Making Space at the Table Key to an Accessible Ontario

An image of the echidna logo done in a colour-contrast test.

Accessibility is a part of a larger commitment to diversity -- one that, as a society, can allow us to grow, adapt, and thrive based upon a foundation of inclusion. Today, I have the honour of representing Digital Echidna in Toronto as part of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario's Employers' Partnership Table.

Our participation in this group sprung from a discussion during the David C. Onley award presentation. But, really, it's reflective of the work we've been doing as a company to promote accessibility both within our work and our social responsibility efforts (such as our participation with the Ability First Coalition and my position on the City of London's Accessibility Advisory Committee).

We do this because we believe in the cause. We're also honoured that so many people have been there to support us throughout this journey. That includes the City itself and I'm thrilled to be joined at the "table" by Bill Coxhead from the City of London.

London's playing a major role in driving accessibility forward. Not only do we have an incredible collection of tech companies that are working towards online accessibility, but this city has some incredible advocates including the City itself (and, as a plug, don't forget to attend one of ACCAC's upcoming open houses), and advocates like our friends Leads Employment Service's Wendy Lau, Western's Jeff Preston, and all of my colleagues on the Ability First Coalition, amongst many others. There are so many people who dedicate so much time, effort, and talent to promoting inclusivity and accessibility.

Why does it matter? Because an inclusive community is a stronger community. Because inclusivity brings new perspectives to the table, allows different experiences to be shared, and strengthens our foundations by forcing us to challenge assumptions, consider different needs, and develop better solutions.

But none of this can be done without a seat at the table. For our online accessibility efforts, that's what we strive to offer -- a equitable experience that allows people who require assistive devices or have different needs to access content in a way that allows them to get the most out of it. We all have the same informational needs; how we access it may differ, though.

Making space at the table is no different for employment. What we do at Ability First, and what this Partnership Table is tasked with, is developing ways to foster and champion employment of people with disabilities. For the benefits of diversity to be realized, we need to ensure that everyone has equitable access to opportunities -- that means dispelling myths, learning about adaptive technology, and understanding the very real business-building benefits of hiring for ability first.

We frequently share how having Sarah on our team adds so much value to our efforts. She allows us to embrace not only the letter of the law, but its spirit -- providing us a better opportunity to create an experience that's equitable for all users. It's not about meeting AODA requirements; it's about meeting the needs of users, which goes above and beyond any guidelines.

We're honoured to have been asked to be a part of this group. We appreciate the support and leadership that Tracey MacCharles, the Minister Responsible for Accessibility, and Deputy Minister Marie-Lison Fougère have shown not only today in our discussions, but in their continuing efforts to help us reach the province's goal of full accessibility by 2025.

We have a long way to go, but we can all play a role. We're humbled and honoured to be able to play a small role in these efforts and we encourage everyone to actively work towards an inclusive community. 

Questions Answered

How can we make Ontario accessible?

What companies promote accessibility?



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