What we do
Accessibility Standards Canada is a departmental corporation created in 2019 under the Accessible Canada Act (the Act). We are committed to creating accessibility standards for federally-regulated entities and federal organizations. These include government buildings, banks, and federal courts, among others. We are an accredited standards development organization. This means our standards are recognized as National Standards of Canada. This helps us open doors so that Canada can influence and be a global leader on matters related to accessibility.
“Nothing without us” is the principle that drives everything we do. We value the knowledge and experience of people with disabilities. We put this into practice by consulting and working closely with people with disabilities, diverse disability communities and other experts. This could even be you - find out how to get involved!
Diversity and inclusion are at the core of our organization. A quarter of our employees, and the majority of members on the Board of Directors, are people with disabilities. We are proud to be the first Canadian federal organization majority-led by people with disabilities. We are governed by a 9-member Board of Directors and a Chief Executive Officer. To learn more about how our organization functions, visit our organizational structure page.
Did you know?
The yellow and blue brackets used throughout our website were inspired by the patterns of Braille. They use the most accessible colour combination. The design represents different perspectives: that of a person who has a disability, and that of a person who does not. A person without a disability may not see the issues and obstacles that a person with a disability experiences everyday. The concept is meant to symbolize unique perspectives coming together to create an accessible Canada for all.
The brackets are also laid out in a complex pattern. This symbolizes that accessibility is not linear, but rather a complex issue to navigate.
We have a critical mandate to help achieve a barrier-free Canada by 2040. We do that by:
- Developing accessibility standards;
- Advancing accessibility research; and
- Sharing information related to accessibility.
These activities are aligned with the priority areas in the Act.
Developing accessibility standards
Our field of expertise is the development and revision of accessibility standards. The standards we create will set out how these bodies can prevent, identify and remove barriers to accessibility:
- federal private sector organizations; and
- Government of Canada departments and agencies
We develop these standards by gathering the best knowledge from people with expertise in our priority areas. This includes people with lived experience who know best the needs of the groups they represent, as well as industry experts. The public has an opportunity to comment on each of our standards.
Our accessibility standards are voluntary. Once ready, they will be published and submitted to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. If the Minister chooses to adopt them into regulation, they become mandatory. They then apply to federally regulated organizations and federal government departments and agencies.
Each of our standards are developed by a technical committee that we create and support. At least 30% of the members of each committee are people with disabilities. Technical committees:
- are responsible for developing accessibility standards; and
- include experts, persons with disabilities, and industry representatives.
You can join our technical committees. Visit this page to find out about the next opportunity to apply.
Advancing accessibility research
We fund research through our Advancing Accessibility Standards Research grants and contributions program. This program supports research that helps to:
- identify and remove barriers to accessibility;
- prevent the creation of new barriers; and
- inform future standards, including ours.
Lived experience of disability and research are equally important to us when making decisions.
Sharing information related to accessibility
It is also our responsibility to share information related to accessibility. We have a platform and want to use it to encourage change and inclusion. This means sharing best practices and research, which in turn equals better, more inclusive and sustainable standards. Collaboration is essential, as it will lead to greater positive impacts on the lives of all Canadians.
The Accessible Canada Act
The Accessible Canada Act (An Act to Ensure a Barrier Free Canada) creates a framework. It allows for the proactive identification, removal, and prevention of barriers wherever Canadians interact with areas under federal jurisdiction. It puts in place mechanisms that would systematically address accessibility.
The Act has three key players:
- Accessibility Standards Canada;
- The Chief Accessibility Officer; and
- The Accessibility Commissioner.
Together, their mandate is to contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040. The Act aims to improve accessibility in the federal sector and to support consistent experiences of accessibility across Canada.
Frequently asked questions
Definition of a standard
A standard guides activities of organizations in a way that is consistent across sectors. It means people can expect the same level of service or quality of products.
To whom the standards will apply
Standards are voluntary measures. They will apply to organizations under federal rule:
- parliamentary bodies, including:
- the Senate
- the House of Commons
- the Library of Parliament
- the office of the Senate Ethics Officer
- the office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
- the Parliamentary Protective Service; and
- the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer
- federal courts and tribunals
- the Government of Canada, including government departments, agencies and Crown corporations
- the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Taking into account certain job needs (for example, being physically able to do the job); and
- private sector bodies under federal rule, including organizations in:
- the federal transportation network
- the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors; and
- the banking sector
Priority areas for creating standards
Section 5 of the Accessible Canada Act sets out the following 7 priority areas:
- built environment
- information and communication technologies
- communication, other than information and communication technologies
- service delivery
- transportation; and
Standards we will create first
Our Board of Directors voted to start with the following 4 standards:
- outdoor spaces
- plain language
- emergency exits; and
Process to create accessibility standards
To create new standards or to revise standards we already have, we will:
- set up technical committees that will write the accessibility standards. They will involve:
- persons with disabilities
- other experts; and
- representatives of sectors or organizations that would have to meet the standards
- post the standards online so that members of the public can comment
- revise the standards if needed
- post the final standards online
- recommend the final standards to the Minister
Readiness of the first standards
We will soon set up 2 technical committees. Each committee will create a set of standards. It will take about 18 to 24 months to create a standard.
Definition of “under federal rule”
An organization under federal rule is any organization governed by the Canada Labour Code (Code). These bodies need to obey the rules set out in the Code. Federal law governs these rules. The rules apply to the Government of Canada and some industries.
- Full list of industries and workplaces under federal rule
Examples of organizations not under federal rule
Organizations not under federal rule include schools, hospitals, shopping centres, restaurants and even sporting facilities. These bodies are subject to different provincial and territorial laws. For example, in Ontario, these types of bodies would come under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. These organizations may still choose to adopt the standards we develop.
The standards will cover federal rule only
The Constitution sets out the division of powers between the Parliament of Canada, and the provinces and territories. The Accessible Canada Act applies to bodies and matters for which Parliament can create laws. The standards we create could be models outside the federal government. This means that the provinces and territories can adopt them. Provinces and territories will have a chance to take part in the process of creating standards. We will work with all interested parties to balance accessibility needs. This will help to create standards that can apply across Canada.
If organizations under federal rule do not obey
Standards are voluntary. They cannot be enforced. We will recommend standards to the Minister to be adopted as regulations. Standards can be enforced only if they become regulations.