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What is accessibility?

Accessibility and Accommodation

According to Accessibility Services Canada, accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities. Ontario has laws to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Ontario Building Code.

Accommodation is an individualized provision that is enacted once an individual with a disability makes a request for an accommodation.  Accessibility is “the proactive identification and mediation of barriers to anticipate and welcome members of our diverse community and increase accessibility for all” (Forward with FLEXibility, 2017).

While the process of accommodation is triggered by an individual requesting specific alterations to a program, service, or workstation, accessibility is the process of proactively identifying and eliminating barriers for all members of the campus community including persons with disabilities. Rather than focusing strictly on end-goals and absolute solutions, accessibility shifts our focus to a cyclical process where barriers are anticipated, mediated to the best of our abilities, and reflected upon to then influence anticipating and mediating further barriers (Forward with FLEXibility, 2017).

For a detailed look at accessibility and how it specifically applies to the teaching and learning environment, please visit McMaster’s Accessible Education resource,  Forward with FLEXibility: A Teaching and Learning Resource on Accessibility and Inclusion. This resource, while specific to Accessible Education, offers a principled approach to the adoption of an accessibility lens that can be adapted to a number of environments where the proactive identification and mediation of barriers need to be considered, including:

  • Presentations
  • Workshops
  • Meetings
  • Tutorials and Labs
  • Events and event planning
  • Conferences and conference planning
  • Volunteer, staff and faculty training

Please visit the FLEXForward resource e-book to learn more about the exciting and endless possibilities of integrating accessibility into your life as a student, staff member or faculty member at McMaster University.

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