- A National Partnership for Accessibility
The Canadian Accessibility Network (CAN), under the leadership of the READ Initiative at Carleton University, is a national collaboration to advance accessibility for persons with disabilities through Research, Design 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 hub for the Canadian Accessibility Network National Office. 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 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 READ 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 under each of the five overarching domains. 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.
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.