Governance and Leadership

In the creation of a third party certification model for accessibility which is independent from government with the aim of achieving a higher standard than the law alone, governance and leadership are critical considerations. The choice of who leads and governs is key to ensuring accessibility certification is both accountable and effective.   Diverse interests, representation from multiple stakeholders with appropriate checks and balances is fundamental to a credible model. 

Desired Outcomes

The desired outcomes for this discussion are:

  • Recommended and clearly defined responsibilities and traits of the leader(s) of the model
  • Mechanisms for keeping certification and its leadership accountable to the public and to the spirit of the model over the long-term

Phase 1 Findings

Ensuring diverse representation in leadership at every stage

Collaboration and partnership should underpin the development and administration of the certification model. A citizen-owned recognition or certification process would incorporate perspectives from a broad range of communities, including persons with disabilities. Further, a network of supports may help to increase credibility in the community and to support adoption. This model would be more inclusive and transparent than a single certifying organization or association in charge of implementation.

Promoting community networks of support and dialogue

The certification body should leverage existing expertise spanning accessibility, barrier-free business, and voluntary recognition-based programs. Established research and advocacy organizations could provide implementation resources and support, while recognized accessibility champions or leaders would be invited to share information with other businesses, motivating them to embrace accessibility. Finally, colleges and universities might support the certification initiative by incorporating accessibility into their curricula, influencing culture change by way of the business and tech leaders of the future.

Establishing mentorship and partnership relationships

Leadership could involve coordinating mentorships and partnerships between various entities, including businesses, advocacy groups, and educational institutions. Business Improvement Area Associations, Boards of Trade, and Chambers of Commerce would be encouraged to partner with the certification body as central points of coordination for small and medium enterprises. Partnerships might involve two entities that complement each other’s skills, experiences, and gaps in capacity – whether business to business at the local level or between organizations at the leadership level (i.e., a network of certifiers). Mentorships and partnerships may be coordinated via a public registry or by the certifying body, or they might be allowed to occur organically.

Additional Context for Phase 2 Discussion

Existing certification or recognition-based programs differ in terms of who leads the model, who assesses an entity’s compliance, and the level of centralization:

  • Leadership can emerge from the private, non-profit, or public sector, or a coalition of the three
  • Evaluation can occur through self-assessment and compliance reporting (first-party), industry codes of conduct or standards (second party), or an external group imposing expectations on an industry or organization (third party)
  • Some voluntary certification models are led by a centralized agency or organization, while others rely on public rating and endorsement

Existing centralized programs adhere to a range of leadership models:

  • A single entity sets standards and issues certification (e.g., Excellence Canada, LEAF Food Standards Certification, Fair Trade Certified, Better Living Design)
  • A single entity sets standards and issues certification, with input from a third party advisor (e.g., B Corporation, Star Quality)
  • A national entity certifies according to international standards or guidelines (e.g., LEED)
  • A national entity sets standards or guidelines to qualify applicants for international certification (e.g., Green Key Eco-Rating Program)
  • A central entity sets standards while various third party partners certify (e.g., ISO, Marine Stewardship Council Certification, WorkSafeBC)

Several recognition-based programs fall on the opposite side of the spectrum, following a decentralized model:

  • Crowd or open-sourced mapping of desirable locations according to a given need or value set (e.g., Access Now, Access TO, Green Map)
  • Public rating and review according to desirable qualities (e.g., DineSafe, Planat, Yelp, Trip Advisor)
  • Central sponsorship of local initiatives (e.g., Britain’s Disability Confident Campaign)
  • Collaborative platforms to enable co-production (e.g., OCAD U’s Platform for Economic Inclusion)

Additional Parameters

  • The entity leading and administering the certification model should have the financial and human resources to support an adaptable, evolving, and self-sustaining model over the long term
  • The model should be scalable across a broad range of sectors and regions while remaining viable and credible in specific jurisdictions
  • The model should have a built-in mechanism to ensure ongoing evaluation of its effectiveness and relevance and to maintain accountability to the public 

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