Recommended Program Outcomes

Participants recommend community engagement in a learning and improvement process as the key purpose of certification, driving at the following outcomes:

  • People of all ages and abilities experience meaningful improvement in accessibility over time
  • Businesses discover affordable, sustainable ways of embracing accessibility
  • Businesses receive recognition for their successes, with demonstrable improvement in interactions with users and the broader community
  • Outcomes and metrics will respond to community feedback and will evolve accordingly

Working Group Recommendations

In addition to the principles above, each working group reached general agreement on the following topic-specific recommendations.

Model Scope and Design

  • Certification will:
    • Recognize process and performance rather than achievement in skills (e.g., responsiveness to community feedback, innovation)
    • Include a fair disclosure to businesses and users that certified status does not guarantee or replace compliance with AODA or the Code
    • Involve graduated levels, with a defined baseline, that complement AODA and Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the Code)
      • The baseline and graduated levels will have associated qualitative and quantitative measures, initially be set according to a range of inputs, including international indices from various sectors, community input, and expertise based on lived experience
      • The measures for baseline and graduated achievement will be re-evaluated, refined, and evolved according to community input received through defined feedback mechanisms
    • Provide support, training, and resources for businesses not yet reaching the standard for certification in order to encourage improvement
    • Include categories determined by trends in community feedback and inclusive of the evolving needs and abilities over a whole lifetime
  • Categories will not be segmented by type of disability or accessibility accommodation
  • The certification leadership will:
    • Send professionals to validate the feedback, with accreditation from a credible, validated source
    • Recognize business with certification
    • Provide business with a report of positive feedback and areas to improve
    • Identify appropriate resources to help the business improve
  • Certified status will be re-evaluated periodically; certification is not automatic and should be re-awarded at every instance of re-evaluation

Incentives for Business

  • Incentives will start by appealing to early leaders and will come to capture laggards as momentum grows
  • A hybrid model that combines top-down and bottom-up approaches will allow advocate organizations, consumers, and other community members to occupy a new space of empowerment and involvement in business relationships
  • Incentives for small and large businesses will differ (e.g., support and recognition versus corporate social responsibility), though both will be concerned with their users’ experience
  • Public-facing recognition will be the main driver for businesses to pursue certification, as it may lead to a larger user base and visibility for good works and for successes (e.g., a decal, marketing opportunities, identification on an online platform or access mapping site)
  • Support in implementing accessibility will be a major incentive for business, as it will minimize cost and time for businesses that want to be accessible but do not know where to start
  • Branding and marketing will be critical to ensuring buy-in from organizations
    • The economic argument for accessibility should be clearly articulated in language that is familiar to organizations in each sector

Governance and Leadership

  • The leadership and governance bodies should be separate and distinct
  • Leadership might take on one or some, but not all, of the education, assessment, and recognition functions
  • Leadership will be responsible for establishing the credentials required of those professionals evaluating businesses for certification
  • Leadership should include a champion or high-profile organization, as well links to a broad and diverse range of community organizations
  • Governance might be a board of directors, an advisory board, or an association that will provide oversight and accountability for the program
  • The governance body should include representation from persons of all ages and abilities, as well as business, municipal government, and broader public sector 


  • The certification program will run on a not-for-profit model
  • The model should look at a diverse range of revenue streams, and will diversify further as it matures
  • Grants and start-up funding will be required for cost-recovery at the outset of the model, while fees might account for the bulk of funding as more businesses sign on and certification builds momentum
  • Government funding should be seriously considered as a revenue stream
  • A full-time grant and report writer will be a significant asset to the program in terms of sustaining funding and building relationships with funders and other community sponsors
  • Fees might be charged for evaluation, certification, or education, but should be determined in proportion to the size of the business (measured by either square footage, number of employees, or client footprint)
  • Fees should operate on a tiered structure and be capped at a reasonable level; eligibility criteria for each tier will be clearly defined, with flexibility at the leadership level on how to apply the criteria
  • The model might incorporate options for businesses to identify when they need support or funding to cover fees, though this should be administered by leadership and arranged equitably and transparently

Branding and Marketing

  • Marketing should focus on the value add of certification as a complementary approach to AODA and Ontario’s Human Rights Code
  • Marketing should establish compliance as the presumed baseline for certification but should also distinguish between this program and mandated standards
    • Messaging would promote inclusive design that applies beyond any one type of ability
    • Marketing and branding might identify businesses that are “open to access” but not yet meeting standards for certification
  • Marketing efforts will need to build momentum and awareness of the program so that businesses and the broader community are confident as to what level of accessibility is required to be certified
  • The model should seek ways to collaborate or co-brand with existing initiatives and services in the community and should leverage all available and emerging technologies (e.g., established social media platforms, accessible conferencing systems, etc.)
  • Messaging and branding should:
    • Be simple, engaging, and relatable
    • Focus on the lived experience of accessibility and the process of learning, growth, and improvement
    • Distinguish between the training and recognition components of the program
    • Involve a simple, universal logo that serves as a meaningful signal that a business and its staff are able and ready to accommodate the community (e.g., a capital letter A for accessible, always open, available, etc.)

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