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The Accessibility Exchange is a new platform that connects disability and Deaf communities with businesses, government and public sector organizations interested in hiring them to help create their accessibility plans.

The Accessible Canada Act

The Accessible Canada Act requires regulated entities to develop and publish an accessibility plan. Their plans must detail how they will remove barriers and improve access for all Canadians including people with lived experience of being disabled, of being Deaf, or of both. A regulated organization is one that must obey special rules set by the federal government. Such an organization could be a business, like a trucking company. Trucking companies have to be regulated by the federal government if they carry goods across provincial or international borders. Other regulated organizations include government offices, like Health Canada, and public-sector organizations, like prisons or hospitals.

Accessibility Plans

The Act requires that regulated organizations develop accessibility plans by consulting with people with disabilities and Deaf people who will be paid for their expertise. The federal government hopes that this requirement to involve people with disabilities and Deaf people in the development of accessibility plans will ensure genuine improvements in accessibility.

Paying for the expertise of people with disabilities and Deaf people

The Accessibility Exchange is being created under the direction of The Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society (IRIS) [hyperlink to the paragraph about IRIS on the About page of this site]. IRIS is a research and development institute supported by Inclusion Canada (formerly the Canadian Association for Community Living) working to realize a vision in which “people with intellectual disabilities and their families are valued equally and able to participate fully in all aspects of society.” IRIS is working with a wide group of organizations across disabilities. With a diverse project leadership team, implementation partners and advisors, the team also includes disability organizations with local-to-national reach, individuals representing marginalized communities (e.g. Indigenous, racialized, New Canadian, 2SLGBTQ+), as well as technical and legal experts.

Finding people with lived experience of being disabled, Deaf or both

With its deep connections to the communities of disabled and Deaf people, IRIS had the resources to find people for this project, including community connectors, who were able to reach out to groups that were harder to reach. IRIS’s leadership team wondered how regulated organizations, which may not have any connections to disability and Deaf communities, were going to manage, especially since those organizations were obliged to create accessibility plans with the expertise of people from these groups.

Matching people for the Accessibility Exchange

As we often do when we need answers, the leadership team turned to the internet. IRIS decided to create a matching service, in which regulated organizations could easily find consultants with lived experience of disability, being Deaf or of both. This was the beginning of the idea of The Accessibility Exchange. Through the course of many meetings, the concept evolved into a web platform that makes it easy for regulated organizations to list their requirements and for members of the Deaf and disabled communities to find work that matches their experience. Stay tuned to this blog to find out about the “secret sauce” of The Accessibility Exchange.

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Read the next article in this two-part series that reveals the secret sauce of The Accessibility Exchange.