Consulting with Canadians on accessibility legislation

In the past, many Canadians with disabilities could not participate in consultations due to their inaccessible design. In 2016-2017, the Government of Canada held the most accessible consultation ever done in Canada, with engagement of over 6,000 Canadians both in-person and online. Canadians had access to sign language interpretation, accessible facilities, and a host of other accommodations. Canadians with disabilities were able to communicate in the way that worked best for them.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

As Canadians, we all benefit from accessibility when we and our family members, friends, neighbours, classmates and co-workers are able to fully participate and contribute in our communities and workplaces without barriers. These barriers, however, continue to exist today and limit the social, political and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities across Canada.

Currently, one in five Canadians over the age of 15 has a disability, and that number will likely grow as the population ages. We cannot continue to ignore barriers to accessibility. This is why, in the summer of 2016, we began asking Canadians all across the country: “What does an accessible Canada mean to you?” We knew that we needed to take an innovative approach to consultations – that is why we focused on the disability community’s guiding principle of “Nothing about us, without us” when planning each activity.

More than 6,000 Canadians participated in-person and online. Throughout the consultation, there were 18 in-person public meetings across the country supported by local leaders from the disability community. These meetings were made fully accessible for a range of disabilities and included English and French real-time captioning, American Sign Language and Langue des signes québécoise, and intervener services for participants who are deaf-blind. In northern Canada, Inuit sign language was also provided.

The online consultation set equally high standards of accessibility. Consultation questions were available in Braille, large print, e-text, audio and sign language. Participants were also invited to share their ideas by email, phone or TTY or by sending audio or video recordings.

We worked hand-in-hand with disability organizations and national Indigenous organizations across Canada to ensure that everyone who wanted to participate had the opportunity to do so. Through the consultations, Canadians from across our country shared their personal stories—their challenges, successes, hopes and aspirations. We heard from youth who wanted equal access to education, we heard from parents with dreams of their children being self-sufficient, and we heard from young adults frustrated with their ability to access public services. Yet there was one common theme: They each faced a barrier that limited their ability to be fully included.

Since the consultation, the Government of Canada has introduced Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to help identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility. As the Government of Canada moves towards implementing Bill C-81, it will continue its commitment to innovative consultations that are based on the principle of “Nothing about us, without us.”

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  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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