Points of Discussion

Points of Discussion

Certain key points of discussion recurred across all five working groups and through online comments. Some represent points where a participant differed from the majority in their perspective, some note key risks or considerations for implementation for the eventual certifier’s contemplation. The certifying body will have to communicate closely with impacted communities in order to work through these points of deliberation.

The Relationship between Certification and Legislation

  • There is a serious risk that if a certified business is not completely compliant with the AODA or Ontario’s Human Rights Code, the public might be confused as to the “accessibility” of the business; this also puts the business at risk of being found non-compliant
    • Legislation exists than mandates accessibility; this is a clear incentive for business
  • Certification would look at a different aspect of accessibility than legislation, offering a public-facing assessment of a business’s performance
    • Certification would look at inclusive design and user experience; legislation complements and is a foundation or floor for certification
    • To claim that certification assesses compliance with the law would overstep technical and legislative powers
    • The hope is that if the certification initiative gains momentum, it might incentivize government to be more active on AODA
  • If certification is the carrot, however, legislation must be a rigorously enforced stick

Certification as Reinforcement for Compliance

  • Principle 4 states that certification would be conditional on proof of compliance with AODA and Ontario’s Human Rights Code
    • How would the certifier know if a business is compliant if the program will not test or evaluate for compliance?
    • What happens if the certifier finds on arrival that the business is non-compliant with AODA?
      • In this case, certification would not be granted, based on the certifier’s ad hoc judgment
  • On the other hand, AODA is comprehensive and constantly evolving; not all businesses can meet all standards
    • The program may encourage businesses to comply or offer advice on how to move towards compliance without granting certification

Ensuring Rigour in a Hybrid Model

  • While a community-driven model will effectively raise awareness around the idea of accessibility, businesses need consistent and reliable standards to plan for the long-term
  • Self-assessment and voluntary self-reporting has not resulted in meaningful change or improvement in the past experience of participants

Creating Open and Inclusive Platforms for Community Feedback

  • The model should offer a variety of channels for gathering community feedback in order to remain inclusive; many community members do not or cannot use social media or other technologies
  • Businesses should be positioned to provide data on the barriers to achieving compliance or the situations where they lack the capacity to achieve compliance or certification
  • The organization developing the model should specify whether the community platform is available for anyone to see or whether it is open to businesses only
  • Information and data from the bottom up and top down functions should be open for review and comment so that the community can continue to engage in the design and evaluation of the program as it evolves

Creating a Transportable Model

  • The model should be internationally transportable
    • The aspiration is to create a portable program that could eventually work in other jurisdictions or achieve national coverage
    • Certification could add value as a feed or support for barrier-free Canada
  • Ontario and its legislative context could be a baseline, but the model should not be uniquely applicable to this province

Reconciling the Recognition of Excellence and Support for Improvement

  • There may be a tension in the model between educating and supporting organizations’ improvement and recognizing excellence
    • A business working towards compliance could still qualify for education and support without becoming certified right away
  • Similar programs in other sectors award points for areas of strength while offering support for areas where the business is struggling
    • This recognizes strengths without conferring the highest level of certification for businesses underperforming in other areas

The Importance of Collaborative Leadership

  • Some participants felt it would devalue the certification if it were led by one organization
    • One organization would be biased to their stakeholders and area of focus; the leadership needs input from various agencies and from persons of all abilities
    • Existing organizations have many existing initiatives and competing priorities and may not be able to give adequate attention to the program
    • This is a partnership between business and the community and that partnership should be reflected in the proposal of any organization looking to lead certification
  • If it were one lead organization, it would have to be a non-partisan organization working in collaboration with user groups and businesses to achieve desired outcomes

Piloting in a Community versus a Sector

  • While most participants agreed that the model should pilot in a community before growing to other jurisdictions, some maintained support for a sector-based pilot
    • A sector-oriented approach would leverage the bulk and might of a sector of early adopters to implement
    • Changes could occur more readily and large organizations could sponsor smaller organizations that fit their corporate social responsibility mandate

Notes on Language and Messaging

  • The word certification carries specific, often negative, connotations for businesses of an onerous or rigid process. As such, members proposed the principle refer to recognition rather than certification
  • All principles should refer to community or users rather than consumers as not all relationships are commercial or strictly individual to individual
  • The language of inclusive design will be useful in distinguishing the certification program from AODA and associated programming

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