. They do research, make technology recommendations to employers and offer advice and personal experience. More than one-third of AAACT's team are both experts in their field and persons with disabilities. They are passionate about sharing their own experience and expertise in order to create and shape a more inclusive federal government.
"I love that my job supports accessibility and inclusion," says Kevin Shaw, one of the AAACT Program supports. "I am proud of my team's efforts as we strive towards a barrier-free government and society."
AAACT staff also help employees develop new skills to adapt the way they work. This guidance and technology solutions like special keyboards or screen readers, can make a big difference in workers' everyday lives.
Bridging the gap
Natalie Osika, a policy analyst at Health Canada is one such worker. Her department's Workplace Wellness Services Centre put her in touch with AAACT. She was looking for help with some of her workplace challenges due to an invisible disability.
"They're really well informed," she says. "They helped me find technology that I didn't know was out there." Osika's disability makes it hard for her to take notes. AAACT gave her a pen and notebook that records the conversation as she writes. She can listen to clips when going over her notes to make sure she understands the information she wanted to capture. This saves her a lot of time as she doesn't need to listen to an entire recording of a meeting. She only needs to listen to what was recorded during the key points she took with her pen.
Osika is grateful for AAACT's great service, especially since she was starting a new job. "That's the time when you want to take the most notes." AAACT loaned her the pen while her department goes through the procurement process to buy one. "It helps bridge the gap."
She is also thankful she can call AAACT any time she has questions or issues with her adaptive technology. "I find them really trustworthy. They really took the time to build a personal relationship."
No wrong door
Each year, the AAACT Program helps departments promote accessible products and services. It holds information sessions with managers, employees and program areas. These sessions help participants:
- understand accessibility standards and their role in creating a more inclusive environment;
- consider how their information technology projects can take an inclusive-by-design approach that is accessible by default;
- explore accessibility and adaptive technology topics and options before having an assessment completed
The AAACT program takes a 'no wrong door' approach so that workers who need support find the solutions they need. Canada's public service is a much richer place thanks to the AAACT Program — a team of people dedicated to helping public servants participate to their full potential.
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