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Why ‘disability confidence’ needs to be a business priority

Improving accessibility can bring new opportunities for Ottawa businesses

Disability in the office

In 2019, the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) came into effect—a landmark piece of federal legislation to create a barrier-free Canada by 2040. 

The Act mandates that all federally regulated organizations develop and publicize accessibility plans in 2022 and 2023. This includes federal government departments and agencies, broadcasting entities, Canadian carriers or telecommunications service providers, the transportation network, Crown corporations, and others. 

Beyond publishing an initial accessibility plan, organizations governed by the Act are also required to release public-facing progress reports and updated accessibility plans at regular intervals for years to come. Those that aren’t compliant risk significant fines and reputational damage.

While the Act impacts these organizations and industries directly, it also has implications for anyone who works and interacts with the federally regulated organizations in areas such as digital technology and transformation, procurement, customer service, communications, transportation, employment, and the built environment (facilities and physical space). 

The ACA, other provincial legislation, and cultural indicators are sending a clear message. Accessibility needs to be on everyone’s radar.

As a result, any business that wants to work with the federal government or Crown corporations in the Ottawa area is facing new pressures. Simply put, they must ensure they have some level of disability confidence.  

What is disability confidence and why does it matter for businesses?

Disability confidence encourages organizations to think differently about disability. It asks organizations to take action to improve how they interact with employees and do business with persons with disabilities. 

To be disability confident, accessibility cannot be an afterthought or a reaction. It must be intentional and proactive.

Nearly 22 per cent of Canadians identify as having a disability and almost every person experiences disability in their lifetime. Accessibility is a growing priority in Canada that has strong ties to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks. 

Organizations that take accessibility seriously have the potential to reap significant financial and reputational advantages. This is where BDO comes in.

Accessibility compliance needs the right people with the right experience

Accessibility touches upon every area of business. It impacts both the physical and digital space your business operates in, from the way you hire and onboard employees, to how you deliver customer service.

Becoming truly disability confident can take considerable effort to achieve, but it’s something that every organization needs to embrace—and you need people with the right experience to succeed. 

BDO’s accessibility team has lived experience with disability, which gives us a unique perspective to help Ottawa businesses navigate requirements and reach new levels of disability confidence. 

Our team is led by BDO vice-president Max Brault, a person who lives with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). In addition to having more than 35 years of experience advocating for persons with disabilities in the federal government and the private sector, Max was also a key participant in the creation of the Accessible Canada Act. 

The team also includes Mandi Crespo, who has lived experience of disability. She has 18 years of experience in post-secondary education and the private sector working in the areas of accessibility, strategy, change management, and team development.

Our intimate knowledge of the Accessible Canada Act allows us to help clients and partners develop the attitudes, structures, and practices needed to navigate the ACA requirements and develop disability confidence. We have connections with disability communities across the country and understand their needs. We bring with us an in-depth knowledge of accessibility barriers and work with accessibility industry leaders to support our clients. 

If you’re interested in learning more, contact Max Brault at