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Universal DesignCEO Appearance on the study on Indigenous languages on ballots before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

Universal Design is a concept that was created to guide the design and development of products, programs/services and infrastructure in a way that benefit as many people as possible—regardless of their age, size, physical or intellectual ability. Universal Design is a user-centric approach to the design of products, services/programs and the built environment. It relies on seven key principles to minimize the need for adaptations, accommodations, or specialized equipment. In addition, these guiding principles provide a framework to evaluate the accessibility and inclusivity of products, programs/services, and physical environments.

Universal Design Principles

Principle 1: Equitable Use – The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

  • Provides the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not
  • Avoids segregating or stigmatizing any users
  • Privacy, security, and safety provisions are equally available to all users
  • Design is appealing to all users

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use – The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

  • Provides choice in methods of use
  • Accommodates right- or left-handed access and use
  • Facilitates the user's accuracy and precision
  • Provides adaptability to the user's pace

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use – Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

  • Eliminates unnecessary complexity
  • Is consistent with user expectations and intuition
  • Accommodates a wide range of literacy and language skills
  • Arranges information consistent with its importance
  • Provides effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion

Principle 4: Perceptible Information – The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.

  • Uses different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information
  • Provides adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings
  • Maximizes "legibility" of essential information
  • Differentiates elements in ways that can be described (i.e., makes it easy to give instructions or directions)
  • Provides compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error – The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

  • Arranges elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements are most accessible; whereas hazardous elements are eliminated, isolated, or shielded
  • Provides warnings of hazards and errors
  • Provides fail-safe features
  • Discourages unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort – The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

  • Allows the user to maintain a neutral body position
  • Uses reasonable operating forces
  • Minimizes repetitive actions
  • Minimizes sustained physical effort

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use – Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility.

  • Provides a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user
  • Makes reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user
  • Accommodates variations in hand and grip size
  • Provides adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance

Universal Design in Federal Elections

In the context of federal elections, Elections Canada recognizes that Canadians have diverse needs, and accessibility can have a different meaning for everyone. Our long-term vision is to provide inclusive, universal and flexible services to everyone. We continually work to make election services inclusive and accessible for all Canadians.

Examples of how Elections Canada has adapted a universal design lens in the design and delivery of electoral services include:

  • Communication services
    • Elections Canada ensures that equivalent information about federal elections is available to all electors, while taking into account Canadians' preferred communication methods and formats
    • We offer information online, in print and in alternate formats such as large print, braille, audio and ASL/LSQ video. We also offer information in 31 heritage languages and 16 Indigenous languages. Language interpretation services are also available by phone. Electors can contact Elections Canada for information using a variety of channels, including by phone, email, through our corporate social media accounts and during elections in person at our local offices and at voting locations
  • Voting Services
    • Elections Canada provides a variety of tools and services to make voting accessible at Elections Canada offices, at advance polls and on election day. While some voting methods are more accessible than others, Elections Canada's services are designed to accommodate a wide range of individual voting preferences and abilities
    • We offer a number of ways to vote to meet the diverse needs and preferences, including at any Elections Canada office almost any time during the election period, by mail, at advance polls, and on election day. Elections Canada also offers voting in hospitals, long-term care institutions and senior residences. Electors who are unable to read or unable to vote using the special ballot process because of a disability may, upon request, vote at home