Working Accessibly from Home

Category
May 25, 2020

In Case You Missed It

I hope everyone is in good health and doing everything they can to stay safe and support each other, as we continue to adjust to a new way of doing business and serving Canadians during this pandemic. It has been amazing to witness the resiliency and innovative spirit of public servants, as we all pull together to find ways to work inclusively away from the office. What I find so interesting is that everyone, in some way, is being disabled by this experience.  What do I mean by that?  We are struggling with an environment that is creating barriers to our participation.  And, guess what?  We are finding adaptations, and accommodations to help us continue to make a contribution.    Whether it is using face masks, or leveraging social media to connect, or improvising home offices, we are finding alternative ways to be productive.  have no doubt that we will come through this challenge stronger than ever and benefitting from a new perspective on how we work, where we can work and who can do the work.

I wanted to take this opportunity to make everyone aware of some exciting initiatives that are on the horizon, but before I get to those, let me briefly update you on some great events that happened in the last few months.

Figure 1: Yazmine Laroche and Luna Bengio address the Town Hall in Gatineau.

In the spirit of Nothing Without Us, I continue to engage with employees about accessibility in the public service and to discuss implementing the accessibility strategy. In February, I hosted two Town Halls in the National Capital Region—one in Gatineau and the other in Ottawa. I was so pleased with the turnout and the level of interest in these events, with both of them selling out quickly. I enjoy these town halls because I’m able to hear directly from employees about their thoughts, ideas and concerns regarding making Canada s public service the most accessible and inclusive public service in the world.

In addition to engaging with employees, I’m fortunate to get opportunities to speak at a number of fantastic events throughout the year and to meet the most amazing people. One such event was the Canadian Vision 2020 Summit held here in Ottawa and hosted by Fighting Blindness Canada and the Canadian Council of the Blind. The goal of the Summit was to share with Canadians the key issues facing the vision loss community in 2020 and propose solutions to these issues. Luna Bengio also participated in the event, which was an incredible success.

Figure 2: Yazmine and the panel discuss the future of accessible work at the PPF event.

Later in February, I was part of a panel discussion hosted by the Public Policy Forum (PPF) on the future of accessible work in Canada. The panel also included the Honourable Carla Qualtrough and Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft. It was such a rich discussion around a number of important points, for example: those in positions of power must lead by example; users with lived experience of disability must be involved in identifying and removing barriers; and specific accessibility measures should guide our actions, enabling us to track our progress.

Figure 3: The panel discusses implementing accessibility in large organizations at the DM Seminar.

On the very same day, I hosted an accessibility-themed DM Seminar led by the Canada School of Public Service. We were fortunate to have an incredible expert panel of speakers that included Jenny Lay-Flurrie from Microsoft, Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility for the Government of Ontario and Kirsten Sutton, Vice President and Managing Director at SAP Labs Canada. They shared their experiences, success stories and lessons learned regarding removing barriers to accessibility and driving culture change in large organizations. It was truly an enlightening afternoon.  It was a tremendous learning opportunity for all of us, and I believe it helped us to react nimbly and inclusively as we navigated during the COVID crisis.  

For those who have not had the opportunity to review the Phase 2 results of OPSA’s Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodations in the Federal Public Service, I encourage you to do so. Funded under the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund, the Study shows that the current process is complex, burdensome and time-consuming, and does not achieve timely or effective results. The Study will inform change that will enhance the experience of employees with disabilities and equip them to contribute to their full potential.

Looking ahead, we have many exciting things coming up, most notably National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) from May 31 to June 6, 2020. This year we are going digital and will host a virtual event open to all public servants on June 1.  We are going to have some fun and informative videos posted on Canada.ca/AccessibleGC to celebrate NAAW, so stay tuned for some exciting updates!

On June 2 during NAAW, we will be releasing episode 2 of our My Accessible GC video series featuring Graham Spero, now with Accessibility Standards Canada. The video highlights a great pilot initiative at the Public Health Agency of Canada. You can find the My Accessible GC video series at Canada.ca/AccessibleGC and on the TBS YouTube Channel. I encourage you to watch for that.

Lastly I want to remind managers that they can play a role in building a more diverse and inclusive workplace while contributing to the renewal of the public service by hiring a student with disabilities this summer! The Public Service Commission's (PSC) student inventories are available year-round, and can bring energy and innovative ideas to the workplace. Please visit the PSC website to learn how you can be an agent of change!

Not so long ago it would have been unthinkable for so many of us to be working from home separated from our teams and colleagues, and yet here we are. I’m very proud of how everyone is persevering and discovering new ways to do their work. I look forward to hearing about the success stories and innovative approaches that result from this experience.

Continue to take care of yourselves, and keep up the great work!


Yazmine Laroche

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Yazmine Laroche
Deputy Minister Champion for Federal Employees with Disabilities

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