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2023 Accessibility progress report

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Message from the Deputy Minister

On behalf of the Department for Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE), it is a privilege to introduce our 2023 Accessibility Action Plan Progress Report. Our vision to increase accessibility within Canada, and the public service at large, is an ongoing priority, and I’m proud to present our department’s progress to date. 

In 2023, WAGE adopted the Government of Canada Workplace Accessibility Passport, implemented innovative hiring practices, and undertook a review of our systems, software, and websites to remove barriers. We reviewed our corporate commitments to improve our emphasis on accessibility and established a Persons with Disabilities Network to guide our efforts, to help us continue to learn and to inform our work. The Network is supported by the Accessibility Champion, who is tasked with working with the entire management team and employees at large to advance accessibility at all levels of the organization.

Our results are based on the principle of Nothing Without Us: Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada (the Strategy), including persons with disabilities in the development of the Accessibility Action Plan 2022-2025 and the preparation of our very first progress report. We sought feedback on the Plan through accessible forms of engagement and we are committed to become even more inclusive, as we continue to address persistent barriers.

Progress has been made over the past year, and at the same time, our work continues. We aspire to be an inclusive and accessible work environment that reflects the diversity of the people we serve. 

As we move forward, we renew our commitment to continue our learning, to being innovative, and seeking continuous improvement. 

We all play a role in breaking down barriers.

Frances McRae
Deputy Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Youth

Message from the Accessibility Champion

As the Accessibility Champion, I am proud to stand at the forefront of Women and Gender Equality’s (WAGE) commitment to enhance accessibility in Canada and within our public service. Our 2022-2025 Accessibility Action Plan 2022-2025 (AAP) is a key element in this endeavour, outlining objectives, strategies, partnerships, and timeframes in compliance with the Accessible Canada Act.

This report outlines our progress in areas such as employment; built environment; information and communication technologies; communications; procurement of goods and services; design and delivery of programs and services; and transportation.

I’m proud of the tangible progress we have made. Our achievements in advancing accessibility are notable. We’ve increased the representation of persons with disabilities from 4.07% in 2022 to 8.6% in 2023; completed two universally accessible washrooms on the 10th floor of our Gatineau worksite; and successfully implemented the Government of Canada Workplace Accessibility Passport. Additionally, we established the Persons with Disabilities Network, to guide and ensure that our efforts toward accessibility are informed and effective, and so that department-wide solutions can be found. 

Accessibility is the cornerstone of inclusion - it’s a key step towards a barrier-free society that allows people with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life. It’s a community responsibility, and we all have a role to play. Embedding accessibility as an integral part of our design and decision-making processes not only upholds the rights of individuals with disabilities but also foster a more welcoming environment for all.

Leila Boussaïd
Director General of Research, Data, and Intersectionality

General

Overview

This report was prepared by Human Resources Services Branch at WAGE in consultation and collaboration with the Persons with Disabilities Network, the Accessibility Champion, Communications, Labour Relations, Corporate Services, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Programs, and IT/Information Management. 

WAGE’s first Accessibility Action Plan was the driving force behind our collective effort to advance accessibility. Based on the seven priority areas required under the Accessible Canada Act, the following progress areas for 2023 are highlighted below. 

Employment

Built environment

Information and communication technologies (ICT)

Communication, other than ICT

Procurement of goods, services, and facilities 

Design and delivery of programs and services

Transportation

Progress

We have moved forward since launch of our first action plan and are pleased to put forward WAGE’s initial annual progress report. This past year was one of continued listening and learning to advance accessibility efforts within the department and foster a more accessible workplace and culture. While we have taken concrete actions towards real, systemic change, there is much more work to be done.

The Accessibility Action Plan 2022-2025 (AAP) focuses on the seven priority areas of the Act and is informed by ongoing consultations with persons with disabilities. This progress report highlights actions and sub-activities that were designed to remove barriers and create better conditions for persons with disabilities within WAGE over the past year.

Employment

Goal: improve recruitment, retention, and advancement of persons with disabilities.

Examine accommodation processes to increase timeliness and quality of service, and to move to a yes-by default approach.

Hold recruitment processes focused on persons with disabilities to fill identified gaps, and access government-wide programs to achieve this goal.

Identify and establish hiring/recruitment and promotion goals and plans based on context, staffing requirements, and gaps to significantly increase departmental representation for the public service to achieve a goal of 7% representation of persons with disabilities by 2025.

Ensure that anyone involved in the hiring process completes the following training: Inclusive Hiring Practices for a Diverse Workforce (COR120; formerly H205).

Develop a process and allocate resources regarding adjustments or accommodations during the staffing process.

Build accessibility considerations into departmental human resources plans and all other plans.

Develop guidance documents and tools for hiring managers.

Establish an accessibility sub-committee within the Diversity and Inclusion Committee (including employees with disabilities) to review and identify gaps when needed to be more accessible and inclusive.

Built environment

Goal: Enhance the accessibility of the built environment.

Review the built environment in consultation with persons with disabilities (employees, clients, and other people who regularly conduct business in buildings).

Review the new built environment in consultation with persons with disabilities (employees, clients, and other people who regularly conduct business in the building) in regional workspaces to identify how it could be more accessible and inclusive.

Actively promote accessibility features and services offered in workspaces and public-facing spaces.

Ensure that events and meetings are accessible to all employees and, where applicable, the public.

Information and communication technologies

Goal: Make information and communication technologies usable by all.

Ensure that accessibility considerations are included in the departmental IT plan.

Integrate and partner with Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology (AAACT) programs in order to offer a wide range of adaptations, alternate approaches, tools, training, services, resources, and adaptive computer technologies for employees with disabilities.

Review systems, software, websites, and equipment to ensure that they are accessible, and develop a plan to address barriers.

Ensure accessibility features can be enabled on devices.

Provide and promote resources for employees to generate (internal and external) accessible content with common tools (e.g., Microsoft Office).

Adopt measures and procedures to enable accessible, inclusive, and barrier-free IT equipment installations.

Communication, other than information and communication technologies

Goal: Make communications accessible by all and build an accessibility-confident environment.

Provide content (e.g., documents) in accessible formats, where possible, to promote accessibility.

Develop an accessibility strategy to analyze barriers for persons with disabilities and develop an action plan.

Identify an accessibility champion who will provide visible and sustained leadership in the development and launch of a network of employees with disabilities within the Department.

Develop a process to ensure that concerns from employees with disabilities can be provided confidentially, including through the ombuds’ office and confidential questionnaires.

Identify, promote, and encourage training from the Canada School of Public Service and awareness-raising events, such as information sessions, to combat myths and remove stigma regarding disability.

Promote self-identification and self-declaration of employees with disabilities to reduce the stigma regarding disability and improve reporting on representation of persons with disabilities.

Develop tools for employees and managers to focus on developing inclusive and accessible environments from the start rather than seeking accommodations after the fact, including by implementing the Accessibility Passport from the beginning of the onboarding process.

Procurement of goods, services, and facilities

Goal: Ensure the goods and services purchased are accessible by design, where possible, so that persons with disabilities can use them without adaptation.

Consider accessibility in the early stages of the procurement process so as not to create barriers for end users.

In addition, information is gathered on how to embed accessibility into the acquisition process with an accessibility consideration form.

Design and delivery of programs and services

Goal: Ensure WAGE is equipped to design and deliver programs and services that are inclusive, accessible, and beneficial to all.

Build accessibility into all new policies and programs by applying the Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) tool, which includes a disability lens and incorporates an accessibility and inclusion checklist.

Provide assistance to employees and managers in navigating the accommodation process in order to provide employees with the tools needed to do their job.

Gradually assess internal programs, in consultation with persons with disabilities at WAGE, to identify and remove barriers for persons with disabilities.

Transportation

Goal: Provide equitable and accessible transportation.

Share information about transportation services available near WAGE buildings (parking, cabs, public transport, and adapted transport).

Consultations

In the spirit of Nothing Without Us: Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada and in line with the requirements of the Act, WAGE held a voluntary information session and a voluntary consultation session with the Persons with Disabilities Network (PwDN). For members of the network who wished to participate in other ways, an online survey was available to obtain their feedback. 

The purpose was to gather information about lessons learned and progress accomplished throughout our first year of the implementation of the AAP 2022 – 2025 and challenges people with lived experiences are still facing when it comes to accessibility in the workplace and building a representative workforce. 

Our Path to accessibility collaboration

Phase 1: Information

In July 2023, an information session was provided to the network regarding the Accessibility Action Plan.

Phase 2: Survey

From August 11 to 25, 2023, members were provided an anonymous online accessibility survey as a potential alternative for employees who wished to make their opinion known but did not want to participate in the virtual consultation. For a copy of the guidance on consultations, please contact HR’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility team. The survey was available in both official languages, had contact information for questions, used plain language, provided definitions and examples for clarity, and was available in alternative formats such as an MS Word document.

The following range of disabilities were represented as 33% of PwDN members at the time completed the survey: mobility, learning, hearing impairment, flexibility, mental health, chronic health or pain, cognitive, and communications.

Phase 3: Preparation

In August 2023, HR consulted the PwDN regarding how they wanted to be consulted. The network established a process for consultations that guided how the next phase in the consultation would be carried out, in a way that is inclusive and accessible and provides the option for anonymity. For a copy of the guidance on consultations, please contact the IDEA team.

Phase 4: Consultation

In September 2023, HR held a virtual consultation through Zoom, in which 50% of PwDN members participated. During the consultation process trends and barriers ranging from behavioral to more systemic in nature surfaced.

What we heard

WAGE will consider what we heard about the AAP and analyze the feedback to assess what can be integrated into future accessibility actions. Below is a summary of the consultation. The consultation results are also being provided to all relevant OPIs to better inform their actions moving forward.

Retention and advancement

We heard that there is a need to revise the retention and promotion processes within the Department. The PwD expressed an large sense of inequality when it came to their career advancement. PwD are more likely to be disadvantaged when it comes to accessing promotions thus creating a barrier to career advancement. Non-imperative bilingual positions hiring processes are a barrier for some PwD, as well as job posters can be bias and a barrier for some, such as the ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing. PwD articulated that assessment materials should be reviewed to eliminate biases where some are found. Finally, special talent management plans for PwD might be a tool to help retain and promote employees with disabilities.

Accountability

We heard that there is a need for more awareness around what is currently being done about accessibility in the department and who the accountable parties (OPIs) are. For example, there is a lack of understanding among employees of who is supporting in the creation of accessible communications.

Awareness and learning

We heard that there is a need to change common misconceptions. PwD feel that managers have the perception that they are less competent than employees without disabilities.

We heard that there is a need for training on accessible documents, presentations, web content, and plain language, as well as mandatory training on AAACT, the Workplace Accessibility Passport, and accommodation. PwD voiced that material used in the department is not always accessible.

We heard that there is a need to increase awareness on accessibility, ableism, invisible disabilities, duty to accommodate, Workplace Accessibility Passport, other guides and tools. PwD expressed anxiety and fear about disclosing to their manager or colleagues they have a disability. There is a need for safe spaces where all employees can feel proud of who they are.

Accommodations

We heard that there is a need to create tools and resources to help managers and employees with the ergonomic assessment and accommodation process. PwD shared that it is difficult to find information on the assessment and accommodation process.

We heard that there is a need to integrate accessibility and accommodation into onboarding.

Data transparency

We heard that there is a need for data transparency when it comes to PwD’s representation within the department, such as gaps within the organization, hiring, retention, and promotion numbers, as well as statistics on self-identification and self-declaration.

We heard that there is a need for a self-identification awareness campaign. PwD expressed some are reluctant to self-identify because they do not feel safe to do so and fear their privacy will not be respected. Additionally, they voiced that there are no promise of career stability or development for employees who self-identify and question what the incentives are if they self-identify.

Feedback

Employees and members of the public are encouraged to share their feedback, anonymously or otherwise, about our AAP, barriers experienced, or any matter related to accessibility via our online feedback form. Individuals can consult the Accessibility Feedback Process for other ways to provide feedback and how we use your feedback.

A summary of feedback received, including potential solutions offered by employees and how they have been taken into consideration is described for each type of barrier below.

Systemic and attitudinal

Environmental

Communication 

Beyond 2023

Metrics and quantitative data to evaluate our performance is only part of the solution to becoming an accessible department. We must also evaluate behavior, feedback on efforts and accomplishments, as well as identify and address issues hindering our progress. 

The Accessibility Action Plan 2022-2025 is an evergreen tool that, with persistent action, will help us achieve a representative workforce and a workplace free of barriers for persons with disabilities. A key next step in our work is to revise the AAP based on consultations and collaboration with employees with disabilities, PwDN, key stakeholders, employees who have an interest in building an accessible workplace, managers, and bargaining agents. The goal is to ensure that our plan continues to reflect the views of the communities directly impacted in our workplace to ensure WAGE is accessible and inclusive. We will also develop a performance measurement framework that will support WAGE in tracking and reporting results on a more regular basis.

Consultation, collaboration, and communication are essential for the Evaluation of our accessibility journey. The IDEA Team will facilitate discussions with employees with disabilities, PwDN, OPIs, employees who have a vested interest in building an accessible workplace, managers, and bargaining agents.

  1. In the next calendar year, stakeholders and contributors will review the Accessibility Progress Report 2023, discuss results, and develop solutions for barriers that continue to exist and new barriers that emerge.
  2. HR will facilitate a presentation of OPIs actions within their respected area throughout the department. There will be a question-and-answer period in order allow collaboration to identify solutions and effective approaches to eliminate barriers.
  3. HR will monitor and communicate progress with the PwDN and OPIs to promote transparency and collaboration.

Words in motion

Words and actions in creating a fully accessible organization free of discrimination and oppression towards persons needing accommodation were formalized one year ago with the launch of the Accessibility Action Plan 2022-2025. 

Re-commitment starts now; let’s recommit ourselves to creating a more inclusive workplace. We can do this by challenging our own biases, fostering a culture of empowerment and safety for employees with disabilities, engaging at all levels of the department, and promoting open dialogue on accessibility. 

Transformation never stops; let's build a new and improved future for all. When we acknowledge that change is essential, transformation happens.

Let’s keep our words in motion; we are only as good as our actions. Our words are the foundation in building relationships, integrity, and trust. We all play a role in breaking down barriers; improving inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility across the department will require rigorous effort in the coming years.

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