The 2023 Progress Report on the 2023–2025 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Accessibility Plan

Table of contents

General

Note: The 2023 Progress Report on the 2023–2025 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Accessibility Plan follows the requirements and guidelines provided in the Accessible Canada Act and the Accessible Canada Regulations.

The following Progress Report highlights the progress made on the goals outlined in the Accessibility Plan. The Accessibility Plan was published on December 28, 2022, and describes the department's accessibility practices and programs in relation to identifying, removing and preventing barriers. Over the three-year period (2023–2025), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) will address and remove barriers across seven priority areas.

The ISED Accessibility Secretariat would like to gratefully acknowledge the valuable contributions of:

  • members of the ISED Persons with Disabilities Network
  • members of the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel
  • employees in the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy
  • staff in the Office of the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer
  • the ISED senior management team

At ISED, the Director General of the Human Resources Branch, supported by the Accessibility Secretariat, is responsible for receiving feedback on barriers and on the 2023 Progress Report. The Director General may also be contacted to request a copy of the Progress Report, Description of the Feedback Process or Accessibility Plan in an alternate format. The Accessibility Secretariat of the Human Resources Branch is the author of the Progress Report.

Members of the public can request alternate formats and give feedback on barriers, the Progress Report, the Description of the Feedback Process or the Accessibility Plan as follows:

Online – Members of the public can visit the Accessibility at ISED web page and fill out the Accessibility Feedback Form. This option can be anonymous.

Email – Members of the public can email their feedback to ISED at ISEDAccessibilityPlan-PlandAccessibilitedISDE@ISED-ISDE.gc.ca.

Mail – Members of the public can mail their feedback to ISED at:

Accessibility Secretariat
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street
1 East Tower, Postal Box 11
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H5
Canada

Telephone – Members of the public can call the ISED Citizen Services Centre during the business hours of 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern Time).

Telephone (toll-free in Canada): 1-800-328-6189
Telephone (Ottawa): 613-954-5031
TTY: 1-866-694-8389

Fax – Members of the public can fax the ISED Citizen Services Centre at 343-291-1913.

Employees at ISED can use the internal version of the Accessibility Feedback Form to report barriers. Employees can access this form through the ISED intranet main page when logged on to their ISED devices.

Some people may want to provide feedback in an alternate format. If so, they can contact the Accessibility Secretariat by online form, email, mail, telephone or fax to make the appropriate arrangements.

ISED will acknowledge feedback on accessibility in the same method it was shared, in accordance with the ISED Citizen Services Centre service standards. ISED will not acknowledge receipt of feedback that was sent anonymously but will process the feedback appropriately.

Application

The Progress Report applies to the following sectors and organizations:

  • Audit and Evaluation Branch
  • Canadian Intellectual Property Office
  • Competition Bureau Canada
  • Corporate Management Sector
  • Digital Transformation Service Sector
  • Industry Sector
  • Innovation Canada
  • ISED Legal Services
  • Office of the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer
  • Office of the Corporate Secretary
  • Office of Life Sciences and Biomanufacturing Readiness
  • Office of the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being
  • Science and Research Sector
  • Small Business, Tourism and Marketplace Services
  • Spectrum and Telecommunications Sector
  • Strategic Communications and Marketing Sector
  • Strategy and Innovation Policy Sector

Additionally, the Progress Report applies to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (OSB). Although the OSB is listed in Schedule IV of the Financial Administration Act, it is under ISED's financial structure and is not considered a separate entity in terms of financial reporting in the department. Therefore, OSB is included in the organizations supported by the Progress Report.

Introduction

The 2023–2025 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Accessibility Plan was published on December 28, 2022. The Accessibility Plan describes the department's accessibility practices and programs in relation to identifying, removing and preventing barriers. Over the three year period (2023–2025), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) will address and remove barriers across seven priority areas. All eight priority areas were considered and substantive goals were established for the seven priority areas that were most relevant to ISED.

The following 2023 Progress Report highlights the progress made on the goals outlined in the ISED Accessibility Plan, presents the consultation results from the focus group sessions with ISED employees with and without disabilities, and outlines how feedback from barrier reports has been considered and applied to the department's processes and programs.

Areas described under section 5 of the Act

The following section identifies each priority area of the ISED Accessibility Plan. The priority areas are culture; employment; built environment; information and communication technologies; communication, other than information and communication technologies; procurement of goods, services and facilities; design and delivery of programs and services; and transportation. Under each priority area, ISED's progress in achieving the 2023 goals is discussed.

Priority area 1: Culture

Culture is a critical point to address in order to eliminate attitudinal barriers in the department. Changing the culture will result in ISED becoming an inclusive department for all employees and clients.

We achieved the following three goals in 2023, as outlined in the Accessibility Plan.

Goal 1: Provide documentation on ableist behaviours to all ISED employees to mobilize accessibility behaviour and mindsets and promote the completion of Accessibility Matters training.

The Accessibility Secretariat co-developed and published the Anti-Ableism Toolkit, which is available on ISEDWeb for all ISED employees. The toolkit includes PowerPoint presentations on anti-ableist behaviours and anti-ableist language, a manager's checklist on anti-ableism, a media web page on disability representation, and infographics. The Accessibility Secretariat consulted the accessibility ambassadors, the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel and the Human Resources Executive Talent Management Team for feedback on the toolkit.

Goal 2: Support each member of management to receive training on accessibility and ableism.

The Diversity and Inclusion Team and the Accessibility Secretariat developed a training session covering safe space principles, accessibility and anti-ableism. The first training session was provided to the Human Resources Executive Talent Management Team. Further sessions will be provided to each sector's management table and to staff in the Deputy Minister's Office and the Office of the Corporate Secretary.

Goal 3: Implement the strategy to promote the Guide to Accessible Meetings across ISED. Support all sectors to follow the guide.

The ISED Guide to Accessible Invitations and Meetings was launched in fall 2023. The strategy to implement the guide was developed by the Accessibility Secretariat, which consulted with members of the Persons with Disabilities Network, the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel, the Accessibility Champion and colleagues at various levels across the department.

To support change management in the department, the Accessibility Secretariat developed information sessions, online tools and templates to make new accessibility practices related to invitations and meetings easier and seamless.

Priority area 2: Employment

ISED is committed to building and supporting a more diverse, safe, respectful, healthy and inclusive workplace. While culture change is a large part of the work ahead, initiatives and tools have been identified to better prepare management on how to support employees and candidates with disabilities.

To achieve the overall outcome, ISED worked on the following five goals this year.

Goal 1: Establish new external talent acquisition projects geared toward hiring persons with disabilities by focusing on the candidate experience, providing timely and relevant accommodations, and reducing bias and barriers in the assessment process.

ISED continues to implement concrete talent acquisition initiatives targeted toward people with disabilities as part of the broader goal of welcoming increasingly diverse candidates to talent pools. 

In November 2023, ISED participated in a career fair for students and new graduates with disabilities, organized by the David C. Onley Initiative for Employment and Enterprise Development in partnership with Algonquin College, Carleton University, La Cité and the University of Ottawa. The Human Resources Branch (HRB) continues to work to create, develop and maintain employment partnerships with post-secondary institutions.

Early next fiscal year, HRB will launch a multi-stage recruitment strategy for hiring people with disabilities in Administrative Services (AS) positions at ISED, in collaboration with our external partners. The goal of the strategy is to not only recruit persons with disabilities but also create an inclusive and accessible environment that supports employees after they are hired and contributes to their retention.

Goal 2: Establish and implement the Getting EX Ready program focused on under-represented employment equity groups, while partnering with various executive search firms and launching an EX-01 hiring process to fill specific EX jobs.

The learning component of the new Getting EX Ready program is progressing well for the first cohort and is expected to be completed in May 2024. The cohort is composed entirely of ISED equity-seeking talent. Each participant has a sponsor and a developmental assignment to expand their networks and career opportunities, in addition to building their leadership competencies and confidence. ISED expects to complete participant assessments in spring 2024.

HRB collaborated with search firms specializing in the recruitment of members of equity-seeking groups to provide tailored executive recruitment options to fill specific vacancies. HRB continues to work with ISED hiring managers to bring in new and diverse talent, identifying opportunities to secure executive-level talent from equity-seeking groups external to the public service. A second iteration of its Executive 01 (entry level) Repertoire prioritizing candidates from equity-seeking groups will be launched this year.

Goal 3: Prepare to implement the new requirements related to the upcoming section 36(2), identification of biases and barriers, of the Public Service Employment Act by providing training and information to advisors and managers, assessing staffing policies and procedures, and leading an interdepartmental working group to develop tools and products.

Immediate actions were taken to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Public Service Employment Act. To ensure meaningful change, work on improving practices, processes and policies will continue in 2024.

A tool was developed for human resources advisors to review assessment methods and materials for sources of bias and barriers, based on guidance from the Public Service Commission of Canada. Work continues on reviewing assessment methods and materials with hiring managers to explore ways to remove or mitigate any biases or barriers found. ISED Human Resources is working collaboratively with the Diversity and Inclusion Team to develop a department-wide standard to implement diverse selection boards.

By the end of the current fiscal year, ISED will have completed a review of all candidate-facing documents to ensure they are accessible. Additionally, collaborative work across disciplines will continue and consultations with the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel will be conducted. The collaborative work will include research on bias and the identification and creation of barrier-free assessments. HRB will also assist in reviewing and remodelling the Workplace Accommodation Centre to ensure a seamless candidate-to-employee experience.

Goal 4: Establish a strategy for setting and monitoring departmental hiring goals for persons with disabilities to ensure not only representation but also ISED's participation in the 5,000 net new hires project.

To ensure the department supports the Public Service Commission of Canada's initiative, ISED's 2023–2025 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy includes this goal as part of the commitment per sector. Executives for each sector are required to include the initiative in their work portfolios.

ISED's target is to hire 249 employees with disabilities by March 2025. The Public Service Commission of Canada has indicated that ISED has to hire around 79 employees annually to meet this goal by 2024–2025. HRB continues to work on clarifying and establishing structures to support this commitment across ISED.

Goal 5: Engage with persons with disabilities to co-design improvements to the service delivery model of our Workplace Accommodation Centre.

A review of the Workplace Accommodation Centre's process was completed this year. Using the lean methodology, the current process was mapped from the perspective of different participants, and key barriers were identified. A team of employees—including Workplace Accommodation Centre staff; employees from Labour Relations, the Accessibility Secretariat, Recruitment, Onboarding, and the Office of the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer; and representatives from the Persons with Disabilities Network and the ISED Managers' Community—worked together to develop solutions to these challenges and design a future process.

In the immediate term, work is being done to design a new approach to accommodation requests, including the level and type of medical documentation required. This will be followed by a series of adjustments to the process so that it better aligns with the Centre's new vision. This work will be accompanied by the development of new tools, a communications strategy and a performance measurement strategy for the Centre.

Persons with disabilities have been involved throughout the review of the Centre. This includes their participation in the lean review and in the project's governing bodies, and they were regularly engaged and consulted on different aspects of the project. As the review advances, persons with disabilities will continue to be engaged and meaningful opportunities for consultation and co-development will be established.

Priority area 3: Built environment

ISED recognizes that an accessible built environment helps everyone. ISED office buildings meet the building code; however, this does not mean that office spaces are accessible by default. The department has taken measures to ensure a more inclusive and welcoming environment.

Goal 1: Complete a review of ISED signage to identify signs that do not meet the newFootnote * Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat Federal Identity Program's signage requirements.

The Corporate Facilities Directorate is continually requesting confirmation of timing and monitoring for updates from the Treasury Board Of Canada Secretariat (TBS) regarding the new Federal Identity Program (FIP) signage standards. In its last update in spring 2023, TBS noted that the updated signage standards will include the new accessibility requirements and will be developed by Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC) over the next year or more. The ASC Technical Committee tasked with revising the FIP signage standards has begun its work. At this time, the status quo remains for signage. As this goal is a priority for the Corporate Facilities Directorate, it will remain in the Accessibility for Built Environment Action Plan and will be transferred to a later year for completion once the updated standards are issued for the Government of Canada.

Goal 2: Complete a review to identify washroom locations that do not have accessibility features.

In coordination with regional contacts, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), BGIS (formally known as Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions) and landlords, the Corporate Facilities Directorate has been requesting whether accessibility reviews of washrooms have been completed. For locations where accessibility reviews have been conducted, the Corporate Facilities Directorate has requested and received reports. For locations where there is non-compliance with accessibility standards, ISED has requested confirmation of associated action plans to address the barriers identified. For locations where accessibility assessments have not yet occurred, the Corporate Facilities Directorate will be conducting reviews of the washrooms to identify accessibility barriers.

At ISED's location at 235 Queen Street, Ottawa, PSPC conducted an accessibility review of the washrooms, which identified barriers to accessibility. To address these barriers, PSPC has agreed to build an all-access fully enclosed single washroom on each floor, in both towers. This construction project will start this year and is to be completed by the end of the 2027–28 fiscal year.

Goal 3: Proactively identify areas with unsecured and excess cables and wires for electronic equipment. Find solutions and develop a standard to clean up the wires and cables to prevent tripping hazards.

The Corporate Facilities Directorate is currently assessing work locations to determine the best-fit solution for managing unsecured and excess cables and wires of electronic equipment that may result in a hazard. The solution is to work with both the new adjustable workstations and the existing older furniture. This solution is also to be used in all ISED locations, as applicable, moving forward.

Procurement of this required solution is to be conducted by the end of 2023, with implementation in an area for testing purposes in collaboration with the Chief Information Office Information Technology Technician Team and the on-site movers in the National Capital Region. The approved solution is to be implemented in all ISED work locations in the following fiscal year, where required, and is to be incorporated in all new furniture installations.

Goal 4: Implement the feedback received during the testing of the review of life safety systems for emergencies.

The Security Services Directorate is working closely with BGIS to incorporate visual notification appliances for those with hearing disabilities into the existing fire and life safety system in the C.D. Howe Building.

BGIS has confirmed the project has been added to the C.D. Howe Building Project Plan for 2024–2025, with implementation of the project to begin in April 2024.

Goal 5: With the review of circulation paths, automated door openers, reception decks and service counters in ISED buildings across the country completed, work will continue to address the remaining 9% of barriers identified.

All projects to address the barriers identified under goal 5 are under way. Concerns about the delivery timelines for some of the projects have been noted. Currently, the majority of the projects covered by this goal are expected to be completed in the 2023–2024 fiscal year; however, full completion of the remaining few projects is expected by the end of fiscal year 2024–2025.

Priority area 4: Information and communication technologies (ICT)

Information and technology are necessary to how we work. During this time of remote and hybrid work, it is especially important to provide employees with barrier-free access to information, tools and technology. The two goals identified for 2023 were achieved due to collaboration among different teams, including the Digital Workplace Service Division (DWSD), the Digital Transformation Service Sector and the Human Resources Branch.

Goal 1: Give training to all sector managers on how to make accessible documents, especially on how to make accessible documents for screen readers.

The Diversity and Inclusion Team and the Accessibility Secretariat developed a training session covering safe space principles, accessibility and anti-ableism. The accessibility portion of the training taught ISED employees how to create accessible documents. Additionally, the Accessibility Secretariat developed and distributed a 5-point checklist for accessible documents to all assistant deputy ministers' offices, the Office of the Corporate Secretary, directors general's offices and directors' offices for them to use when reviewing documents to be brought forward to management tables.

The DWSD will continue to promote new accessibility resources, such as the intranet page developed to showcase Microsoft 365's accessibility features.

Goal 2: Support and promote the use of accessible software, tools and communications products.

The DWSD launched an intranet page that includes documentation on Microsoft 365's accessibility features. A number of other digital accessibility resources are also available on the intranet, including instructions on setting work location in Microsoft 365, the Microsoft Stream accessibility checklist, and videos on setting up live captioning and transcription features in Microsoft Teams meetings.

The DWSD raised awareness of digital accessibility at ISED across multiple platforms. For example, articles were published on ISED Central to raise awareness of the accessibility tab in the Adoption App, Microsoft 365's accessibility features and additional accessibility resources at ISED.

The DWSD learned that an accessibility blanket solution could not address the multiple functions of Microsoft Teams as an internal communication tool. Every item in Microsoft Teams was unique and required its own analysis regarding accessibility. Furthermore, accessibility was considered for all new technology features that were implemented at ISED, with a focus on new accessibility-based features in the Microsoft 365 suite of applications.

Priority area 5: Communication, other than ICT

Communication is fundamental to how we learn, keep up with information and share it across the department. To achieve the overall outcome, ISED met the following three goals.

Goal 1: Check accessibility of ISED's central newsletter.

The @ISED newsletters were checked for accessibility this year. The newsletters assemble content available on the intranet, which is compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, including the provision of alt text.

Goal 2: Make sure that ISED branded templates and ISED corporate templates are accessible.

New ISED branded templates and corporate templates were created and checked for accessibility. The Strategic Communications and Marketing Sector (SCMS) presented these templates to the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel in October 2023. The new templates will be available in the SCMS Store by the end of the 2023–2024 fiscal year.

Goal 3: Make sure that all corporate ISED-wide events (in-person or virtually) have sign language interpretation (American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language) and closed captions for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

This year, all corporate-wide events that included the Deputy Minister's participation offered American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and closed captioning. The technology initially used at the onset of the pandemic may not be sustainable due to its failure points (for example, the limited number of attendees possible in Microsoft Teams meetings). Moreover, with the ongoing transition to a hybrid workplace and increased demand for the Deputy Minister's participation in events, additional financial resources and capacity are required to fully integrate accessibility features into both virtual and in-person experiences.

In fall 2023, SCMS and the Accessibility Secretariat began collaborating to develop a sustainable approach for corporate-wide events. The work to ensure all corporate-wide events have sign language interpretation and closed captioning will continue in 2024.

Priority area 6: Procurement of goods, services and facilities

Whether for physical assets, computer software or professional services, procurement is a key element to achieving accessibility at ISED.

Goal 1: ISED purchases accessible goods and services, when available.

Work on this goal is ongoing, and it will continue to be over the course of the next two years. The procurement officers and leads encourage and promote accessibility with clients.

Goal 2: All contracts for goods and services will include a requirement for the contactor to provide documentation in a fully accessible format.

ISED procurement officers provide a checklist to their clients and suppliers, asking for documents to be accessible. All ISED documents are provided in accessible formats.

Priority area 7: Design and delivery of programs and services

As a department with many grants and contributions programs and many regulators, ISED must consider accessibility from program conception and design to delivery.

Since the publication of the ISED Accessibility Plan, the Programs and Services Priority Area Working Group has attempted to mobilize action toward achieving the goals. Efforts to refresh this working group's membership will continue in 2024. In fall 2023, emails were sent to encourage membership and a few meetings were held to determine next steps toward achieving the goals.

Goal 1: Determine what programs and services to review with an accessibility lens. Figure out what barriers exist in these programs and services and find solutions to remove barriers.

An environmental scan on previously identified barriers at ISED was conducted. The environmental scan identified a variety of programs and services that need to be reviewed through an accessibility lens. The review period will begin in winter 2024.

Goal 2: During the onboarding process, require that all client service specialists take the Accessibility Matters at ISED training as well as training on accessible client service delivery.

The onboarding process and documentation was verified to ensure that the mandatory Accessibility Matters at ISED training is included.

A one-pager on accessible client service etiquette was developed and shared with all ISED client service employees, along with additional resources. Efforts to raise awareness of accessibility in programs and services will continue in order to ensure that they all become accessible to employees and clients.

Goal 3: Increase awareness and educate employees at ISED call centres (i.e. ISED Help Desk and HR Services) on the use of video remote sign language interpretation.

An information sheet on video remote sign language interpretation was developed and shared with all ISED client service employees. Efforts to increase awareness of how accessibility can be incorporated into our programs and services (for employees and external clients) will continue. The aim of this work is to make sure ISED's programs and services are accessible to employees and the people of Canada.

Goal 4: Increase awareness of alternative communication methods (e.g. pictures, letter boards and communication devices) to reduce attitudinal barriers at ISED call centres.

An information sheet on augmentative and alternative communication methods was developed and shared with all ISED client service employees. Efforts on raising awareness of alternative communication methods in grants and contributions communities through regular communications will begin in winter 2024.

Priority area 8: Transportation

During this year's consultations, participants noted similar barriers relating to the length of time for commuting, issues with transportation in the National Capital Region (NCR) and lack of accessible parking lots near 235 Queen Street, Ottawa, as were noted in the Accessibility Plan. We reviewed ISED's policies, practices, programs and services again and determined that we cannot resolve these barriers at this time as it is not under ISED's purview. ISED does not currently own any parking lots in the NCR.

Currently, telework and flexible hours are accommodation options for employees. The employees’ managers must agree to the work arrangement and consult the Workplace Accommodation Centre for guidance when the arrangement is related to disabilities or functional limitations. Transportation will be further reviewed and discussed as part of the 2024 Progress Report on the ISED Accessibility Plan.

Consultations

As highlighted in the Accessibility Plan, the department is committed to having annual consultations with people with disabilities. The consultations for the Progress Report took place in August 2023 on Microsoft Teams.

The consultations included three focus groups. Participants could provide their input in the official language of their choice using various means, such as email submissions and one-on-one requests. The participants included members of the Persons with Disabilities Network (48 employees) and the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel (23 employees) and employees in the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (152 employees).

The consultation questions (Annex A) were based on those used in last year's consultation on the ISED Accessibility Plan. This was done deliberately so as to learn if there are any emerging trends or reoccurring themes and issues.

Progress over the last year (2023)

During the consultations, participants were asked if they experienced any improvements in accessibility and noted any progress in removing barriers at ISED over the past year.

Some participants shared that they are appreciative of the work that the Accessibility Secretariat has done over the last year. In particular, they are pleased about the ISED Guide to Accessible Invitations and Meetings, the continued function of the Accessibility Ambassadors Program and the ongoing work of the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel.

A participant shared that they are pleased that more work has gone into procuring assistive technologies in the last few months. For example, it was noted that assistive screen reader software, Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA), became available department-wide. This removed the barrier for persons who need NVDA, as they can easily access and install the software now instead of having to ask Information Technology technicians to buy and download it.

Regarding the built environment, participants shared that many barriers were removed this year. Notably, there were efforts to remove barriers in the office, such as installing automatic door openers on all doors and installing blue light filters in office spaces upon request.

Overall, participants highlighted these positive actions in identifying and removing barriers to accessibility in 2023. However, more work needs to be done to remove existing barriers in all priority areas across the department, as well as prevent new barriers from emerging, by consulting the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel and, when possible, implementing the recommended changes.

Reoccurring barrier themes

During last year's consultations in preparation of the Accessibility Plan, all participants highlighted many barriers to accessibility at ISED. As a result, the priority area leads across the department identified goals for resolving some of the barriers reported. Unfortunately, some of the barriers reported last year were reported again during this year's consultations.

Culture

Most participants shared that when it comes to disabilities, accessibility or accommodations, there is always a need to justify why these are important considerations in the workplace. There were discussions about having to prioritize justifications for accessibility based on productivity or finances, even as upholding the principles of human decency are fundamental in the department.

Many participants highlighted that managers should receive training to understand that not all disabilities are permanent and that they can be episodic or temporary. Participants discussed that if managers took sensitivity training, they would better understand their employees' needs and would have greater awareness and knowledge about how to provide accommodations and work accessibly with their teams.

Regarding intersectionality, many participants shared that people with disabilities are often not considered in equity, diversity and inclusion at ISED. Many identity factors can intersect with disability: race, ethnicity, gender identity, culture, age and more. Disability needs to be considered on all fronts as it can affect anyone, at any time. Participants discussed that, overall, there needs to be a recognition of the history of the way people were treated and of the challenges moving forward to ensure ISED becomes an inclusive and accessible department for all employees and clients.

Employment

During last year's consultations, many participants discussed issues with telework policies and processes. Similar input was provided this year. Participants discussed that they experienced a lack of flexibility at ISED when it comes to teleworking. For example, people with episodic disabilities are not given flexibility in choosing which days to work in the office. There are "mandatory" days for all team, directorate or branch members to be present in the office, which is unrealistic and difficult for people with episodic disabilities as they do not know when they will experience a flare-up.

Furthermore, many participants discussed that people with disabilities did not feel any consultations were reflected in the parameters of the recent teleworking policies and processes. Participants highlighted that all policies and processes must include consultations with people with disabilities, such as the ISED Accessibility Feedback Panel.

Built environment

Similar to last year's consultations, many participants discussed the need to have all office work spaces accessible by design. Additionally, it is critical to ensure that all work spaces can accommodate people of all sizes.

Communications

Many participants discussed barriers in communication, including inaccessible documents, lack of human-generated alt text and inaccessible meeting invitations. The results from this year's consultations are quite similar to last year's.

Many participants shared that all documents and emails need to be in accessible fonts (i.e. sans serif fonts) and that emails should include accessible signature blocks. Furthermore, inaccessible images are a frequent barrier, as many communications do not have alt text. Further efforts must be made to ensure that all communications are accessible so that all employees can understand the message being shared, particularly if its content is essential to work performance, tasks, and roles and responsibilities.

Procurement

Last year, the majority of participants indicated that they experienced barriers with receiving products for accommodations. The barrier was reported again this year during the focus group sessions. Many participants discussed the lengthy wait times for ergonomic and accessible products or devices to be approved and received, which puts employees' work and health at risk. Participants discussed how they often need to work while in pain because the procurement process takes a while. Participants discussed that more knowledge on accessibility and assistive technologies is needed among staff involved in the procurement process.

Transportation

Last year, employees shared that there were barriers relating to the length of time it takes to commute to on-site work locations. This year, a few employees experienced similar barriers. In particular, they shared that there are issues with public transportation in the National Capital Region, impacting people's commute to work, and that there is a lack of accessible parking spaces for employees at on-site work locations.

Feedback

Since the publication of the Accessibility Plan, ISED has incorporated accessibility into its internal governance structure. ISED established a series of new standard operating procedures to implement change and monitor progress.

The department has not received any direct feedback on the 2023–2025 ISED Accessibility Plan since its publication in December 2022, but various barriers in the department have been reported to the Accessibility Secretariat since May 2021. The most common barriers reported were in the Culture and ICT priority areas.

Working horizontally across the department, the Accessibility Secretariat implemented the Feedback Process to identify, report and resolve barriers to accessibility in the department. The feedback form, which is available on the intranet and ISED's website, supports the identification of barriers in each priority area. All barriers reported were recorded in ticketing system software and investigated by the Accessibility Secretariat and the appropriate priority area leads to resolve the barrier. All updates on tickets are recorded in the ticketing system. Monthly reports on the status of the tickets are shared with the Director General of the Human Resources Branch.

Statistical reports

Since May 2021, 182 barrier reports were recorded in the ticketing system. In 2023, 30 barrier reports were submitted, 16 tickets were resolved and 14 tickets were closed. Tickets for reported barriers are considered resolved when the barrier is identified, addressed and removed, and tickets are closed when there is a misunderstanding about the reported barrier or the barrier is not within ISED's control. All tickets received since December 2022 were acknowledged as per the Act, excluding anonymous submissions.

Barrier reports by priority area

The following table includes tickets for barriers reported between May 2021 (the launch of the feedback form) and December 2023.

Priority area Active tickets Resolved tickets Closed tickets Total number of tickets
Built environment 3 23 13 39
Communications 6 21 14 41
Culture 2 20 28 50
Employment 1 1 11 13
ICT 7 30 28 65
Procurement 2 4 8 14
Programs and services 0 1 2 3
Transportation 0 0 0 0

Priority area working groups

Before the publication of the ISED Accessibility Plan, the Accessibility Secretariat met regularly with priority area leads. These leads were provided with pre-built templates and information packages to establish working groups to address the goals outlined in the Accessibility Plan.

In January 2023, the Accessibility Secretariat hosted the first ISED Priority Area Working Group meeting to compile information for quarterly reports. The Priority Area Working Group was created to make it easier for priority area leads to work collaboratively in identifying, addressing and removing barriers and achieving the goals outlined in the Accessibility Plan, particularly as certain reported barriers span several priority areas.

All priority area leads meet quarterly to provide updates on their 2023 goals. At these meetings, stakeholders address each priority area's goals, and the leads share what they are working on to resolve these barriers to accessibility.

Quarterly reports

Throughout 2023, quarterly reports on progress in accessibility were compiled and shared with all priority area leads and the senior management team, including the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for accessibility. The quarterly reports include information on ISED's progress in achieving the goals in each priority area for 2023.

Annex A – Consultation questions

The following is a list of questions to ask during consultations:

  1. Imagine ISED as a completely accessible department.
    • What is your vision for an accessible ISED?
    • What is your role in making ISED "completely accessible"?
  2. What do you think ISED is doing well in terms of accessibility and disability inclusion?
  3. Have you noticed any improvement or change in accessibility over the past year?
  4. Have you encountered or witnessed a barrier to accessibility at ISED in any of the following areas? How did that impact you, your team or your stakeholders?
    • Culture
    • 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
  5. What is your role in identifying, removing and preventing barriers to accessibility? Think about your capacity as:
    • a public servant
    • a subject matter expert
    • a member of your specific directorate, branch or sector
  6. Is there anything else you would like to share to help identify areas to be addressed in support of accessibility?
  7. (Optional) Thinking about the next few years, what format (email, newsletter, etc.) would you like to receive information about:
    • progress on accessibility at ISED
    • your legal and departmental obligations related to accessibility
    • ways to contribute to an accessible culture

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Accessibility progress reports developed by other institutions

List of accessibility progress reports developed by other institutions