Model Scope and Design

The design and scope of the accessibility certification model is critical to building momentum and driving adoption of accessibility and inclusion in a public facing manner. With so many different types of businesses, it is important that a certification model be simple and adaptable to different circumstances.

Desired Outcomes

Recommendations on the structure of certification and evaluation, with clearly defined scope and parameters and a focus on simplicity and evolution.

Phase 1 Findings

Distinguishing between certification and compliance

Certification would recognize effort and commitment in going above and beyond AODA standards. Certification would not replace or aid in compliance or enforcement of legislation. Certification standards, while rigorous, should be demonstrably independent of AODA standards, as reinforced through marketing, branding, and choice of leadership.

Ensuring clear objectives and adaptability to different contexts

Certification should be aspirational, flexible and evolving. While the model would have clearly defined objectives and guidelines (with tools to support uptake), the model would also allow itself to evolve with changing demographics, business needs, and technological innovation. The model could recognize businesses for their successes while driving them to higher levels of accessibility. The meaning of “universal access” will be specific to different business types and sizes, with adaptability depending on regions, markets, and customer groups.

Creating an accessibility toolkit

A set of simple, low-cost tools would help raise awareness of accessibility among businesses, addressing attitudinal barriers and supporting businesses that want to become more accessible. Individuals and organizations from a broad range of sectors could collaborate on an accessibility toolkit. This toolkit would leverage existing programs and resources and could include training or advice from persons with lived experience of disability.

Additional Context for Phase 2 Discussion

Certification and recognition-based models vary in structure, often depending on their leadership model and sector of service.

  • Some programs refer to a specific industry or sector (e.g., Green Key, Marine Stewardship Council Certification), some certify based on a specific function but apply to all sectors (e.g., LEED, Digital Accessibility Centre Accreditation), and some incorporate different standards for distinct sectors and functional areas (e.g., ISO standards)
  • While some certifications (e.g., B Corp, LEED) may influence legislation, almost all are voluntary, independent of government, and separate from compliance
  • Some programs evaluate on a graduated rating system, using tiered, multi-level, or points-based evaluation (e.g., DineSafe, ACCESSIBILITY PASS, Green Key Eco-Rating Program, LEED)
  • In order to maintain simplicity, some programs offer one-level certification, on a pass/fail or similar scheme (e.g., B Corp, Better Business Bureau Accreditation, Fair Trade Certification)
    • While the standard for evaluation varies according to the program and its structure, most programs maintain flexibility for standards to evolve over time.
    • Evaluation criteria vary in form: consider the difference between a Planat, Green Map, or Access Now model that relies on individual experience and a Green Key Eco-Rating Program or ENERGY STAR model that benchmark individual experience according to set criteria

Almost all certification programs involve mechanisms to ensure the model evolves with legislation, changing demographics, public expectations, and client needs (some certification requires renewal after 1-5 years or evidence of compliance for a period of time before being recognized)

  • Most certification programs offer resources, training, or guidance to support uptake and to achieve higher levels of certification
  • For example, Excellence Canada offers curricula and training, the Partners in Injury and Disability Prevention Program (BC) pairs employers and certifiers to help the business’s performance evolve

Additional Parameters

  • The decided scope should consider feasibility and scalability; if the program starts in one region, sector, or functional area, how will it expand?
  • The model design will need to allow for evolution and flexibility to changing technology, accessibility infrastructure, legislation, and business and customer needs
  • The model design is largely interdependent with the chosen leadership structure: the level of centralization, the role of regional or sectoral partners, and those involved in developing supportive or educational resources will develop in complementary ways 

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