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Let's Talk about Accessibility!


Episode 10

Why are we writing an episode on accessibility?

Digital technologies are an increasingly important resource in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more. It is essential that these be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities. Access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, is defined as a basic human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

Accessibility supports social inclusion for people with disabilities as well as others, such as:

  • older people;
  • people in rural areas; and
  • people in developing countries.

Accessible design improves overall user experience and satisfaction, in a variety of situations, across different devices, and for older users. Accessibility can enhance your service delivery, drive innovation, and extend your reach.

To learn more read: The Business Case for Digital Accessibility

How Does Accessibility Affect Our Lives?

Meet Maayan Ziv, a disabled Toronto resident who has developed an app, “Access Now”. The app uses crowd sourcing to collect and share accessible spots around the world, giving mobility-challenged people the freedom to find ways to do what they want. Note: This video contains profane language.

Bien collectif - Toronto

Faites connaissance avec Maayan Ziv, une photographe torontoise dont l’app met sur la carte les endroits accessibles aux personnes en fauteuil roulant dans le monde.

Posted by VICE Québec on Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What Does Office of Public Service Accessibility Do?

The Office of Public Service Accessibility, was created in August of 2018 to establish the public service of Canada as the gold standard of an accessible and inclusive workplace. With the appointment of the first ever deputy minister responsible for accessibility for the government of Canada, OPSA is setting the conditions for the public service of Canada to identify, prevent, and remove barriers to participation for persons with disabilities. OPSA has a strategy: Prepare the public service to lead by example and become a model of accessibility for others, in Canada and abroad.

How Might We Build a More Inclusive Public Service?

Government departments like Canadian Digital Service (CDS), design for accessibility early and often. Recently, they hosted a panel of public servants with disabilities to build awareness within our multidisciplinary teams (developers, designers, communication specialists, product managers, and policy folks). Panel participants included people with motor, vision, hearing, neurological, and invisible disabilities. Their input, perspectives, and discussion around the barriers and challenges they face when using government services have been critically important to their work. One of the panel members provided this unexpected feedback:

My hearing aid is bluetooth enabled but my work phone is not bluetooth enabled.” – Angele from ESDC.
"Every individual uses their own approach to best meet their needs. There are no average or “normal” users." Our intent is to share this research with the broader government community to build a more inclusive Public Service." – Juliana Rowsell from CDS.

Meet Julianna Rowsell

Picture of Julianna Rowsell
Picture of Julianna Rowsell
I am outspoken. I advocate and push boundaries for accessibility. If we in the public service don’t push, nothing can change. We need more education in government on what barriers exist by including persons with disabilities throughout the discovery, design, development and delivery of a product or service.

Julianna shares things you can do to help build more inclusive and accessible services:

Do the research

Conversations with people with disabilities can spark unexpected feedback. Doing design research with people with disabilities helps define the problem space and informs the understanding of user needs. It also improves the human experience of digital services and serves to inform all aspects of design, development, and delivery.


Co-creation leads to better, more inclusive services by directly supporting people with disabilities. It ensures a holistic approach to accessibility and inclusion and embeds a sense of belonging that goes further than simply participating in activities, events and workspaces.

Raise awareness

By building capacity in delivery teams and raising awareness of accessibility and inclusive principles, we create a more inclusive environment for everyone. How we work together, interact, and communicate are key to building inclusive environments that encourage the participation and sense of belonging of people with disabilities.

If you are a public servant with a disability, and are interested in participating in research on building a more inclusive public service, please reach out


“By developing Canada’s first accessibility strategy for the federal public service, our government is helping create the most inclusive public service in the world. This is an important step in enabling the Government of Canada to set and meet high standards of accessibility in its policies, programs and services to all Canadians. It’s a strategy that reflects the true diversity of the people it serves and one that will help us achieve our ultimate goal: a barrier-free Canada where everyone is fully included.” - The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

Learn more about accessibility

Infographic: The Accessible Canada Act

Digital Standards Playbook – Build in Accessibility from the Start

Translation Bureau Accessibility Glossary

Accessible Design Helps Everyone

WC3 Strategies, standards, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

Video: Disability Inclusion in the Public Service of Canada: An Introduction

Busrides - Trajet en bus

Busrides - Trajet en bus

Our mission is to broaden and deepen digital literacy. / Notre mission est d'élargir et d'approfondir la culture numérique.

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