So much to Celebrate!

December 3, 2019

Happy International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) everyone! There is a chill in the air, but nothing can dampen my enthusiasm in celebrating this day and everything we are accomplishing together!

It fills me with pride to see Government of Canada buildings across the country lit up in purple to celebrate the contributions of persons with disabilities as part of the world-wide Purple Light Up Campaign. It instills a sense of unity, as we work together to make Canada, and its public service, disability inclusive and accessible for all. This year’s IDPD theme really does hit the mark: The Future is Accessible.  You can help celebrate the day by wearing something purple…I know that I will be, for sure!

There has been a flurry of activity since my last blog post. I’ve continued to engage with federal public servants and key stakeholders across the country to talk about how we are working together to implement Nothing Without Us, An Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service.

Figure 1: Public servants in Regina, Saskatchewan discuss accessibility with DM Laroche

On September 24, I hosted a town hall with federal public servants in Regina, as well as a meeting with representatives of the Saskatchewan Government and the University of Regina. Then on October 10 I landed in Moncton, New Brunswick, where I met with members of the Atlantic Federal Council. It’s always enlightening to visit with folks outside of the NCR to gain perspective on accessibility issues that are unique to different regions of the country. The very next day I welcomed public servants to a town hall in Moncton, where we had a lively discussion about accessibility in the Government of Canada workplace.

Figure 2: PWDCCC Champions and Chairs participate in an interactive workshop at the Committee’s quarterly meeting

Our quarterly meeting of the Persons with Disabilities Champions and Chairs Committee took place on October 17. We enlisted the help of Susan Scott-Parker, CEO and Founder of Business Disability International, to facilitate an interactive workshop on how to drive culture change within our own departments and how to build robust employee networks. I left the meeting feeling so energized and look forward to our next meeting in March!

Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to Geneva to attend the Annual Conference of the Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN) hosted by the International Labour Organization. It was a great opportunity to learn about private sector initiatives happening globally to improve accessibility. I was impressed with the level of commitment shown by many large employers! This shows us that culture change is happening in private sector workplaces and governments alike. I also met with representatives of multiple UN agencies, as they are currently implementing their own disability and inclusion strategies.

Figure 3: Yazmine attends the Global Business Disability Network Conference 2019 in Geneva

My team has also been busy, so I want to update you on work underway that I’d love to hear your views on. We have recently established the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund. It is designed to support scalable and replicable demonstration projects, as well as research to improve the workplace for public servants with disabilities. Our first project was the first Benchmark Study of existing workplace accommodation practices in the federal public service, from both an employee and supervisor perspective, to identify common experiences, challenges and practices. This government-wide survey conducted in May 2019 has recently been supplemented with a follow-up survey in October 2019 to explore, in greater detail, the accommodation experiences and key findings of the initial survey.

Figure 4: Yazmine speaks with Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization at GBDN Conference

These studies will help us find opportunities to remove barriers and improve the process for work-related accommodations that will enable employees with disabilities to contribute to their full potential. We will be making them public in the new year, and I think you will find them a great source of information on a pressing issue.

Another project under the Fund is the Government of Canada (GC) Workplace Accessibility Passport. The Passport is a tool to create a more inclusive and accessible workplace by facilitating conversations between employees and their managers about the tools and supports employees need to succeed in their jobs. The Passport will support employee mobility and career development by ensuring the portability of adaptive tools and support measures between federal organizations.

We will soon be launching the beta version of an online Accessibility Hub as a “one-stop-shop” for guidance, tools, tips and best practices on accessibility. The Hub will continue to evolve over time with feedback from users, such as persons with disabilities, managers, functional experts and other public servants. Stay tuned for more details.

Figure 5: Yazmine poses for a picture with Caroline Casey, Founder of Valuable 500

Let me finish by mentioning the great work being done by our colleagues in the Office of the Chief Information Officer. To mark IDPD2019, they are publishing a new guideline for departments, agencies and organizations, encouraging them to leverage the Harmonised European Standard, EN 301 549 (2018), to help make information technology usable by all. That’s fantastic news!  This is great leadership and we should be very proud of their work.

I hope everyone takes time to celebrate IDPD2019 and reflect on how far we’ve come. And as always, I welcome your feedback and encourage you to share your thoughts here or on social media by using #NothingWithoutUs.

Yazmine Laroche

Yazmine Laroche
Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility and DM Champion for employees with disabilities

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