HR Inclusive Policy Toolkit

Accessibility Policy & Guidelines

Please Note

Employers: before implementing any policies, please read our Introduction and Key Considerations.

Accessibility: What does it mean?

  • Barriers to accessibility are obstacles that make it difficult, or sometimes impossible, for people with disabilities to fully participate in life.
  • Barriers may be visible or invisible. Examples are:
    • Attitudinal (treating people with disabilities differently)
    • Informational and communication (messages that cannot be received or understood)
    • Systemic (barriers in policies, practices, and procedures)
    • Physical and architectural (preventing access)
    • Technological (technology or the way it is used does not meet the needs of people with disabilities)

Why is it important?

  • One in seven adult Canadian citizens currently lives with a disability.
  • Most Canadians will experience disability at some point in their lives.  Communities need to be accessible so that everyone can participate and live full lives.
  • Accessibility is a win-win situation for all Canadians. By making workplaces more accessible, citizens who experience a disability can more easily access the labour market, achieve economic self-sufficiency, and participate in the economy. When shops, restaurants, entertainment, and sport facilities are fully accessible, business owners have an opportunity to increase their customer base and ultimately earn more revenue.
  • Many Provinces (including Ontario) legally require employers to take proactive steps to implement accommodation policies (see the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005).
  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledges the concept of disability as being directly related to lack of accessibility.  Lack of accessibility is primarily the result of attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder citizens’ full and effective participation in society on an equal basis.  Accessible workplaces are critical in ensuring the fundamental rights of people with disabilities by creating opportunities for full integration on a social, economic, political, and cultural level.
  • Enacting and implementing proper accessibility policies can reduce the risk of human rights litigation.

Sample Inclusive Workplace Policy

The following policy sample should be part of a larger inclusive workplace policy. This larger policy should also address any legislatively accessibility and human rights requirements in your jurisdiction, the purpose of the policy, the scope of the policy’s application, who is responsible for administering which parts of the policy, and the procedures that must be followed under the policy.

[Name of Organization] is committed to ensuring equal equitable access and participation for people with disabilities. We are committed to treating people with disabilities in a way that allows them to maintain their dignity and independence.

We believe in the value of integration and we are committed to meeting the needs of people with disabilities in a timely manner. We will do so by removing and preventing barriers to accessibility, and by meeting or exceeding our accessibility requirements under [Name of Province]’s accessibility laws.

Putting it into Practice

  • Accessibility needs to consider many aspects of the business, such as maintenance/facilities, customer service, workplace policies and procedures, information, and communications.
  • To assess the accessibility of your workplace, there are tools available to help such as: or (Note these checklists may contain standards that you are not required to meet. Check the applicable legislation for the standards that apply to you).
  • It is important to understand the principles of accessibility.  These principles  include dignity, independence, integration, and equal opportunity.  Check out our glossary of terms to find descriptions for all of these terms and others.
  • Making your business accessible involves reviewing your hiring practices, understanding accessibility needs as they relate to career growth, and having a communication plan that informs all employees of the support available.
  • Once you have created a policy, it is vital that you communicate this to all of your staff and provide the information in an accessible format.
  • It is also important to offer training around the policy and establish a feedback process. You can be flexible and creative on this front by considering your workplace size and culture.
  • Overall, strive to communicate to the broader public that people who experience disabilities are welcome and that you will accommodate their needs.

Additional Considerations

(Provincial differences, unionized workplace considerations)

  • Accessibility laws vary by province so check the laws that apply to your workplace.
  • The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) broadly sets the stage regarding discriminatory employment practices, while each individual province or territory has its own Human Rights Act. 
  • The Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81) sets out how the Government of Canada will address accessibility across the country.
  • Some provinces have developed legislation that focuses specifically on the rights of people with disabilities.  This currently includes: The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), The Accessibility for Manitobans Act, and the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act.  British Columbia is striving to reach their ‘Accessibility 2024’ vision of being the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities. Although the remaining provinces and territories may not yet have province specific legislation, they are facing significant pressure to release accessibility legislation in the future and are at various stages of this process.
  • Accessibility requirements for buildings vary between provinces and are gradually changing; it is recommended to regularly check for requirements that apply to the workplace.