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Model Design

Participants discussed both guiding principles and practical design considerations for an accessibility certification model. Participants emphasized that a certification model would have to be simple, fluid and evolving, able to adapt to different accessibility requirements and business types. It would also incorporate elements of both awareness-building and concrete actions.

Key Discussion Points

Distinguishing between certification and compliance

  • Certification would recognize effort and commitment in going above and beyond AODA standards, with foundations set beyond compliance
  • Certification should ensure that the principles and legislative requirements of equity and human rights are maintained in the design, scope, and implementation of the model 
  • The distinction between compliance and certification should be reinforced by who leads certification (third party vs. government), the method of enforcing certification (customer endorsement, regulation, etc.), and the language used to describe the process (e.g., accessibility vs. universal access)
  • Participants differed on whether certification should be based on self-assessment or external evaluation, though all agreed that the model needed a system to keep the process accountable and ensure that certified businesses are truly accessible

Ensuring clear objectives and adaptability to different contexts

  • The certification model would be a living entity that is aspirational, flexible, and evolving
    • Certification would be a model of recognition based on an individual’s experience, representing the full diversity of what “accessible” might mean
  • The model would have clearly defined objectives, guidelines, or guiding principles with a toolkit of resources to support uptake
    • The model would incorporate elements of awareness-building and education as well as practicable actions
    • A “one-stop shop” for tools and support would help businesses overwhelmed by resources and uncertain where to start
  • The model would be simple, identifying accessibility foundations with clear and actionable next steps for businesses (e.g., an accessibility playbook)
    • The model could involve levels of accessibility, with universal access as the end goal
    • Business could be recognized, rewarded, or given publicity as encouragement for gradual improvements
    • Some participants referenced the Business Disability Forum’s Accessibility Maturity Model as an example of a matrix that allows businesses to start from a baseline of accessibility (set above compliance) with clear direction on how to evolve
  • The model could be adaptable to different business types and sizes and flexible enough to incorporate new technology and innovation
    • Participants were concerned that a one-size-fits-all certification would be ineffective; the model could address specific capacity, skill sets, or levels of experience
    • Allowing businesses to start with a baseline and evolve according to their needs, knowledge, and expertise would ensure accessibility and continued competitiveness
  • A personality test or customer experience rating would allow businesses to identify which accessibility measures beyond compliance are most relevant to them and their business 

Creating an accessibility toolkit

  • Businesses could use an accessibility toolkit, a set of simple, low-cost tools packaged collaboratively between individuals with lived experience and a broad range of sectors 
  • There are a wealth of existing tools and programs that could serve as resources or component parts of a certification model
    • Resources could include a registry of accessibility specialists, a digital library of videos and training support resources, a network of mentors or support groups, or a discussion forum
  • Leveraging crowd sourcing and networking technology would empower individuals (e.g., through ratings or endorsements) and build communities around accessibility in the long term 
    • Participants noted that a system for customer endorsement would have to be simple and universally understandable (e.g., using pictures instead of words or a voting system rather than a complicated ratings process)
  • Built-in mechanisms for feedback from those most impacted by the model could maintain its relevance and uptake

“An accessibility certification model should clearly define guidelines to establish expectations [for the procuring client]. The model could include an Advisory Council to monitor and modify the program, a registry of certified individuals or organizations, and a…measurement of maturity from year to year.”

"To address commonly faced attitudinal barriers, we developed a Learning Lab. The learning lab focuses on educating business owners on the various types of disabilities and how they can educate their staff. It also includes information on people-first language.”

While participants broadly agreed on the above points as foundational considerations, Phase 2 working groups could further discuss and find consensus on the below points. The range of models implied by the term “certification” was a particular topic of focus.

    Points for Further Dialogue

    • What could certification look like? Does the word imply an institutional, standards-based system? 
      • Would the model recognize progressive success or evaluate businesses according to instructions or criteria? Would a pass/fail or an incremental system be more appropriate? 
      • Would a checklist be useful in highlighting simple tweaks to improve accessibility or would it be too superficial to lead to meaningful change? 
    • How can the certification model build on existing tools? Is another model superfluous?
    • Would progress towards certification be determined by self-assessment or an administered test?
    • Would the model prioritize either awareness-building or simple, practical steps? Is certification a more effective tool for one or the other, or both?
    • What are the immediate steps that will lead to a sustainable model?