2023 to 2024 annual report - Leading Change to Make Canada Accessible and Include All People

Message from the Chairperson

Description: Mr. Paul-Claude Bérubé, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Accessibility Standards Canada.

This past year of activity has been a turning point since the creation of Accessibility Standards Canada. We have published our first standards. Now, we can proudly say that the work we began over 4 years ago is starting to bear fruit.

Our accessibility standards are equity-based. They will make a difference for millions of people across Canada living with disabilities. They will support Canadians in contributing to—and achieving full, active, and equal participation in—the social and economic life of our country.

Since our creation in 2019, we have been working to achieve the goals of our mandate1

  • Help make Canada a barrier-free country 
  • Foster a cultural shift to inclusive systems from the outset 
  • Ensure equity for all people with disabilities 
  • Reinforce equal rights through a culture of inclusion

We continue to advance our work with these objectives in mind. Our efforts are guided by our development strategy and our Roadmap to 2040.2

Our standards are developed by our technical committees, which made significant progress this year. Under the leadership of our Chief Executive Officer and with the support of the organization, 3 committees drafted standards, which were then posted for public review. These standards focus on the following areas: 

Many Canadians took part in these public reviews and provided great suggestions. The feedback we received ensures these standards reflect real-life experience. It also ensures these standards meet the accessibility needs of a majority of people. The public review is the last step before a draft standard is finalized by its committee.

We continue to consult and work closely with individuals with disabilities, various disability communities, and other experts across the country. We draw on their expertise to inform the development of our standards and advance our work. We also had significant accomplishments with many of our partners and built key relationships with new organizations.

Each of these steps has helped us widen our influence and increase the impact of our work. This kind of progress does not happen on its own. These achievements are the result of sustained efforts from our senior managers and their teams, and the proactive and influential role played by our Board of Directors. The members of the Board contributed a great deal toward achieving our objectives. By coming together and sharing their expertise and by directing our priorities, each member made an important contribution to advancing our mandate.

As we share this year’s accomplishments, now is the perfect opportunity to warmly and sincerely thank those members whose mandate ended in 2024. We appreciate your vital work on behalf of our organization. Thank you for the commitment and professionalism you have so consistently demonstrated.

This year, I am passing the torch as Chairperson of the Board. My successor will now take on the important goal of achieving our plan and ensuring that our work continues to foster change toward a more accessible and inclusive Canada. Realizing this objective is my greatest wish.

Message from the Chief Executive Officer

Leading change. These words highlight the proactive and influential role we can play in driving positive transformations. They indicate that we, as an organization, are taking action to bring about meaningful change for accessibility in Canada.

On that note, I want to begin by thanking the members of the Board of Directors who are leaving us after 4 years of service. Your dedication and commitment to a Canada without barriers has been inspiring to us all. Your leadership will continue to have an impact for years to come.

For change to happen, we must act. Our organization understands this very well, and we take pride in leading by example. For instance, last year, we moved the development of standards forward by creating 3 new technical committees of experts. These committees are focusing on the following areas: 

Over the past year, we showed that our standards are different because our equity-based approach to developing them is different. We showed that to deliver world-class results, we must consider the lived experience of people who know best the needs of the groups they represent.

At Accessibility Standards Canada, we acknowledge and embrace diversity. We strive to foster an inclusive society that is designed to accommodate everyone, by default.

To make a significant and positive impact on the communities of people with disabilities—and for Canada to be accessible—our work must include everyone. We continued to put this into practice last year by ensuring that people from many different spheres across Canada were involved in our work, were engaged, and most of all, were listened to.

 We consulted the public on 3 draft standards, an essential part of the process of developing accessible standards. We promoted our plans to create new technical committees and recruited members from across the country. We took part in several in-person events where I was honoured to speak about our mandate and the work we have accomplished. These events enabled us to meet Canadians face to face and encourage them to get involved in all facets of our work.

Change cannot happen alone. Collaboration is key. That is why we also held the second Pan-Canadian Forum in 2023. It brought together provinces and territories to collaborate on common accessibility goals.

Also, we signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Manitoba, our seventh such agreement. These agreements help the parties improve coordination and foster the sharing of resources. They also show that both parties are committed to aligning their work on accessibility standards. These efforts will bring meaningful change from coast to coast.

We worked closely with our Accessible Canada Act9 partners. We expanded our outreach and strengthened relationships. Specifically, we reached out to other national and international standards development organizations as well as stakeholders, experts, and industry representatives.

We led by innovating. Our standards and research are prime examples of this. Last year, we started sharing the findings of this research with Canadians at large. We did this by launching our Centre of Expertise,10 providing online access to all of our standards and research we fund in one place, for free. Why are we making this work easily accessible? So that those who want to follow our lead, can. This will make creating an accessible Canada that much more feasible and realistic.

We are working to achieve nothing less than a cultural transformation on a national level. We are leaving no one behind. We are fully committed to making the entire country more accessible and inclusive and we believe we are getting closer every day. A society designed to accommodate everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, is the change we are leading!

1. About us


Everyone, including people with disabilities:

  • can expect a Canada without barriers, and
  • be sure that opportunities and services are fully accessible.


People with disabilities lead Accessibility Standards Canada to create a Canada without barriers. We work with people with disabilities to:

  • create transformational accessibility standards in priority areas
  • revise current accessibility standards
  • lead and fund research, and
  • support society to reach the highest level of accessibility.


Our values are based on the principles stated in the Accessible Canada Act. We value:

  • The knowledge and experience of people with disabilities. We expect those we collaborate with to share this same value.
  • The diversity of society. Our work respects human rights and focuses on including everyone.
  • A Canada without barriers where people with disabilities can expect the same high level of access across the country.
  • Universal access, where services, products, and places are designed to be accessible to everyone.
  • Two-way communication in all areas of our work. Communication must be open, accessible, timely, and clear.
  • Lived experience of disability and research as equally important when making decisions.

2. Board activities

The Board of Directors supports the organization’s mandate by providing strategic advice to the Chief Executive Officer and staff based on lived experience and professional knowledge. The Directors govern the organization through two standing committees, one for internal affairs and the other for external affairs. The Directors serve on the Board’s standing committees. These committees advise the Board and make recommendations specific to their mandates.

The Internal Affairs Committee is responsible for Board governance, the organization’s strategic planning, and performance assessment.

The External Affairs Committee provides strategic direction on external matters. This includes raising awareness about our organization, promoting the work we do, and informing the public and stakeholders on how to get involved. It also guides external communications, including our stakeholder engagement strategy, public consultations, and our annual public meetings.

During the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year, the Board established the priority areas for the 2025 to 2026 research funding cycle. These priorities were based on input from the public and stakeholders.

Each standard under development represents the work of a technical committee. (More details on committees can be found in section 3.1, Developing Accessibility Standards.)

Every year, the Board approves the terms of reference for the technical committees that will be established in the coming fiscal year to develop the next round of standards. In the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year, the Board also confirmed the remuneration policy for the technical committees.

In addition, the Board strengthened the organization’s commitment to its diversity framework. This framework integrates intersectionality into the 12-step standards development process.11 This means that race, gender, disability, and 2SLGBTQI+ and Indigenous identities are considered when selecting members for technical committees and in development of the standards. These considerations are also part of the public review of draft standards. This is to ensure that the standards we develop eliminate barriers for all Canadians—regardless of their backgrounds or identities.

Throughout the year, the Board met with stakeholders and held roundtable discussions with them in various regions of the country, including Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Alberta. These roundtable discussions encourage community participation. They help us identify and understand the priorities and concerns of stakeholders. They also raise awareness of what we do and they advance our mission.

The Board continues to encourage and support the organization’s efforts to establish partnerships on a national and international level to deliver its mandate.12 Indeed, one of the ways the board supported the organization’s partnership building efforts was a presentation to the Government of Canada’s Community of Practice on Accessible Communications. This engagement strengthened the government’s resolve to promote accessible communication throughout the federal public service.

The Board also guided the planning of the third annual public meeting. This virtual meeting was held in June 2023 and attended by more than 260 people. It attracted stakeholders from disability communities, the private sector, and all levels of government across the country. During the meeting, we shared our accomplishments and discussed our challenges and opportunities. Also, attendees were given information on how they can get involved to support the development of standards that eliminate accessibility barriers.

Some board members concluded their service term with the organization during the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year. In preparation for a new set of Board of Directors, the Board developed an on-boarding approach, orientation session and handbook

3. Helping to achieve a barrier-free Canada: Our Mandate

Our primary mandate13 is to develop or revise accessibility standards that contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers, on or before January 1, 2040. Last year, we led change by funding 24 research projects to inform accessible standards development. By expanding our online Centre of Expertise, we made significant progress in informing the public about our standards, the research we fund and the work we do. This site was visited more than 4,000 times last year.

3.1 Developing accessibility standards

The standards we create can help organizations prevent, identify, and remove barriers to accessibility. Our standards apply to:

  • federally regulated organizations in the private sector, and
  • Government of Canada departments and agencies.

These standards can be used by any organization across Canada and the world.

Technical committees

Standards are drafted by technical committees. They are made up of people from different backgrounds and organizations. Committee members combine their expertise and lived experience to identify accessibility barriers and develop national standards to eliminate them. During the last fiscal year, we established 3 technical committees. They are working to create standards for:

Standards developed

This last fiscal year, we reached another milestone when we posted 3 draft standards for public review:

We expect to publish the employment20  and the accessibility requirements for information communication technology products and services21 standards in 2024 to 2025.

The table below lists the standards that were under development last year.

Table 1: Standards under development in 2023 to 2024
Name of standardPublic review period (actual and expected)Expected publication period
Outdoor spaces22June to August 2023Spring 2025
Employment23July to November 2023Spring 2025
Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services24December 2023 to February 2024Summer 2024
Plain language25Spring 2024Spring 2026
Emergency egress (exit)26Winter 2025Spring 2026
Wayfinding and signage27Winter 2025Spring 2026
Model standard for the built environment28Fall 2025Winter 2027
Design and delivery of accessible programs and services, including29 customer serviceWinter 2026Spring 2027
Accessible and equitable artificial intelligence systems30Winter 2026Spring 2027
Accessible travel journey31Winter 2026Spring 2027
Accessible procurement process32Spring 2027Winter 2028
Heritage buildings and sites33To be determinedTo be determined

We continue to support our technical committees and create new ones as we develop new standards to eliminate barriers to accessibility.

3.2 Funding research

An important part of our mandate is to support research. This is done through our grants and contribution program34. The Advancing Accessibility Standards Research program35 funds research aimed at identifying, removing, and preventing barriers to accessibility. The findings from this research are made public and support the work we do. For example, we use the final research reports to inform the development of new accessibility standards.

In the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year, the Board of Directors established the research priority areas for the 2025 to 2026 funding cycle. These areas were informed by input from the public and stakeholders. We funded 24 new research projects in the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year.  The annual budget for the grants and contributions was $8.5M. 

In addition, a number of funded projects were completed in 2023 to 2024. These included research on:

  • assistive communication devices
  • the use of digital tools in the workplace
  • accessibility requirements for heritage buildings
  • the accessibility of financial institutions’ websites.

The findings from these projects help us better understand the experiences  of and barriers faced by people with disabilities.

We continued to streamline the application process for funding. We put an improved process in place for projects that started in 2023 to 2024. These changes were made to reduce the burden on applicants and make the administrative process more efficient. In addition, we improved our guidance for funding recipients and provided them with new resources. This was done to help them understand the program’s mandatory requirements.

3.3 Supporting research and assessing the impact

Our Research and Impact team maintains our accreditation with the Standards Council of Canada. The Council requires all standards development organizations in Canada to do this. The team also supports standards development and our research funding program.

In 2023 to 2024, the Research and Impact team also led the launch of the Centre of Expertise on our website. This centralized hub brings together information about our standards and the research projects we have funded. This information is available to everyone free of charge. Over the past year, we were excited to see both individuals and national and international organizations requesting research reports through the Centre of Expertise.

To support standards development and research, the Research and Impact team did the following:

4. Building and reinforcing partnerships

We are working to eliminate accessibility barriers by 2040. One way we do this is through collaboration. Last year, we strengthened relationships with key stakeholders and developed new strategic partnerships.

4.1 Working with the provinces and territories

Between April 2023 and March 2024, we continued to actively engage with individual provinces and territories. We formed new collaborative partnerships and strengthened existing ones. The purpose of these partnerships is to:

  • support each other in advancing our respective mandates
  • collaborate on research and formalize the exchange of information
  • promote the adoption of the standards developed by our technical committees
  • coordinate opportunities for appropriate harmonization of accessibility standards across jurisdictional boundaries.

We started to implement the agreements we signed with British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan last year. In addition, we signed a memorandum of understanding39 with the government of Manitoba’s Department of Families. 

One of the highlights of the year was co-hosting the second Pan-Canadian Forum on Accessibility Standards in partnership with the British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The event, which was held in April 2023, brought together senior officials from every province and territory. Participants shared updates on their work and discussed common priorities and goals for accessibility standards.

To support the provinces and territories in their accessibility efforts, we started working on 2 priority areas identified through the forum. The first is the development of a technical guide for accessible built environments in northern, rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. The second is a technical guide for building adaptable housing. The development of the guides is supported by 2 task groups that include representatives from all provinces and territories. 

4.2 Engaging with stakeholders

This fiscal year, we updated our stakeholder engagement strategy to continue the progress we are making. We will continue creating lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with other organizations. This will help us achieve our mandate. Throughout the year and in various ways, we consulted and worked closely with a variety of groups. These included:

  • people with disabilities and representative organizations
  • Indigenous people, organizations, and governments
  • provincial, territorial, and municipal governments
  • technical experts and industry representatives.

We also had opportunities to raise awareness about our work and the progress we have made. For example, we attended various events and conferences across Canada, as well as international events.

5. Engaging with the public

We value the knowledge, expertise, and experience of people with disabilities. We therefore engage the public in our work. 

Over the past year, we encouraged the public to get involved. We asked people throughout Canada to engage with us on issues of accessibility and inclusion and the development of standards. We also invited them to apply for funding for research projects.

5.1 Annual Public Meeting

We held our third annual public meeting40 in June 2023. More than 260 participants joined us for this virtual event. The meeting was an opportunity for us to highlight some of our key achievements. It also allowed us to inform attendees on how they can get involved in what we do to support our work.

The meeting included a lively panel discussion with the Chairs of some of our technical committees. We:

  • discussed the standards development process
  • explained what technical committees do
  • encouraged attendees to consider applying for a position on a technical committee.

5.2 Outward-facing communications

Our organization strives to lead change to make Canada accessible and inclusive. We take a proactive and positive communication approach. We also lead by example by making sure we communicate with people living throughout Canada in a clear, accessible, and timely manner. In the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year, we continued to improve and expand our communication efforts.

  • We developed a new 3-year communication strategy. This will guide how we promote our events and consultations until 2026. It will help maximize public interest in our work and engagement opportunities. It will show our leadership and commitment to accessibility.
  • We increased collaboration with our Government of Canada portfolio partners and others. This has helped us tell our shared audiences about our efforts while expanding our public reach.
  • We launched the Centre of Expertise. This information hub is hosted on our website. It features content about accessibility standards, the research projects we have funded, and best practices.
  • We researched innovative ways to improve the design and accessibility features of our website. Following best practices, we added new accessible communication formats. We also adjusted the website to make it even more accessible to all.  
  • We extended our social media presence and sought influencers to support our mandate.
  • We proactively used our social media accounts, website, news releases, and newsletters to keep the public and our stakeholders informed about our work and the many ways to engage with us.

6. Advancing corporate priorities to deliver on our mandate

Achieving our mandate is only possible if we have the right people in place. We also need to empower them by providing the tools and resources they need to optimize their performance.

6.1 Creating an inclusive workplace culture

This year was marked by organizational growth. Our Human Resources team led change by focusing on accessibility. The team’s goal is to make Accessibility Standards Canada a diverse, accessible, and more inclusive place to live and work. People with disabilities are the bedrock of our organization. Therefore, we focus on strategies to include people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds, cultures, abilities, and identities. Our end goal is to ensure equal opportunity for all. To strengthen our work culture in the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year, we took the following actions: 

  • We implemented the recent amendments to the Public Service Employment Act.41 These aim to address the employment biases and barriers faced by equity-seeking groups.
  • We attended the Disability and Work in Canada 2023 Conference.42 This helped us learn more about the rights and quality of life of people living and working with disabilities.
  • We embrace the disability community’s guiding principle of “nothing without us.” This means we ask people with disabilities to help us identify and eliminate barriers. For example, people with disabilities served on a committee that we created to develop a model for reviewing employee accommodation requests. This model provides flexibility in meeting employee needs and enables them to be productive and fully perform their duties.
  • We continued working with interdepartmental government networks and external groups that work to support the hiring of people with disabilities and other equity-seeking groups. For example:
  • We collaborated with the employment supports team from LiveWorkPlay43 to learn more about hiring people with intellectual disabilities and people with autism.
  • We joined the Federal Employment Strategy Group44 to learn strategies and best practices for hiring, retaining, and advancing the careers of people with intellectual disabilities.
  • We also worked with the new Labour Relations Accessibility Working Group45 within the public service to discuss issues and challenges when it comes to accommodation and implementing the Government of Canada Workplace Accessibility Passport46. The Passport is a tool to help federal employees with disabilities access tools, resources and the support they need to perform at their best and succeed in the workplace. 
  • We promoted employment opportunities for Indigenous students and students with disabilities. This will help us identify and build future talent.

We surveyed employees on issues such as discrimination and duty to accommodate. Following this survey, we took action to improve accessibility-related policies, such as those on accommodating staff needs.

We were humbled to see our efforts to build a strong workforce and a diverse and inclusive workplace culture recognized in 2024 when Accessibility Standards Canada was named one of the top employers in the National Capital Region.47 This honour is a testament to our commitment to continually improve our policies and systems to enhance work–life balance, accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity.

6.2 Delivering our Accessibility Progress Report

The Accessible Canada Act48 requires that we prepare and publish an Accessibility Plan49 every 3 years. Our first plan was published in December 2022. Last year, we prepared our first Accessibility Progress Report.50

Diversity and inclusion are at the core of our organization. A quarter of our employees and most of our Board members are people with disabilities. In fact, ours is the first Canadian federal organization majority-led by people with disabilities. In addition, 58% of the members of our technical committees are people with disabilities.

This level of inclusion of people with lived experience is well above the representation in the labour market. It is a great source of pride for us. We strive to embody the disability community’s principle of “nothing without us.” We put this into practice in all aspects of our work, and the development of the Accessibility Plan was no different.

7. Making sound financial decisions

7.1 Financial results

In the following table, column 2 shows the forecasted expenditures (money we anticipated to have spent) and column 3 shows the funds available in the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year

Table 2: Financial Results 2023 to 2024
CategoryForecasted expendituresAvailable funds
Operating and maintenance5,046,8937,048,713
Total operating12,072,06912,821,420
Grants and Contributions8,500,0008,500,000


8. Looking ahead

Our mandate51 is to develop new or revise existing accessibility standards that contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers, on or before January 1, 2040.

We will continue to lead change by investing in research that informs our work and helps us create world-class equity-based standards.

We will continue to invite people from diverse backgrounds to join our technical committees to share their expertise, insight, and lived experiences. We will continue to ask the public to review and provide feedback on the standards we develop, so we can learn from people’s lived experience and knowledge.

We will expand our networks to ensure that people with disabilities and diverse disability communities across the country are listened to. They are an integral part of developing solutions to address barriers to accessibility; standards development is not possible without their contribution. This is why the disability community’s principle of “nothing without us” continues to be vital to our work. It means that we include people with disabilities in every aspect of what we do.

With our Roadmap to 204052 guiding us, we will continue to lead change by building and strengthening relationships with all provinces and territories. We will seek provincial and territorial support and collaboration toward the adoption of National accessibility standards across the country.

With a strong, diverse, and highly motivated workforce, 24 funded research projects, 14 standards under development, 3 new technical committees, and more standards undergoing public review, we are leading change. We are building a better and stronger Canada that includes everyone.