- A National Partnership for Accessibility
- Strategic Opportunity
- The Hub of a National Network for Accessibility
- The Power of Collaboration
- CAN Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles
- Network Governance
- Network Partners
- Join Us!
The Canadian Accessibility Network (CAN), under the leadership of the Accessibility Institute at Carleton University, is a national collaboration to advance accessibility for persons with disabilities through Research and Innovation, Education and Training, Policy, Employment, and Community Engagement.
Accessibility is a national priority legislated by the Accessible Canada Act. It is also one of the key strategic goals for Carleton University and for many other Canadian organizations and stakeholders. The number of Canadians identifying with a disability is increasing due to a more inclusive representation of different disabilities including non-visible categories, and the progress in our society toward greater understanding and reduced stigma to self-disclose. At all age levels, persons with disabilities benefit from advances in accessibility of built environments, products, and services, including our aging population. This is an opportune time to mobilize the many potential partners dedicated to issues of accessibility across Canada and build on the momentum of the Accessible Canada Act to create the Canadian Accessibility Network.
Carleton University is positioned as the most accessible postsecondary institution in Canada, and the home of the Accessibility Institute serving as the National Office of the Canadian Accessibility Network. We have broad interdisciplinary research partnerships in accessibility and disability, exemplified by Carleton’s own research partnership network representing four Faculties. Our student disability service, the Paul Menton Centre, has been referred to by the press as the gold standard. The 24/7 attendant services in the residence and the underground tunnel system connecting all buildings on campus is one of a kind in the world.
Our unique mental health supports, such as the research-based FIT-Action and the award-winning Student Mental Health Framework, ensure access to higher education for students with mental health challenges. Research shows our faculty espouse positive attitudes in accessibility but also practice inclusive pedagogy. Since 2012, Carleton’s READ Initiative – Research, Education, Accessibility, and Design – worked to bring together faculty, staff, and students across the university with community partners to advance the accessibility agenda through innovation, research, employment, and education.
“Carleton has a culture of accessibility”
Alfred Spencer, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario,
Ministry of Economic Development,
Employment and Infrastructure
Out of Carleton’s culture of accessibility grew the desire to bring together the various accessibility initiatives, partners, and resources. In collaboration with Carleton faculty, staff, and students, the READ Initiative, now Accessibility Institute, mobilized our collective potential to advance the accessibility agenda with our campus community and external collaborators. The Canadian Accessibility Network is the next step in these efforts, with the Accessibility Institute as its operational hub. The network approach with a centralized National Office will ensure a focused, strategic approach with leadership and coordination to maximize assets of collaborations and lead to systems-level change and cultural shift.
Accessibility for persons with disabilities is a core requirement for fully inclusive societies. Barriers to accessibility affect persons with disabilities at all levels of social participation. Much work is done across Canada to advance accessibility, but no single organization or sector can tackle the full spectrum of barriers to accessibility, to make change happen. There is a need for pan-Canadian mechanisms for organizations and stakeholders to engage across sectors, disciplines, and industries in action-oriented collaborations to address the multifaceted issues in accessibility.
The CAN will bring organizations together to facilitate collaborations in specific areas of focus. These areas of focus will be further elaborated with input from CAN collaborators, to ensure that the network is capturing the full spectrum of gaps and opportunities in order to take action on accessibility. Each organization will be able to identify those areas where they have done work or wish to do work, and conversely to identify other organizations with interest in doing work in the same area. CAN will empower collaboration and knowledge exchange across sectors, disciplines, and industries, to minimize duplication of effort and maximize the building on each other’s strengths and achievements toward solutions.
After review and consultation with CAN Collaborators and members, the Governing Council approved the vision, mission and guiding principles for the Network at its December 2020 meeting.
To be Canada’s cross-sectoral, national platform to empower persons with disabilities; improving socio-economic and health outcomes; and changing mindsets and behaviours for a more accessible and inclusive Canada.
The mission of the Canadian Accessibility Network is to:
- Advance accessibility for persons with disabilities through research, design, technology and innovation; education and training; policy; employment; and community engagement;
- Mobilize strategic partnerships among individuals and institutions dedicated to advancing accessibility to encourage innovative and action-oriented leadership; and
- Leverage Canada’s accessibility assets across sectors and disciplines to encourage system-level changes and cultural shifts in equity, mindsets and behaviours regarding persons with disabilities.
The creation of the Canadian Accessibility Network (CAN) provides an unparalleled opportunity for academic institutions, non-profit organizations, governments and businesses to combine and leverage their respective assets to advance accessibility and bring about timely, real and lasting change for persons with disabilities. By joining efforts in a sustained way, these partners can:
- Learn continuously from one another to enhance the quality, availability and accessibility of their respective facilities, programs and services and the support they offer to persons with disabilities;
- Provide a more comprehensive and integrated evidence base for public policy development, program decision-making and advocacy regarding accessibility;
- Create a more complementary and integrated inventory of offerings for education, training, employment, engagement and inclusion of persons with disabilities; and
- Reinforce each other’s commitments to raise public awareness about accessibility and promote efforts to optimize the contributions of persons with disabilities.
- Accessibility – The Network will facilitate equitable and timely access for individuals and organizations to the knowledge, programs, services and community engagement efforts of the Network.
- Inclusion– The Network will embody “nothing about us, without us” by promoting inclusiveness and equity in determining its strategic directions, in its day-to-day operations, and in the engagement of partners and stakeholders.
- Intersectionality – In alignment with the Accessible Canada Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Network acknowledges intersectionality and human rights as an organizing framework for all of its work. We recognize the diversity of identities and lived experiences in our society and the reality of multiple inequalities faced by people with disabilities. The Network will apply this intersectional lens to all of its decision-making processes.
- Collaboration – The Network will collaborate effectively with disability communities and partners in the public, non-profit and private sectors to maximize the relevance, application and impact of its knowledge and offerings.
- Excellence – The Network will enable research, education, training, policy development and knowledge mobilization regarding accessibility of the highest international standard and best practices.
- Innovation – The Network will initiate and catalyze new approaches to understanding accessibility and new means to address Canadians’ accessibility challenges and opportunities.
- Sustainability – The Network will pursue its mission in a manner that promotes the sustainability of its partners and enables it to attract the resources required to grow the capacity and contributions of the Network.
- Accountability – The Network will govern and manage its operations with integrity to ensure strong stewardship of the resources entrusted to it, be accountable to its partners, and maintain the trust and confidence of the people whom it seeks to serve and engage.
There are three Governing Bodies for the Network:
Our Network is comprised of a consortium of CAN Collaborators, representing various organizations across Canada, including postsecondary institutions, not-for-profit organizations, service providers, associations and foundations, public and private industry.
As the landscape of Canadians with disabilities evolves, the focus on accessibility for all becomes a priority – a national priority represented by the new Accessible Canada Act. Through CAN, we intend to help realize our national vision for a more accessible and inclusive Canada, by linking arms with collaborators that are equally dedicated to being accessibility champions and creating collective capacity, which is multisectoral and sustainable. We cannot do this alone and invite you to join us.
If your organization is interested in finding out more about becoming a CAN Collaborator, you can complete our Expression of Interest and submit it to, or contact our National Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.