Accessible by Design: 2022–2025 OPS Multi-Year Accessibility Plan
Read how the initiatives in this plan will help the Ontario Public Service (OPS) become a more inclusive and accessible employer and service provider.
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Message from the Secretary of the Cabinet
There are more than 2.6 million Ontarians with a disability in the province – that’s nearly one quarter of the population. Together with their families and loved ones, persons with disabilities represent more than half our population.
COVID‑19 has had an outsized impact on this community, as persons with disabilities and their caregivers have faced bigger roadblocks in accessing healthcare and health information and have faced greater financial constraints. The pandemic has underscored the need for inclusive and accessible support for all Ontarians during times of crisis, and at all times. The Ontario Public Service both serves and employs persons with disabilities. For the OPS to be successful, it must ensure its programs and services are accessible to those it seeks to serve, and that public servants are able to understand and efficiently design, deliver, and guide users through accessible service channels. Accessibility benefits everyone.
In Ontario, we have made progress towards identifying, preventing, and removing barriers for persons with disabilities – but there is much more work to do. The measure of success for public service is defined by how it helps everyone, and particularly those facing barriers and biases. The 2022-2025 Ontario Public Service Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, Accessible by Design, supports the OPS Leadership Pledge to build an equitable, accessible, and anti-racist public service by outlining clear goals and actions to further our progress towards an accessible Ontario.
Accomplishing these goals requires systemic, cultural, and behavioural change at all levels of the organization. “Accessible by design” is not just a slogan. It’s a commitment for the entire OPS to build in accessibility from the start. It’s a way of thinking and working that aims to remove barriers and make accessibility a priority from the moment we start researching and designing the policies, programs, spaces, and services that Ontarians rely on every day.
When we design public sector workplaces and services with users at the centre, we can ensure they work better for everyone. That includes those living with temporary or permanent disabilities, and members of other vulnerable populations, such as seniors, as we have seen throughout the pandemic.
The goals and approach laid out in the 2022-2025 Ontario Public Service Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, Accessible by Design, will build resilience for the post-pandemic future – a future in which everyone in Ontario feels welcome and able to participate and contribute to their full potential. The well-being of Ontarians and the prosperity of our province depend on building an accessible, inclusive Ontario.
Secretary of the Cabinet
In 2005, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass a law establishing a goal and timeframe for accessibility. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) sets out a process for developing and enforcing standards to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive by 2025.
Under the act’s Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), the Government of Ontario (the ‘Ontario Public Service’ or ‘OPS’) and other organizations across Ontario are required to develop and publish multi-year accessibility plans, update those plans at least every five years and report on them annually.
The Multi-Year Accessibility Plan (‘MYAP’ or ‘the plan’) outlines how the OPS is responding to and going beyond our legislated obligations to identify, prevent and remove barriers for persons with disabilities.
The 2022-2025 OPS MYAP builds upon 20 years of continuous work to make the OPS more accessible, including previous multi-year accessibility plans, Accessibility in the Ontario Public Service: Leading the Way Forward (2012-2016) and the 2017-2021 OPS Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, as well as all the work undertaken to implement the AODA and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001.
The 2022-2025 OPS MYAP takes a focused approach on measures that will have significant impact. All ministries across the public service are playing key roles in delivery.
To collect feedback on the proposed plan, more than 45 rounds of stakeholder consultations were held with over 400 participants. A key insight expressed by employees with disabilities, accessibility experts and ministries is that the plan needs to outline concrete actions to build organizational capacity to remove accessibility barriers.
This insight is reinforced by the analysis of employee data and survey results, OPS strategies, jurisdictional scans and annual ministry reports on the progress made to date in identifying and removing accessibility barriers.
These concrete actions include providing employees with the training and resources needed to ensure accessibility is embedded right from the beginning in the design of policies, programs, and services.
Incorporating this philosophy of ‘accessible by design’ into the 2022-2025 OPS MYAP will help remove and prevent barriers in all areas of government and public administration, from the creation and implementation of policies and programs to facilities management, hiring and accommodation.
Guiding principles: impactful, measurable, and actionable
The 2022-2025 OPS MYAP was designed to be impactful, measurable, and actionable. The plan was created in partnership with ministries, employees with disabilities and other organizational stakeholders.
The plan supports the OPS Statement of Commitment to demonstrate leadership for accessibility in Ontario. The goal is to ensure accessibility for OPS employees and the public that is served through government programs, services, products, and facilities.
The goal of accessibility is also reflected in enterprise-wide strategic initiatives to prepare the OPS to respond to the challenges of today and tomorrow, as well as OPS leadership commitments to build an equitable, accessible, and anti-racist public service.
The OPS has been hard at work at advancing accessibility across the organization and across Ontario for many years.
The province’s previous multi-year accessibility plan covered the period of 2017–2021. Examples of progress achieved under this plan include:
- Improving employment opportunities for persons with disabilities by:
- launching an OPS Inclusion and Diversity Blueprint to further diversify our talent pool and leadership ranks
- increasing access and extending eligibility to youth employment programs for graduates with disabilities
- launching an OPS mental health framework and expanding virtual mental health resources
- building awareness about accommodating employees with disabilities through manager and executive training
- Serving the people of Ontario better by:
- providing mandatory accessibility training for OPS employees on how to provide quality service to persons with disabilities
- delivering more accessible digital services
- providing training on creating accessible websites and documents to support accessible communications
- Eliminating physical barriers in government buildings and other public spaces by:
- supporting barrier-free public spaces and ensuring accessibility is embedded in the Macdonald Block Reconstruction Project
- continuing to improve accessibility features in provincial parks
2022-2025 MYAP initiatives
The multi-year initiatives set out in this plan continue the foundational work of previous plans and incorporate new ideas to address persistent barriers to accessibility.
The initiatives fall under five key areas stemming from legislative obligations;
- Inclusive employment
- Equitable customer service
- Digitally-inclusive communications
- Barrier-free government facilities
- Accessible procurement and transfer payments
Addressing each of these key areas will help make the OPS more accessible for employees, who will in turn be able to deliver more accessible services to the public.
The Employment Standards under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation set out accessibility requirements that the OPS must follow to support the recruitment and accommodation of employees.
Key outcome: Candidates and OPS employees with disabilities have the support to join, work effectively, experience career growth, and have opportunities for learning, development, and progression.
- Streamline and integrate employment accommodation in the OPS.
- Develop and implement recruitment strategies to help increase the representation of persons with disabilities throughout the OPS.
- Design and pilot a sponsorship program to support career development and advancement of OPS employees from underrepresented groups, including persons with disabilities.
- Expand mental health resources and services, including for OPS employees with disabilities.
- Proactively identify and address systemic employment barriers with a focus on recruitment, promotion, and career development, including for OPS employees with disabilities.
A story of success
Meet Daanis – Daanis is an OPS policy analyst with low vision. Daanis has an individual accommodation plan that includes assistive software and a large screen laptop. In the past, Daanis has been required to initiate the accommodation process from scratch every time they changed positions. Now that the employment accommodation process has been integrated and streamlined, Daanis’ accommodation plan is automatically carried forward to their new position. This allows Daanis to start working immediately and deliver inclusive public services right from day one.
Equitable customer service
The Customer Service Standards under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation require the OPS to provide accessible public services for persons with disabilities and to ensure that policies and procedures are in place to support this requirement.
Key outcome: Clients of all abilities receive seamless, dignified, and equitable access to barrier-free services from well-equipped front-line OPS employees.
- Develop and implement strategies to support OPS front-line employees in providing accessible customer service.
- Renew and enhance mandatory OPS training on AODA accessibility standards and develop a supplementary role-based module on accessible customer service.
- Review and update the OPS Accessible Customer Service Policy to be more inclusive and promote the delivery of accessible customer service.
A story of success
Meet Rebecca – Rebecca is a new OPS customer service representative who encounters situations where she does not know how to effectively support clients with disabilities. Through new training and other strategies developed to support front-line OPS staff, Rebecca learns how to provide accessible and equitable customer service to clients of all abilities. She also has access to specialized accessible customer service support when needed, so she can feel confident providing barrier-free service that maintains her clients’ dignity.
The Information and Communications Standards under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation require the OPS to communicate and provide information in ways that are accessible to persons with disabilities.
Key outcome: Members of the public and OPS employees of all abilities are provided with equitable access to OPS digital information, products, and services that meet accessibility requirements.
- Develop an OPS Digital Accessibility Standard to provide clear corporate guidance on digital accessibility requirements.
- Implement the OPS Web Accessibility Plan to meet accessibility requirements.
- Create and implement the OPS Web Accessibility Literacy Strategy to build digital accessibility expertise in the OPS.
A story of success
Meet Joao – Joao is an OPS IT Manager who provides all new web developers with accessible web training as part of the onboarding process. As it can take time to develop expertise in creating accessible websites, Joao has also started including role-based accessibility requirements in his job descriptions. This practice helps him attract candidates with accessibility skills and helps build awareness of OPS web obligations to make all our internal and external websites accessible for everyone.
Barrier-free government facilities
The Design of Public Spaces Standards under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation apply to newly constructed or redeveloped public spaces covered under the standards. The initiatives below go above and beyond the standards to demonstrate the government's commitment to designing and building facilities and spaces that are accessible and inclusive for everyone.
Key outcome: Clients and OPS employees of all abilities feel welcome in OPS facilities that incorporate inclusive design practices and technologies.
- Develop OPS workspace standards that include accessibility and create an implementation plan for applying these standards to new office infrastructure projects.
- Review and recommend updates to the Guidelines for Barrier-Free Design of Ontario Government Facilities that align with best accessibility practices.
- Develop resources to build OPS expertise around inclusive design.
A story of success
Meet Sandy – Sandy is an OPS accountant and wheelchair user. Her former office layout prevented her from navigating the workspace effectively. Recent office renovations made under the new OPS workspace standards incorporate best accessibility practices. Existing physical barriers have been removed so both employees and visitors feel welcome and can easily access all areas of the building.
Accessible procurement and transfer payments
Under the general requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, the OPS is required to incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services, or facilities, except in instances where it is not feasible. While transfer payment funding arrangements are not specifically referenced in the legislation, the government is committed to preventing the creation of accessibility barriers with public dollars.
Key outcome: Accessibility is effectively integrated at each stage of OPS procurement and transfer payment processes to ensure no public dollars are spent in creating barriers for persons with disabilities.
- Create an Accessibility in Procurement Toolkit to build OPS employee and vendor expertise.
- Assess OPS transfer payment rules and embed accessibility requirements.
A story of success
Meet Levi – Levi is an adult learning specialist who procured a vendor to create a series of training videos on how to incorporate a business in Ontario. Including audio descriptions of visual elements in the training videos was not part of the original scope of work, but Levi used the resources in the new Accessibility in Procurement Toolkit to ensure the contract clearly identified that the vendor was to supply an accessible product. As audio descriptions are required for pre-recorded OPS videos under the legislation, Levi was able to ensure that the vendor provided this feature, making the videos more accessible for business owners with disabilities.
Accountability and reporting
A desired outcome of improved accessibility is a stronger sense of belonging, dignity, self-worth, and independence for persons with disabilities, which can be hard to quantify.
That is why the 2022-2025 OPS MYAP includes setting qualitative and quantitative measures to help identify when commitments have been reached. The plan’s accountability framework begins with identifying enterprise ministries to lead and support the development of the various initiatives. All ministries will be involved in implementing the initiatives and building capacity among staff to deliver on accessibility commitments.
Success will be monitored through executive performance reviews and regular reporting to senior leadership committees. The OPS will also share annual status reports on Ontario.ca to provide progress updates.
Accessible by Design – a mindset of designing policies, products, processes, and services with accessibility at the forefront – forms the foundation of the 2022-2025 OPS MYAP. This philosophy will guide the Ontario Public Service over the next four years as we work to incorporate a lived-experience perspective into the organizational outlook and deliver on the initiatives outlined in this plan.
There is still much work to be done. As an inclusive employer and service provider, the OPS is committed to creating meaningful and lasting change for persons with disabilities.
A more accessible Ontario is more inclusive for everyone.
For more information on this plan or to request an alternative format, please contact the OPS Accessibility Office at MYAP@ontario.ca