1. General

1.1 Statement of commitment

The Canada Council for the Arts (the Council) is Canada’s public arts funder. We have a mandate to “foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts.” We work to make sure that all aspects of the Council’s work align with our core values:

  • Our collective responsibility is based on humility, openness, listening and empathy, which enable us to understand, support and participate in the positive change that drives the development of organizations, communities, and society.
  • Mutual trust, respect and reciprocity foster shared leadership and are necessary for positive transformation.
  • Curiosity and continuous learning are essential to our work, which is stimulated by the constant sharing of facts, experiences, expertise, and ideas that shed light on the most complex issues and the inevitable grey areas.
  • Our passion and care for our work and our shared mandate are sources of success and a sense of accomplishment and belonging.

The Council contributes to the dynamism and sustainability of an independent arts and literary scene that is creative, diverse, accessible, and inclusive. The Council recognizes its responsibility to the arts and literary scene and to everyone in Canada in making the arts accessible to all, particularly to Deaf and disability artists and other people with disabilities. We recognize that accessibility is a practice that must evolve alongside our society and that people with disabilities must be at the table when discussing practices that directly affect them. We commit to listening to people with disabilities to continuously improve the accessibility of the Council’s programs, services, and workplace. We will proactively identify barriers and work to remove them. Barriers not identified in our accessibility plan will be addressed when we become aware of them. The Council’s commitment to advancing Deaf and disability arts is based on recognizing fundamental human rights and addressing power imbalances and inequities that are the result of political, social and economic discrimination.

1.2 Description of the Canada Council for the Arts

The Council is a federal Crown corporation. While we are funded by the Canadian federal government, we operate and make decisions independently. Our purpose is to support and promote the arts by distributing funding that supports artists and arts organizations from Canada. Our funding helps artists create work and engage audiences.

1.3 Contact information and feedback process 

We welcome all feedback from our employees and from members of the public about accessibility at the Council and about this plan. Feedback can be submitted anonymously. We are committed to reviewing the feedback and to addressing any and all barriers identified.

The feedback we receive is collected and kept by:

Officer, Strategic Policy and Planning section

You can provide feedback to this office in the following ways:

By email: feedback@canadacouncil.ca

By mail:

Public Feedback
Canada Council for the Arts
P.O. box 1047
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5V8

Information about how to submit feedback to the Council is also available on our public website.

1.4 Alternative formats

You can request alternative formats of this plan and a description of our feedback process by contacting:

Officer, Strategic Policy and Planning section
Email: feedback@canadacouncil.ca
Phone: 1 800 566-4414 (toll-free), extension 5089
Mail: P.O. box 1047, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5V8

The Council commits to providing the following alternative formats within 15 business days of receiving a request for them:

  • Print
  • Large print (increased font size)

1.5 Definitions

The following definitions apply throughout this plan:

Disability: Any impairment or difference in physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, or communication ability. Disabilities can be permanent or temporary and can change over time.

Barrier: Anything that might hinder full and equal participation by people with disabilities. Barriers can be architectural, technological, attitudinal, based on information or communications, or the result of a policy or procedure.

Accessibility: The design of products, devices, services, environments, technologies, policies and rules in a way that allows all people, including people with a variety of disabilities, to access them.

2. Areas described under Section 5 of the ACA

2.1 Built environment


The Council’s main office is in downtown Ottawa. The main office includes the Âjagemô Exhibition Space in the lobby, which is open to the public daily. The Canada Council Art Bank is in a separate building east of downtown Ottawa.

A built environment audit of the Council’s main office was conducted in 2014, and we have continued to make improvements to our office spaces, including:

  • Adding visual alarms.
  • Making sure that all washrooms used by employees and visitors are fully accessible.
  • Considering accessibility when we purchase furniture and other items for our spaces.

The Council has also developed emergency evacuation plans for its offices. The plans include detailed procedures on how to assist people with disabilities in an emergency. The plans have not been reflected in policy or official guidance documents. This is a barrier that we have identified and plan to remedy within the next year. Another barrier that we identified in our built environment is that, although spaces are set up with accessibility in mind, employees often move furniture, which can create barriers to accessibility. We plan to provide information to all employees about the accessibility features within our offices. We will also give them guidance on how to make sure the features are maintained.

Actions to improve accessibility

  • By the end of 2023, the Council will update its written emergency evacuation policy to outline processes specific to people with disabilities.
  • By the end of 2023, the Council will develop and distribute communications products on the accessibility of our offices.

2.2 Employment


The Council has about 300 employees. We have a hybrid and asymmetrical work model for all employees. This means that they can work in the office or from home in various configurations. All requests for accommodation are considered and reviewed against the Council’s policies.

We are also committed to implementing a strategy to hire more people with disabilities, as reflected in our employment equity action plans for 2019–21 and 2022–25. We have benefited significantly from the inclusion and advocacy of Council employees with disabilities. But there is always more work to do.

One of the barriers that we uncovered through our consultations involves the job application process as well as related processes for tracking and managing job applications. These processes are manual; to remedy that, a new talent acquisition management system will be implemented. The new system will be an online portal where applicants can review and apply for jobs. We will be able to use it to view, track and manage job applications. When we were looking into potential new systems, we made sure the one we chose would be accessible for people with various disabilities. We will continue to seek feedback on the system to make sure it is as accessible as possible.

We have plans to explore and improve other parts of our hiring processes, including what information that is provided to job applicants, as well as their user experience of the portal.

In 2021, we conducted a diversity, equity and inclusion survey. It confirmed our advances in the areas of workplace culture, collaboration, and awareness of our equity policies. The survey also highlighted some of the challenges we face, including the fact that the Council’s workforce is not fully reflective of the diversity of the arts and literary sector or Canadian society. This is an issue that is found across the public service and one that we are acutely aware of and working to resolve.

All the information gathered was considered when formulating our actions to improve accessibility in employment.

Actions to improve accessibility

  • By the end of 2024, the Council will create a strategy to hire and retain more people with disabilities in consultation with people who have disabilities.
  • As we roll out our new portal for job application management and tracking, we will collect feedback about the new system from people with disabilities and make accessibility-related improvements to the system as well as to related processes and tools.
  • Also as part of the roll-out, we will conduct a review of the user experience of applying for a job at the Council and make improvements to that experience based on the results of the review.
  • By the end of 2023, we will review processes for employees and potential employees to self-identify as having a disability and be clear on why we are collecting this information and how it will be used.

2.3 Information and communication technologies (ICT)


The Council uses a variety of technologies and digital tools. These include its public website (www.canadacouncil.ca), social media platforms, and videos. We strive to make our technologies accessible for everyone while also recognizing that improvements can always be made. For example, our website is compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG2.1), but compliance does not mean it is completely accessible. There are still issues in navigating the website and the grant application portal. The accessibility of the portal was brought up repeatedly during our consultations for this accessibility planning process and in the years before the Accessible Canada Act came into effect.

Actions to improve accessibility

  • By the end of 2025, the Council will conduct an accessibility audit of its public website and any IT systems that are not scheduled for replacement in the next 3 years. The audit will pay special attention to the technical accessibility requirements as well as the ease of the end user’s experience and navigation throughout its websites. It will also include the assessment and approval of new technology related to the submission and review of grant applications.

2.4 Communications, other than ICT


The Council develops and distributes information to the public about its granting programs, prizes, services, initiatives and research. We recognize that there is a diversity of education, language, and lived experience in the arts and literary scene in Canada. We have improved the accessibility of our communications significantly over the past few years in several ways, including:

  • Ensuring live videos and public events have real-time captioning and/or American Sign Language (ASL) and Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) interpretation.
  • Converting all our prize guidelines to accessible, HTML-based Web pages.
  • Achieving a WCAG 2.1 AA rating on our main website.
  • Providing Web content authors with user experience advice on how to create accessible content.
  • Providing design templates that ensure proper colour contrast and clarity best practices.

We are currently developing a communications style guide that supports accessibility. The guide will include key principles for writing at the Council, including audience awareness, inclusiveness, clarity, brevity, simplicity, and active voice. 

The content style guide for the Canada Council will help projects improve major digital media channels and all other products involving written communications.

In our consultations, we received many comments about the accessibility of our communications. We heard from employees that accessibility at meetings can be inconsistent. We heard that some of our written material is complex and hard to understand. While we regularly use alternative text descriptions and plain language in our online communications, we do not use accessibility tools consistently.

Actions to improve accessibility

  • By the end of 2024, the Council will develop guidelines for accessibility at internal (employees only) and public meetings. The guidelines will cover both virtual and in-person meetings. Once the guidelines are developed, the Council will provide employees with training on how to action the guidelines.
  • By the end of 2025, the Council will make sure that employees who write public documents for the Council receive training on how to write in plain language.
  • By the end of 2024, the Council will develop and distribute guidelines on how to create accessible online content and documents. Employees who create online content will be informed of the guidelines and will be provided with training, as required.

2.5 The procurement of goods, services and facilities


The Council buys goods and services to support its operations. We believe that our current process addresses accessibility, but we can do more to standardize that across the organization. For example, our IT department incorporates accessibility into requests for proposals and tenders for technical systems. This is a practice that can be implemented organization-wide, and we are committed to doing that. We are currently in the process of reviewing our procurement policy, templates, and guidance. A major focus of this review will be to make sure that we are thinking about accessibility in all our procurement activities.

Actions to improve accessibility

  • By the end of 2025, the Council will complete a review of its procurement processes and make any necessary changes. During the review, we will look for opportunities to increase the accessibility of the products and services we buy. For example, we may add more instructions about accessibility into our procurement policy and checklists.

2.6 The design and delivery of programs and services

The current state of accessibility

The Council offers a wide variety of grants, prizes, and ongoing support to artists and arts organizations across the country. This includes Deaf and disability artists and arts organizations. The Council’s most visible programs are its granting programs. Most of the feedback we received through our surveys, interviews, and focus group had to do with the accessibility barriers in our grant applications and other similar applications.

We have made significant improvements to our grant delivery model, including application assistance and access support. Application assistance provides money for applicants to access services to help them create a profile and complete their grant applications and reports. Access support is available to applicants who have already received a grant from the Council to help them bring their projects to life. The support itself is not without its own barriers.

The Council has already begun work to re-examine what we ask applicants for, why we ask, and how we ask. We are committing to making the current systems more accessible and easier to use for all applicants.

Actions to improve accessibility

  • By the end of 2025, the Council will conduct a detailed review of its delivery model for grants and prizes. The goal of the review is to make the Council and its activities more accessible to applicants. During the review, we plan to focus strongly on the experience of Deaf and disability artists when they apply for grants and participate in our programs. We will conduct the review taking into consideration the needs of artists who are Deaf or have disabilities, and we plan to make improvements to our delivery model based on the feedback we receive. This will include:
    • A review of the language and text that we use to describe our programs and services.
    • The improvement of customer service provided during the grant and prize application process.
    • Reviews for our Application Assistance mechanism and Access support program.

2.7 Transportation


The Council does not run any transportation services; therefore, we have not developed any goals or actions in this area.

3. Consultations

3.1 Overview

The Canada Council for the Arts is fully committed to listening to the voices of people with disabilities and actioning the feedback we receive. We will continue our consultation processes with people who have disabilities in all aspects of this accessibility plan and other major projects that we are working on.

The following sections of this plan outline how people with disabilities were consulted in the preparation of this plan. The Council recognizes that consultations need to be ongoing. We are dedicated to building more relationships of trust with Deaf and disability artists and other people with disabilities going forward.

3.2 Consultations with employees who have disabilities

We consulted with employees through an anonymous, electronic survey. The survey asked employees to share their experiences working for the Council. It also asked them to share any barriers that they have noticed at the Council. We received responses from 33 employees who identified as having disabilities and 80 employees who did not identify as having disabilities. The most common areas of feedback from employees were our job application process and accessibility at internal meetings.

3.3 Consultations with stakeholders, Deaf people and people living with disabilities

We sent a survey to 3,000 Deaf and disability artists and arts organizations from across Canada. The survey asked people to share their accessibility experiences when engaging with the Council. We received responses from 293 people who identified as having disabilities and 19 people who did not identify as having disabilities. The most common area of feedback from respondents was the grant application process and barriers to receiving grants.

3.4 The Expanding the Arts strategy

The Council has made a long-standing commitment to supporting the Deaf and disability arts sector and has prioritized engagement throughout this process.

The Expanding the Arts II: Deaf and Disability Expression and Engagement Strategy (ETA II) articulates the Council’s approach to supporting the Deaf and disability arts sector in the context of Council’s ongoing commitments. The ETA II is based on the vision that Deaf and disability arts is a vibrant field that is recognized for bringing distinct perspectives and ways of being into the common cultural experience, and shifting perceptions and understandings of the human condition and artistic expression.

The Council’s commitment to advancing Deaf and disability arts is based on recognizing fundamental human rights and addressing power imbalances and inequities that are the result of political, social and economic discrimination.

To support the ETA II, the Council hired a research team to conduct a study on Deaf and disability arts practices in Canada. The researchers spoke to 85 artists and arts workers through interviews and focus groups. A report published in February 2021 provides a broad picture of Deaf artists and artists with disabilities in Canada, their artistic practices and latest innovations, and related findings concerning accessibility, equity, self-determination, and support.

The report also offers best practices to the arts sector grouped according to 5 major hurdles:

  1. Funding
  2. Accessibility
  3. Cultural representation
  4. Communications
  5. Equity, diversity, and inclusion in cultural, artistic and media works

3.5 Consultation with an accessibility advisory group

The Council held a focus group with 9 people with disabilities from across Canada who are not regularly engaged with the Council’s services and programs. We did this to learn about their experiences with our website, job application process, grant application process, and social media platform accessibility. What emerged from this consultation was that the barriers experienced by the focus group were very similar to the barriers experienced by the Deaf and disability artists who took our survey. These barriers included the lack of plain language, challenges navigating and finding information on our website, and the length and complexity of the application process. The insights gained from the consultation were also used to inform the actions we have published in this accessibility plan.

4. Conclusion

Inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of our organization’s operations and work is a top priority for the Council. The Council is committed to improving accessibility by implementing this accessibility plan over the next 3 years. We are also dedicated to continuing to examine our practices and operations to find and address barriers to accessibility. We understand that accessibility is an ongoing process, and we are committed to engaging in a meaningful and authentic consultation process with Deaf and disability artists and other people with disabilities across Canada.