AccessAbility Playbook - Play 7 Be part of an accessible culture

Play 7 Be part of an accessible culture

Make accessibility possible!

I am an employee

Be an ally. When you witness policies or practices that go against accessibility principles, don’t be afraid to raise the issues or question the status quo. Don’t be afraid to suggest new ways of doing things.

I am a Team Leader or Manager

Be an agent of change. Promote accessibility awareness and consider inviting guest speakers to your next town hall or staff meeting to discuss accessibility in practice. Consider including accessibility awareness activities or training within annual performance agreements. Recognize that your staff may need additional time to provide an accessible client service experience.

I am an Executive 

Lead by example. Put accessibility at the forefront of your decisions. If endorsing a new program or service, make sure that all design decisions have considered accessibility in all its facets. Your role is to foster a culture of accessibility. As you repeat messaging about efficiency, performance targets and standardized procedures, are you telling employees how accessibility fits into these priorities?

No matter your role in the organization, you have the power to drive change!

Foster an accessibility-supportive culture

Culture is a thing

Culture is reflected in the attitudes and behaviours within the organization and determines what is encouraged or discouraged. Employees face implicit expectations that will affect the decisions they make each day as part of their work. This can be seen in many aspects of your day-to-day activities.

For example, the priority you place on ensuring systems are accessible, how you allocate resources and investments and the way persons with disabilities are treated each day is a reflection of your culture.

Why culture matters for service delivery

There is a saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”… will your strategy to improve the accessibility of client services survive the ingrained attitudes and behaviours of your organization?

Organizations cannot develop procedures for every possibility, at some point client service staff will need to adapt. How they adapt will be guided by the organization’s culture. Over time culture will counter the best intentions as it is encompassed in the beliefs and behaviours of employees.

Legacy policies and procedures can create hurdles for staff wanting to ensure a person with a disability can access a service of benefit. An organization’s policies indicate expectations that can re-enforce an outdated culture. A renewed focus on accessibility needs to be holistic.

Questions to consider 

  • Is accessibility considered from the start when developing a new program or service?
  • Is compliance to accessibility standards part of your department’s go/no go decision for launching new systems or services?
  • Do all staff receive training to improve their understanding of accessibility issues?
  • Do employees talk about accessibility just because it is important?
  • Is accessibility included in your planning, even when budgets are limited?

Repeated messaging…

  • Shapes people's attitudes and behaviors;
  • Brings together a way of thinking and doing;
  • Defines what is encouraged and accepted;
  • Resonates better when shared often.

Take steps to move your culture towards accessibility

Express your values

Values are statements about how we would like staff to think and behave. They reflect what we want our organization to be. When values and culture align, it is a powerful force moving the organization forward.

The Government of Canada’s Values and Ethics Code explicitly identifies Respect for People as a Value of the Public Service.

Accessibility is part of your values; how do you express your values to highlight the importance of accessibility?

Embed accessibility in governance

Service delivery infrastructure is often the result of many separate projects implemented over time and continues to evolve into the future. Hence, accessibility isn’t a one time question and ensuring services remain accessible can benefit from governance processes.

  • Is there a clear understanding of the accessibility standards for the organization? Do exceptions require an explicit decision?
  • Is accessibility a mandatory requirement for investment approval and implementation?
  • Is there explicit tracking and reporting on progress towards accessibility?
  • Is it clear who is accountable for accessibility?

Awareness and understanding

Society’s understanding of accessibility has evolved significantly and most people don’t have the opportunity to see it in its entirety through personal experience. Awareness and understanding is a key element of changing culture.

While specialists will need specific training to inform their work (e.g., service specialist, web designer, etc.), it is the raising of the collective understanding and awareness that changes culture. Training, information, regular discussions can all work to develop awareness of the barriers that exist for persons with disabilities.

Treating all people with respect, dignity and fairness is fundamental to creating relationship with the Canadian public and contributes to a safe and healthy work environment that promotes engagement, openness and transparency.

Excellence in the design and delivery of public sector policy, programs and services is beneficial to every aspect of Canadian public life. Engagement, collaboration, effective teamwork and professional development are all essential to a high-performing organization.

Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector

“Even as people with disabilities lead the way forward, many still face discrimination, exclusion, and barriers. Today, we recommit ourselves to building a more inclusive country – and world – based on equality and respect for everyone’s human rights.”

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, 2019