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Advisory Group for Disability Issues (AGDI) September 28–29, 2022 Meeting Summary

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Advisory Group for Disability Issues –Meeting Summary


The Advisory Group for Disability Issues (AGDI) was convened for a virtual meeting over two afternoons on September 28–29, 2022. The first objective was to provide AGDI members with updates from previously presented topics including Elections Canada (EC)'s Accessibility Plan and the Assistive Voting Technology Development project. The second objective of the meeting was to seek the advisory group's feedback and suggestions on current and future initiatives including Civic Education resources and Future of Work and Workplace Transformation planning. The accessibility components of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO)'s Recommendations Report, the agency's operational priorities and the consultation approach for upcoming initiatives were also discussed during the meeting.

The meeting was co-chaired by Miriam Lapp, Senior Director, Research, Consultations, and Civic Education, and Sylvie Jacmain, Senior Director, Voting Services and Development. It was facilitated by Alain Rabeau, Intersol Group.

This summary follows the order of the meeting agenda, available in Appendix A. The list of participants is included in Appendix B.

Chief Electoral Officer's remarks

Presenter: Stéphane Perrault, CEO

Mr. Perrault welcomed AGDI members and acknowledged the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin people on which he resides.

The CEO began by discussing some recommendations in the Recommendations Report, tabled June 7, 2022, that relate to making elections more accessible to electors and candidates. He noted that the timing of the report's review by the Procedure on House Affairs Committee indicates that any related legislation may not be passed in time for the next general election.

Mr. Perrault briefed members on three conditions of the supply-and-confidence agreement between the Liberal and the NDP parties that touches on elections:

  • improving voting-by-mail processes
  • extending election day over three days
  • voting anywhere in the electoral district.

He explained that a digital list of electors must be in place before a vote anywhere in the district model or extended voting days can be implemented.

He then provided a short overview of EC's ongoing initiatives, referencing the exploration of technology and assistive tools to make the voting process more inclusive and user-friendly in the future.

AGDI members expressed appreciation for the CEO's recommendations and EC's ongoing commitment to accessibility improvements. Members noted that assistive technologies allow elections to be more accessible. They also expressed their interest in seeing how EC incorporates these technologies in the voting process

Committee members flagged that the Recommendations Report was published in a font that is not fully accessible to some audiences, including people with dyslexia. Some members recommended changing the font to Arial for better readability. EC committed to revisiting the font to ensure that the font used in future published reports is more accessible.

Elections Canada's Accessibility Plan

Presenters: Susan Torosian, Executive Director, Public Affairs and Civic Education; Senior Official, Accessibility and Employment Equity Diversity and Inclusion Working Groups; and Juan Melara-Pineda, Senior Analyst and Team Lead, Accessibility Plan

In Ms. Torosian's introduction of the Accessibility Plan, she noted that the plan aligns with EC's digital transformation strategy, which seeks to adapt the agency's digital tools and services. The goal of the strategy is to simplify the existing systems and develop solutions to give EC the flexibility and usability to meet the expectations of Canadians.

The second part of this session was presented by Juan Melara-Pineda, who provided an update on the progress of Elections Canada's Accessibility Plan since the previous AGDI meeting. He thanked members for providing their recommended improvements to services, programs, etc., for priority areas within the Accessible Canada Act. He reiterated that the feedback received so far will enable EC to meet the needs and expectations of people with disabilities; for example, by deploying technology that is accessible by design, addressing barriers to accessing technology, and deepening its commitment conducting user tests.

Mr. Melara-Pineda provided a summary of the improvements EC plans to undertake as part of the Accessibility Plan, as well as a timeline of its rollout. These improvements include ensuring adequate training for EC staff, developing tools and services that are accessible and user-friendly, enhancing internal services for hiring, retaining and promoting people with disabilities at the agency, and making voting services more accessible for electors and election workers with disabilities.

AGDI members highlighted two priority areas on which EC should focus:

  1. recruiting EC staff and election workers
  2. offering appropriate training on accessibility tools and general awareness

Members recommended that EC incorporate a universal design approach at every level of recruitment, hiring and training to reduce and prevent barriers that people with disabilities might face working for the agency. They advised that EC also prioritize improving the complaints and accessibility feedback measures.

Committee members asked that EC identify how it will measure the outcomes in the plan, as well as ensure that qualitative and quantitative feedback is captured. They encouraged EC to use universal design to combat ableism within its recruitment, hiring and training steps. They also advised EC to keep it simple in its ongoing efforts to ensure that the new improvements complement the existing tools and processes. Members reminded EC about the importance of addressing the issue of finding and choosing accessible voting locations in rural areas.

Civic Education

Presenter: Katherine Boyes, Assistant Director, Civic Education

Katherine Boyes introduced AGDI members to EC's Civic Education program, whose objective is to prepare and engage future voters (i.e. under the voting age) to participate in electoral democracy. She explained the ways this objective is achieved through classroom resources, professional development, workshops and the Advisory Circle of Educators.

Ms. Boyes led a group activity around redistribution, from the Mapping Electoral Districts classroom resource, as a demonstration of the types of activities the program offers.

She talked about the upcoming work Civic Education will be undertaking in terms of accessibility improvements, which includes auditing its website, examining the offerings for teachers and making classroom resources more accessible for students.

AGDI members showed great enthusiasm about the program. They suggested that accessible Civic Education resources include plain language, high-quality Braille, engaging audio formats, peer interaction and role play. Members recommended that the Civic Education program incorporate accessibility tools into their resources to normalize the diversity of communities to able-bodied students. They also proposed that a person with a disability facilitate or co-facilitate some activities to expand the approach and perspective to learning.

Assistive Voting Technology Development

Presenters: Danielle Duquette, Director, Alternative Voting Methods and Sylvie Jacmain, Senior Director, Voting Services and Development

Danielle Duquette provided an update on the Assistive Voting Technology Development project. She mentioned that a user group was assembled in the summer and that work will continue throughout the development and implementation of the solution. Ms. Duquette explained the next steps the project team will undertake in collaboration with the user group.

AGDI members were supportive of the initiative and expressed a desire to see its progress. EC agreed to bring a prototype to AGDI once ready for a demonstration. Members suggested that the agency consider how to leverage this solution to help people with other types of disabilities to navigate the voting process.

Sylvie Jacmain noted that EC has started research to identify alternative voting channels for electors who face barriers to voting in person or by mail. She mentioned a few options for the types of channels EC is exploring, such as Braille and tactile formats, assisted voting by telephone or video call for special ballot voting. Ms. Jacmain assured AGDI members that her team would return to the committee with updates as they progress through this initiative. Members were receptive and interested to learn more about the options when they become available.

Members also raised the importance of using high-quality Braille paper, as well as ensuring that it arrives intact when mailed. They also suggested that EC offers accessible font size options for the special ballot voting kits.

Future of Work and Workplace Transformation

Presenters: Barbara Robertson, Project Leader, Future of Work and Workplace Transformation and Stéphanie Thomas, Assistant Director, Facilities and Workplace Innovation

The purpose of this session was to share information about the current and future plans for EC's built environment, as well as on-site and telework experience.

Barbara Robertson presented an overview of the objectives, timelines, as well as the current and future procedures and tools of the Future of Work and the Workplace Transformation initiatives.

Stéphanie Thomas explained what aspects of the built environment are and are not within EC's control with regards to headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec and its distribution centre in Ottawa, Ontario. She detailed the features that are currently available in the office space, what will be added soon, and the team's the plans for engaging with accessibility groups like AGDI to seek input on current and future workplace designs. Ms. Thomas asked the committee members for feedback on the features and setup of the building that was described in the pre-reading materials and the presentation.

AGDI members voiced the importance of making workplaces accessible by design, and to disclose accessible accommodations proactively to new and prospective workers. Members also recommended that EC have adjustable furniture, and an option for additional equipment, like screen readers, to remain at certain shared desks. They also suggested that EC identify areas, like desks, kitchens, hallways and bathrooms with buttons and labels in Braille. Other recommendations included the importance of having green space for service animals, dedicated accessible parking spaces, inclusive safety and evacuation protocols, and providing information and alternatives when a service or accommodation is not available.

When it came to hybrid meetings, AGDI members advised EC staff to plan in advance for accommodations, such as coordinating interpretation services, ensuring that technology is up to date and accessible and, before a meeting, sharing the documents that will be shown on screen.

Members asked that EC pay special attention to the work environment's lighting (e.g. artificial vs. natural), sound (e.g. screen readers, voice-to-text) and air (e.g. airborne allergies and scent sensitivities). They underscored the importance of not having separate spaces for employees with disabilities.

Additionally, members advocated for including individuals with disabilities in the development of solutions to accurately include accommodation options.

Forward Calendar and closing remarks

Presenters: Miriam Lapp, Senior Director, Research, Consultations, and Civic Education and Sylvie Jacmain, Senior Director, Voting Services and Development

Ms. Lapp thanked members for their valuable feedback throughout the meeting. She summarized what had been discussed over the two afternoons. Then, she presented upcoming activities that are of interest to AGDI members, including user group consultations on AVTD, alternative voting channels and inclusive recruitment strategies, as well as other priorities, such as the Indigenous Electoral Service Review and the publication of the Accessibility Plan.

Before adjourning the meeting, EC asked members to mark their calendar for the next AGDI meeting that will be taking place in spring 2023.


Appendix A: Meeting Agenda

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Time Agenda item
12:30 p.m.–1:00 p.m. Sound check with AGDI members
1:00 p.m.–1:15 p.m. Welcome, logistics, housekeeping and introductions
1:15 p.m.–2:00 p.m. Chief Electoral Officer's remarks
2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. Elections Canada's Accessibility Plan
3:00 p.m.–3:20 p.m. Break
3:20 p.m.–4:05 p.m. Civic Education
4:04 p.m.–4:15 p.m. Closing remarks and wrap-up
4:15 p.m. End of Day 1

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Time Agenda item
12:40 p.m.–12:50 p.m. Greeting of AGDI members
12:50 p.m.–1:00 p.m. Agenda and objectives for Day 2
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. Assistive Voting Technology Development
2:00 p.m.–2:20 p.m. Break
2:20 p.m.–3:20 p.m. Future of Work and Workplace Transformation
3:20 p.m.–3:50 p.m. Wrap-up, Forward Calendar and closing remarks
3:50 p.m. Adjournment of meeting

Appendix B: List of Participants present for the duration or part of the meeting

Advisory Group for Disability Issues members

Also see: Members of the Advisory Group for Disability Issues.

Elections Canada staff

Meeting facilitator

Alain Rabeau, Intersol Group