SESSION 1 MEETING SUMMARY, November 25, 2015

NOVEMBER 25, 2015
SESSION 1 MEETING SUMMARY

On November 25th a diverse range of individuals with disabilities gathered for the first time to discuss voluntary accessibility certification for business. Participants from the disability community included those with auditory, visual and mobility disabilities, along with advocacy organizations and service providers.  Participants collaborated in a roundtable setting to discuss accessibility barriers and challenges around the development of a third party independent certification model.  With over 25 participants in attendance, the dialogue was rich in perspective.

Participants shared stories and experiences that supported a compelling business case for accessibility certification. They were encouraged to share their stories and are invited to continue sharing through the Share Your Story section to support the business case for being more accessible.

Many themes were explored regarding the current challenges for embracing accessibility, the opportunities for improvement, and the viability of a certification model to unify and promote cultural change. Developing such a model will require input from multiple stakeholders, working through complex issues together to arrive at solutions that are simple and achievable for businesses, and provide clear incentives for action. A key question for future sessions is: Can the communities participating in this process agree on a clear set of priority actions that would enhance accessibility for consumers?

Noted challenges from today’s session that could be addressed through certification include a general lack of awareness regarding accessible business and the need for both business and people with disabilities to address attitudinal barriers. Participants expressed concern that often their contributions and suggestions do not inform the actual outcome due to lack of transparency. As well, participants expressed a concern that a certification model must not be “a piece of paper with no teeth.”

With these concerns in mind, participants also advanced strategies for advancing accessibility, which included a best-practices checklist; the use of examples of accessible practice in action; testimonials for business people from colleagues; mentorships between businesses, and mentorships between individuals.

The value of this type of grassroots effort is that it avoids an over-reliance on government, and empowers change by placing the responsibility for design on those who will potentially be impacted most. A scenario in which businesses, acting as “change champions” and jointly working with a wide representation of  individuals with disabilities, is an example of an effective grassroots effort that may  result in wide-scale change. To obtain this type of buy-in among stakeholders, there needs to be a combination of mentorship, education, competition, and incentives.  Furthermore, leveraging and building on existing programs and infrastructure will drive scalability.  

A more detailed summary will follow and the dialogue continues through more face-to-face sessions and through on-line participation at certifiedforaccess.ca.  Please share your thoughts, stories, and post data to support the journey. 

The next roundtable takes place on Fri Nov 27.