Issue 26 | October 2022

A Return to School, In-Person Work, & Inclusive Accessibility Practices

September is that time of year when students and their families are ready for the new school year to begin. Back-to-school shopping, after school accommodations, lunches, and classroom considerations are top of mind. At the same time, for many employees who have been working remotely, this fall also marks a return to the office and in-person work. Whether it’s a return to school or the office, preparing for the return can be distressing, and is actually known as return or re-entry anxiety. This anxiety may be related to worries about risk of infection, social expectations, adjustment to new routines, and fear of the unknown. These things can be stressful enough – and even more so when school or work and the tools and resources available there are not accessible for everyone, especially people with disabilities.

We’ve shared 3 tips for making your school or work environment inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities.

1. Create a positive accessibility culture

Accessibility goes beyond installing automatic door buttons and accessible parking spots. Creating or changing inclusive school or work cultures begins with conversations about how accessibility is good for everyone. These conversations can be held on the first day of class during introductions, encouraged during staff meetings, and integrated into training and education materials. Here are some discussion points to help start the conversation:

· Nearly one in four Manitobans has a disability, and this number will likely increase as our population ages. Who knows someone with a disability?

· Disability has no social, economic or educational boundaries, can occur at any stage of life, and may be temporary or permanent. Often, disabilities are invisible. What are some examples of visible and invisible disabilities?

· Be aware of barriers to accessibility. A barrier is anything that keeps someone with a disability from participating in everyday life. Can you identify any barriers within your work or school?

2. Ask for feedback

Knowing how to best meet the accessibility needs of the people in your school or workplace is essential, and the best way to do this is by asking. When accessibility is part of your culture, people will feel more safe and respected to share their perspectives and needs.

· Include a statement, line, or message in your office or school communications that encourages people to provide feedback about accessibility. This should also name a contact person and a way of contacting them.

“We believe that the best way to grow and improve the accessibility our [workplace or school] is to listen to our community. For questions, comments, concerns, and feedback on accessibility, please contact [name of individual] at [email] or [phone number].

3. Create accessible materials

For a person to experience success in the classroom or at work, providing materials that suit the needs of that person is key. Unfortunately, this requirement is not always met, resulting in people experiencing accessibility barriers.

Here are some common accessibility issues in school and work materials:

· Videos do not have captions or transcripts, so not everyone can access the information if they can't see or hear it.

· PDFs and other digital documents are not tagged or optimized for accessibility, so not everyone can receive or navigate the information properly.

· Color combinations don't have enough contrast to be visible to everyone.

· Images and charts don't have equivalent text alternatives available.

New Resources - Accessible Information & Communications

The MAO has developed five new resources for the Accessible Information and Communication Standard.

Looking for an introduction to creating accessible print and digital documents? Needing a reminder list and tips for creating an accessible Word document? Interested in a step-by-step guide for creating accessible PDFs?

These resources are suitable for any user, organization, and sector. Additional resources will be shared in upcoming editions of Accessibility News – stay tuned!

New - Why Make Your Print & Digital Documents Accessible? (PDF)

New - General Directions for Creating Accessible PDFs (PDF)

New - Accessible Excel Document Checklist (PDF)

New - Tips for Creating Accessible Word Documents (PDF)

New - MAO Reminder List – Accessible Word Documents (PDF)

FAQs Accessibility Standard for Information and Communication (PDF)

Introduction to the Accessibility Standard for Information and Communication (PDF)

Important Dates

October – Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM)

November – Indigenous Disability Awareness Month (IDAM)

December 3rd – International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD)

Disability Employment Awareness Month Topic: How can companies create a work culture where employees are comfortable disclosing a disability? By DisabilityIn.org

Now more than ever, how people identify, as well as when and why they disclose a disability, determines workplace culture. Research shows that having more people who openly disclose their disability creates a more inclusive culture that has the power to dramatically shape future business culture and success. So how do you foster a culture that encourages people to self-identify as having a disability?

Start With These Five Key Actions

1. Educate: Use Your Experts

Many organizations reported that no matter how well vetted their self-ID materials were, there were unanticipated questions and feedback. The most common theme? Whatever collateral you offer, be sure to run it by your in-house experts—people with disabilities.

2. Connect: More People, Less Paper

Not sure you have the bandwidth for more town halls, Ted-style talks or lunch-and-learns? This may change your mind: According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, face-to-face requests are 34 times more effective than emailed ones.

3. Lead: Take It from the Top Down

Data shows that many organizations have a senior executive who is internally known as being a person with a disability or ally. But less than 10% of senior-level employees are willing to disclose a disability. Consider giving voice to mid-level leaders with disabilities who are eager to talk. In this way, a narrow self-ID conversation expands and shifts to one about openness at the office and showing disability pride. People will ask about their journey. They can talk about their work and being part of a forward-thinking company. Put another way, instead of asking people to ‘come out’, you are inviting them into the fold.

4. Evolve: Can You Do Less with More Energy & Purpose

You may need to change your strategy and then change it again. As long as you stay true to your organization’s core values, you won’t find yourself too far off course. It’s your business to encourage people to engage in normalizing self-identification and to create a strategy in which disability is not equated with a deficit.

5. Trust: How to Get It & Keep It

Encouraging employees with disabilities to self-ID requires trust and trust is built by actions leaders take. Investing time and resources in accessible tools and technologies and creating an easily accessed, responsive accommodations process can send the message that your workplace embraces people with disabilities— from candidates to existing employees. Your organization values the creativity and innovation that result from a truly diverse workforce. Beyond that, executives said, be human. Put people, not their disability, first.

For the full article and PDF, visit: https://disabilityin.org/resource/best-practices-self-identification/

2021-22 Minister’s Annual Report

Since 2015, the Minister responsible for Accessibility has reported on the government’s annual plan and priorities for AMA implementation.

Read the report: Ministerial 2021/22 Annual Report: The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (PDF)

2021 Accessibility Standard for Customer Service Five-Year Review

The 2021 Accessibility Standard for Customer Service Five-Year Review: Status of Recommendations at June 30, 2022 is now available online.

June 2022 – Second Quarter Status Update – Implementation of 5-Year Review Recommendations

Apply for the 2022 Small Projects Component - Enabling Accessibility Fund

The Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) provides funding for projects that make communities and workplaces more accessible for persons with disabilities. EAF creates more opportunities for persons with disabilities to:

  • take part in community activities, programs and services

  • access employment

This funding supports projects that improve accessibility and safety for persons with disabilities in:

  • a facility where persons with disabilities work or could work in the future (Workplace Accessibility Stream); or

  • a community space where programs or services are, or will be available for persons with disabilities (Community Accessibility Stream)

Helping Manitoba Organizations Prioritize Accessibility: Announcing the 2022-23 Manitoba Accessibility Fund Grant Recipients

The Honourable Rochelle Squires, Minister of Manitoba Families and minister responsible for Accessibility formally announced Manitoba Accessibility Fund (MAF) Grant Recipients for 2022-23 at a launch event held on August 24, 2022.

The announcement occurred at The Good Will Social Club, an inclusive space for live music, arts and culture in Winnipeg, and one of this year’s grant recipients.

In her remarks, the minister explained that the MAF Endowment of $20 million and its grant program were created in response to frequent requests from organizations for a source of funding assistance to help put in place measures, policies and processes to be able to comply with requirements of legislation and accessibility standards.

ASL interpreter (ECCOE), Honourable Rochelle Squires (Manitoba Families), Anthony Kowalzyk (Good Will Social Club), Cindee Laverge (University College of the North)

Minister Squires noted that the inaugural intake received more than 100 applications from eligible organizations across Manitoba. A selection committee of public servants assessed the submissions, with a majority of members self-identifying as having a disability. The minister shared that this essential characteristic would be part of the composition of all future committees.

Anthony Kowalzyk (co-owner and marketing director of the Good Will Social Club) and Cindee Laverge (chief administrative officer of the University College of the North), another grant recipient, each spoke about how the MAF grant allows their organizations to expand their online presence and help develop accessible educational, arts and cultural content.

Grant recipient Anthony Kowalzyk standing at a podium
Grant recipient Cindee Laverge standing at a podium

Congratulations to the 30 MAF grant recipients who will receive a total of $756,000 in MAF grant funding to implement projects that will prevent and remove barriers and support compliance during the pilot year!

For more information about award recipients for 2022-23, and further details about the next MAF application period, please visit: https://accessibilitymb.ca/fund.html

MAF in the News

Remembering Dave Martin, Disability Rights Advocate & Accessibility Champion

It is with heavy hearts we announce the passing of Dave Martin, a true accessibility champion and disability rights advocate on September 7, 2022.

In the 1980’s and 90’s, Dave served as the Provincial Coordinator of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities and later as Executive Director of Ten Ten Sinclair Housing Inc. As a disability rights advocate, he made an extraordinary contribution to improving the lives of persons with disabilities.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the Disabilities Issues Office (now the Manitoba Accessibility Office) and served as its second Executive Director. During his tenure, he promoted ongoing liaison between the disability community and government departments, and ensured government policy reflected community priorities. As Senior Advisor on disability (department of Families), he conducted research on accessibility policy, including vehicles for hire, accessible employment, and disability supports.

We will greatly miss Dave and his unwavering dedication to accessibility and invaluable lived experience.

Dave Martin in a motorized wheelchair using an assistive technology, in conversation with Scott Gillam, Manager Digital Platforms, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, who sits in a black folding chair.

Pro Bono Rights Clinic to Launch at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law

The University of Manitoba Faculty of Law launched a new Rights Clinic at Robson Hall (“Rights Clinic”) on July 26, 2022. This novel initiative – supported by a grant from the Manitoba Law Foundation – will have a specific focus on assisting Manitobans with rights-advancing issues and cases in the areas of environmental rights, Charter rights, Indigenous rights, disability rights, and privacy rights, amongst others.

“Access to justice is a problem in Manitoba, and anything we can do to assist those who can’t afford a lawyer or qualify for Legal Aid fulfills our special responsibility as a law school to increase access,” said Dr. Richard Jochelson, Dean of Law at the University of Manitoba.

For more information, please visit: https://news.umanitoba.ca/pro-bono-rights-clinic-to-launch-at-the-university-of-manitoba-faculty-of-law-on-july-26-2022/. Story Submitted By Faculty of Law for UManitoba News.

Manitoba camp uses technology to help children, youth with speech challenges find their voice (CBC News) - https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/camp-manitou-augmentative-alternative-communication-device-1.6527103

Winnipeg washrooms: Mapping out locations to do your business” - When Mother Nature comes calling, sometimes finding a washroom isn’t the easiest to do. However, one Winnipeg man is hoping to change that with his new website, Winnipee.

Manitoba spending $1.1M to improve accessibility at provincial parks (CBC News) - The provincial government says it will spend $1.1 million on park improvements, including adding more accessible campsites.

Events, Funding, Opportunities, & Resources

Events

5th Annual Global Workplace Wellness Summit September 28 to 29, 2022: Held in Winnipeg at the Canad Inns Destination Centre. This 2-day summit provided opportunities to explore new ways to work and live, learn about best practices and research by leading professionals, and to introduce new tools such as the Wellness Improvement System aimed to enhance people’s lives and their workplaces.

Beyond Limits: Canada’s Conference for Diversity & Accessibility – October 5, 2022: An event to learn about all aspects of wellbeing and resiliency. During this one-day in-person conference, participants heard from Canadian experts and fellow front line workers, family caregivers, and disability self advocates.

Virtual Event - Erasing Barriers: Making the Future of Work Accessible October 5 to 6, 2022: This session will explore the importance of representation of people with disabilities in leadership and how to build the talent pipeline. Expert speakers will discuss how pandemic-era flexible working arrangements are being adapted to support on-going accessibility initiatives and they will provide practical examples of how businesses are adapting their workplaces.

Rethinking Disability Conference 2022 November 14 to 16, 2022
This conference is designed for employment service agencies and businesses from across Ontario, to enhance their professional development, increase capacity, and learn new skills to apply to their services and inclusive hiring processes.

Indigenous Disability Canada's (IDC) 2022 - Indigenous Disability and Wellness Gathering – November 15 to 17, 2022: The Gathering brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments, leadership, service providers, community members and others to learn, connect, and collaborate in addressing the unique barriers Indigenous peoples with disabilities face.

Funding

National Housing Strategy Research and Planning Fund – Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (National Housing Strategy)

Funding for not-for-profit organizations, registered charities and Indigenous partners to advance housing research in Canada. Funds help promote interest, involvement and capacity building in housing research.

For more information, visit: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/professionals/project-funding-and-mortgage-financing/funding-programs/all-funding-programs/research-and-planning-fund

Indigenous Disability Canada’s – Support for Indigenous Student Learning Program (SISLP)

Indigenous Disability Canada’s Support for Indigenous Student Learning Program (SISLP) is a time-limited project for Indigenous students across Canada who have limited financial resources, including those students living with disabilities.

For more information, visit: http://www.bcands.bc.ca/isslp/

Indigenous Services Canada’s Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program for First Nations South of 60° - Government of Canada

Indigenous Services Canada’s Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program (CCHAP) for First Nations South of 60°N supports First Nation communities to identify, assess, and respond to the health impacts of climate change.

Funding is available for capacity building, research skills development, and creating health-related adaptation plans and communication materials. Projects take a holistic approach to research by linking both Indigenous and non-Indigenous forms of knowledge and science.

For more information, visit: http://www.climatetelling.info/funding-opportunities.html

Opportunities

Participants Needed for Research Study – The KITE Research Institute – Engineering Health is conducting a research survey study on obstacles to accessibility at provincial and national parks in Canada so that they may find solutions to make these parks barrier-free. If you are interested and would like to participate, you can access the consent form and fill out the 20 minute surveys here: https://www.accessibleparkscanada.ca/participate

Resources