Accessibility in 2023: Trends and Legislation – Webinar Summary


webinar panelist promo graphic featuring moderator Anu Pala and panelists Panelists • Anita Huberman- CEO for Surrey Board of Trade and Co-chair of the newly formed National Business Disability Inclusion Council) • Christine Buchanan- Regional Director of Employment Services and Training for Open Door Group and Chair of BC’s Accessible Employment Standards Development Committee • Sheri Byrne-Haber - Linkedin Top Voice for Social Impact and Senior Staff Architect, Accessibility at VMware

 On January 26th, 2023, Untapped Accessibility and the Surrey Board of Trade co-presented a successful webinar on accessibility trends and legislation.  

The 300 plus registrants gained timely and robust insights from a panel moderated by Anu Pala and featuring Anita Huberman, Christine Buchanan, and Sheri Byrne-Haber.

Here are a few highlights: 

Accessibility is not just a human resources matter 

Kicking off the event, Untapped Accessibility’s Managing Director Trish Kelly offered her thoughts:   

“A key piece that came about very early when the legislation was announced, is that many organizations have seen this as an HR matter.  

They’re going to delegate it to their HR team, or maybe their equity, diversity and inclusion lead. And although that’s really important, and of course we want to see better employment for people with disabilities, this touches every aspect of your organization.” 

Opportunities abound 

For the 750 plus public sector organizations that require an accessibility plan by 2023 or 2024, it can feel daunting. 

In brief, the legislation requires organizations listed in the regulation to meet the requirements of Part 3 of the Accessible British Columbia Act. Government and listed organizations must establish: 

  1. An accessibility committee 
  1. An accessibility plan 
  1. A tool to receive feedback on accessibility 

It’s an opportunity.  

Due to some gaps in the language around the legislation it means your organization could tailor a framework that aligns with your mission and strategic plan. 

As Principal Consultant Stephen O’Keefe noted: “It does not have to be perfect.”  

He also pointed to the Great Retirement, with a record number of people aged 55-64 indicating they will likely retire in the coming months. That leaves an enormous gap in the labour market, which can be filled by people with disabilities.  

Snatch templates 

Sheri Byrne-Haber is LinkedIn’s Top Voice for Social Impact 2022 and Senior Staff Accessibility Architect. She shared something that may give you pause: when it comes to accessibility frameworks, plagiarism is welcome! 

Finding other organizations in your sector that have already created plans and tailoring them can save on labour. In other words, snatch templates and wherever possible, use it as an opportunity to offer kudos and build relationships with those who are also doing the work of expanding accessibility. 

Sheri also spoke about the importance of ensuring all departments are well versed in creating accessible content.  

“You can have a perfectly accessible infrastructure and somebody can break the accessibility by uploading inaccessible content.” 

Reach out and ask  

As Trish noted: “We’re seeing some really interesting ways that organizations are coming together to partner on their committees or other aspects of the work to get around that issue of capacity or time.” 

She also urged organizations to consider honorariums for committee members from the disability community. With over 750 prescribed organizations competing for insights, offering honorariums will help you build trust. 

Disability inclusion is wise fiscal practice 

For Anita Huberman, building relationships at all levels of government is a large part of her role as the long-standing CEO for the Surrey Board of Trade.  

“Our productivity and our competitive ratios from an economic perspective within Canada, within British Columbia need to be emboldened. They need to be emblazoned,” she explained. 

“That means that every single person in this economy matters.” 

She added that disability inclusion is just wise fiscal practice.  

“Many Canadians with disabilities are unemployed or under employed and improving workplace access would allow 550,000 Canadians with disabilities to work more and increase our GDP by close to 17 billion dollars by 2030. 

Collaboration is key 

Christine Buchanan is the Regional Director of Employment Services and Training for Open Door Group and Chair of BC’s Accessible Employment Standards Development Committee. She and her colleagues are aiming to harmonize BC’s Employment Accessibility standards with the federal government.  

“Employment is their number one priority. We want to have that very meaningful and encoded, in collaboration and build on employment accessibility standards,” she says. 

“Access to employment is integral to inclusion,” she notes.  

The future is bright 

Moderator Anu Pala shared her enthusiasm: “I just want to say, as a person living with complete vision loss. I cannot begin to tell you all how excited I am to be here at this time, and watching all of this unfold.” 

Accessibility is getting a lot of buzz and after years of struggle and murky guidelines, the time is now to create accessibility plans.  

As Stephen said, “the future has never been so bright for people with disabilities”. 

Attendees asked questions during the webinar, and you can read Untapped Accessibility’s answers to them on our website. 

Please note quotes have been edited for clarity and length.