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Video: Workplace Accommodation Consultation Series: Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodation Practices in the Federal Public Service

Description

This first event in the series presented major findings from the study, including key feedback received from managers, and set the stage for the next two sessions.

This video will help you understand common pain points in the current accommodation process and opportunities for managers to help create a more inclusive and barrier-free work environment.

Duration: 01:25:49
Published: April 20, 2021
Code: INC1-V37

Event: Workplace Accommodation Consultation Series: Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodation Practices in the Federal Public Service


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Workplace Accommodation Consultation Series: Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodation Practices in the Federal Public Service

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Transcript: Workplace Accommodation Consultation Series: Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodation Practices in the Federal Public Service

[The animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears on a purple background. Its pages turn, opening it like a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. Text is beside it.]

Webcast | Webdiffusion

[It fades out, replaced by a Zoom video call with four people in video windows. The moderator, Isabelle Racine, smiles. She is a white woman with shoulder-length straight blonde hair and a patterned blouse. She has a pale blue Zoom background with black text reading, "National Managers' Community/Communauté nationale des gestionnaires. Conect, Engage, Collaborate/Rassembler/Mobiliser/Collaborer."]

Isabelle Racine [IR]: The Series on Workplace Accommodation Consultation. This event is entitled Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodations in the Federal Public Service. My name is Isabelle Racine and I am the executive director of the National Managers' Community, the NMC.

[Isabelle's window fills the screen. A purple box in the bottom left corner identifies her: "Isabelle Racine, National Managers' Community (NMC)."]

I will be the moderator for today's discussion. I would like to begin by acknowledging that since I'm located in Gatineau, Quebec, the land on which we gather is a traditional and unceded territory of the Anishinaabewaki, Mohawk, and Omàmìwininìwag Algonquin people. I recognize that we all work in different places and therefore on a different traditional indigenous territory. Encourage you to take a moment to reflect on this.

We have a great discussion plan for you and want you to have the best possible experience. Please log off your VPN to help us and you experience the event at the fullest. If you are experiencing technical issues, it is recommended that you relaunch the webcast link provided. Also, throughout the event, you may submit your questions by clicking on the icon that looks like a raised pen. Towards the end of the event we have planned some time for questions and answer period.

I would now like to introduce you to Arun Thangaraj, associate deputy minister Transport Canada, and deputy minister champion for the NMC. Arun will provide a brief introduction. Arun is on his phone, so we won't see him via video, but we will be able to hear his introduction. Over to you, Arun.

Arun Thangaraj [AT]: Hi, everybody. Isabella, you can hear me? Yes?

[Isabelle nods.]

IR: Yes, we can hear you.

AT: Okay, perfect. So in a very 2021 moment, I would have loved to have had my video on, but I'm on my way to a vaccination appointment that I got very last minute. So, that will tell you a little bit about what age category I'm in.

[The participants smile.]

But I'm glad that I could spend a couple of minutes with you as we begin this really important discussion today. And I think the discussion is important to me and I want to say very clearly is, I believe very...

[Arun's audio pauses.]

...very strongly in the added value of the role of the National Managers' Community is to be the voice of managers across the country, and to represent your voice and all of your voices. We represent managers and team leaders across this nation. And we help connect you with peers and senior leaders, as well as to discover useful tools, resources, and learning opportunities to assist you achieving your goals and better supporting and managing your teams.

It's important for managers to engage their teams now more than ever before. The National Managers' Community has developed engagement tools that provide proven and innovative ways to strengthen team cohesion and work towards common goals.

[Two of the participants' video windows disappear.]

Fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace has been highlighted for managers across the country as a topic that we need to address as a community. In 2021 the NMC will continue to build new partnerships and host many learning opportunities virtually for managers across the country. Overall as a community, our priorities include sharing tools and learning for the post-pandemic reality, and competencies for the future. For example, digitalization, as well as discussions on workplace and the workforce of the future and impact on our current programs.

The second is addressing the clerk's call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion. And in doing so, we will be looking at events and tools for managers and lending our voice to working groups and round tables to address these issues.

Third, to support managers with regards to the shifting culture, how to have sometimes challenging conversations, how to address mental health and resilience and performance management in our new working context.

Fourth, increasing opportunities for networking in a virtual environment. And finally, fostering opportunities for development and collaboration through peer-to-peer discussions opened for us, and safe spaces. By connecting with the National Managers' Community you will ensure that your voice is heard and that you're aware of events and opportunities that will continue to the development of a more agile, equipped and inclusive public service. It will also allow you to play a role in shaping the priorities of the government of Canada and how we address important issues, such as today's discussion on inclusion and accessibility.

It is clear that we need to find constructive ways for all of us to learn more and work together as managers to support the government of Canada's efforts on diversity and inclusion, and to make our own teams better, stronger, healthier, and more welcoming to all. We as a community are working with the Public Service Commission and the human resource council on an initiative for the recruitment of 5,000 persons with disabilities. More information will be shared with managers once candidate pools are available. But this—I can't underscore how important this is for the public service and for Canada as a whole. And we hope that today's events, and I know Yazmine will talk about this a little bit, but we hope that what we're going to be addressing today is a step in the right directions. I wish you a great event today, and I'll hand it back to you, Isabelle.

IR: Thank you, Arun. I'll hand it over to Yazmine Laroche, deputy minister office of Public Service Accessibility at the Treasury Board of Canada, Secretariat for her opening remarks.

[Yazmine smiles. She is an olive-skinned woman with short, wavy dark hair. She wears red glasses and a black blouse. Her background is a purple screen with seven icons of different colours in the top left, each displaying a different accessibility tool, such as a cane, a hearing aid, and a wheelchair. White text below the symbols reads, "#nothingwithoutus | #riensansnous." In the top right corner, white text reads, "The future is accessible/L'avenir est accessible." Yazmine smiles.]

Yazmine Laroche [YL]: Thank you so much, Isabelle, and hi, everybody. I'm so delighted to be here.

[Yazmine's window fills the screen. A purple box in the bottom left corner identifies her: "Yazmine Laroche, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat."]

And I'm delighted that my friend and colleague Arun was able to join us. I think that just highlights how important this is for him, that he managed to be with us while waiting moments before getting his jab, which is super exciting. But I'm really happy to be meeting with you today, because I think the Managers' Community is so amazing and vibrant. And I feel a real connection to you because you were one of the first communities I met with when I took on this job.

As Isabelle mentioned, I'm the DM of Public Service Accessibility, but I'm also the deputy ministry champion for employees with disabilities. And in both roles, I regularly hear from employees with disabilities and from managers about things that are going well—and some are—and things that are going not so well.

And I'm so happy to be part of this event because it's an exercise that I'm really hoping it's going to help increase disability awareness, but also to improve outcomes for you and for your employees. So, thank you for joining us today. We're launching our three-part series in collaboration with you, the National Managers' Community, in response to feedback we got from public service employees and from managers through the 2019 Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodations and the NMC Managers' Learning Needs Survey.

In both of these surveys, managers asked for more information and resources on workplace accommodation, adaptive technology, and accessible procurement. You asked, we listened, and here we are. Today's session will set the stage for the series by sharing the results of the Benchmarking Study on Workplace Accommodations. This was a groundbreaking study. Do you know it was the first of its kind in Canada? Not only did the study shed light on the challenges and the pain points in the accommodation process in the public service, but it also asked employees and managers about possible solutions. How do we make things better? This is why we want to engage with you.

As you listen to Kirsten's presentation, I encourage you to reflect on how you as managers and as aspiring managers can play your part in breaking down barriers that are faced by people with disabilities in the workplace. By simply ensuring that employees have the accommodations they need in a timely and effective manner, you can improve an employee's morale, their mental health, their productivity, as well as their career prospects.

But more importantly, it leads to feeling included and feeling like a valued team member, simply because you've got what you need so that you can make your best possible contribution. A few weeks ago, the Comptroller General issued new guidance that I think is going to make your jobs easier in terms of workplace accommodations. Because candidly, we know that for many of us, it's not that easy.

Our studies and consultations with departments found that over-complicating the purchases of low dollar value adaptive technology and services has been one of the biggest pain points for managers as well as employees with disabilities. And so the Comptroller General, Roch Huppé, and I wrote to all deputies and CFOs to really strongly encourage the use of acquisition cards for the purchases of low dollar value accommodations-related items and services. This is a quick way for employees to get more empowered, more equipped, and positioned to work safely, effectively, and productively.

I'm counting on you, the real leaders, to help make our public service the most accessible and inclusive one in the world. And I really want to thank our partners at the National Managers' Community and the Canada School of Public Service for hosting this really, really important learning series. I wish you all the best for today's event. Thank you so much for inviting me, and have a great conversation.

[Isabelle's and a panelist's video windows reappear alongside Yazmine's.]

IR: Thank you, Yazmine, for these words. I would now like to introduce Kirsten Perreault, who will be presenting the content for today.

[Yazmine's window disappears.]

Kirsten is a program advisor at the Office of Public Service Accessibility, or OPSA, in the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Over to you, Kirsten.

[Kirsten smiles. She is a white woman with shoulder-length dark, wavy hair, and she wears a navy blouse with a wide white checkered pattern. She has the same purple "The Future is Accessible" background as Yazmine.]

Kirsten Perreault [KP]: Thank you, Isabelle. Good afternoon.

[Kirsten's window fills the screen. A purple text box reads, "Kirsten Perreault, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat." Her video and audio freeze occasionally as she speaks.]

First off, I would like to thank our deputy minister and your Champion for their opening remarks. And a special thanks to you, that is you, the managers, for participating today. By now you are no doubt aware that our presentation document is lengthy, even for a 90-minute session. However, take heart, more than half of the site annexes for your later reference. I will mention them in passing during this presentation on the benchmarking study. The presentation will not be displayed, so I will refer you to slide numbers as we move through today. I would also like to share that this achievement of the study and the analysis of its results are in large part due to the dedication and efforts of our previous director, Diana Shaw-Malvern. So on that note, let's get started.

"Slide two. Why here?" OPSA noted a lack of data about the experience of federal public service employees and supervisors with the accommodations process. Therefore, one of the first projects of the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund, or CEWF, was to conduct a study, a survey, in the spring of 2019 with a follow-up survey in the fall of the same year to establish a baseline and to identify common challenges and practices.

These two surveys combined are what we refer to as the benchmarking study. In that study, both supervisors, perhaps some of you, and their employees identified some significant issues and concerns with the process. And supervisors in particular identified a need for more information and resources related to workplace accommodations. The following year, a NMC survey echoed these sentiments. Results of the 2020, 2021 NMC learning survey though they vary by region essentially show that where a third of you indicated a need for departmental resources for managers related to accessibility and accommodation. And a quarter of you selected learning needs related to hiring and onboarding of people with disabilities, acquiring adaptive technology and accessible procurement tools as a priority.

Meanwhile, in preparing for this presentation, I also went back to the results of the Managers Managing People survey also of 2020, and found that more than half of respondents indicated a strong interest in the topics of duty to accommodate, particularly now that a significant portion of the workforce is working remotely, and in how to reduce barriers for persons with disabilities.

We at OPSA in collaboration with SSC and PSPC, that is Shared Services Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada, put together this three-part workplace accommodation series in an effort to address these gaps. Today represents the first session in the series. Later in May, SSC will present on the subject of the acquisition of IT-related adaptive equipment and services. And in June, PSPC will close our series with a discussion on accessible procurement.

On the next slide we have provided a little bit of additional context, a mini history lesson of sorts. The Office of Public Service Accessibility was created in 2018 in response to, at the time, what was then Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier free Canada, and what is now the Accessible Canada Act. In 2019, the act received Royal assent, and as mentioned earlier, the Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodations in the Federal Public Service was conducted by the CEWF with the assistance of Environics Research.

Our objectives for today, on the next slide, are to acquaint you with the CEWF, the findings of the study, and what those findings mean for you as managers. So, first step: the CEWF. Moving to slide five, the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund or CEWF, which we refer to as the Fund, was established to invest in innovative projects and initiatives that aim to advance accessibility in the federal public service through improvement of workplace accommodation practices and of the process itself. The Fund's purpose is to support improvement to business practices that will reduce the need for individual accommodation, and to support improvement to the workplace accommodations process so that when individual accommodation is still required, the process is a smooth and efficient one.

This is to be accomplished by investing in projects, pilots, or demonstrations of innovative ideas that have the potential to impact public servants with disabilities beyond those in a single department. In other words, we hope to benefit the greatest number of public servants with disabilities possible. The fund provides financial support primarily through MOUs, memorandum of understanding, with project lead departments, who we refer to as partner departments. We also provide a level of oversight and coordination as required.

New project ideas. I will certainly caution that if a department wants to put forward a project proposal, it must be directly related to workplace accommodations and fall outside mandate of the department. In other words, we cannot finance your core business, nor can we finance your obligations under the act. This is made clear on the terms and conditions document built...

[Kirsten's audio glitches.]

Part of our work you will see on the next slide, slide six, includes documenting current practices. This refers in large part to the benchmark study. We also seek to share best practices and resources for without appropriate accommodation employees with disabilities are unable to contribute to their full potential. And the federal public service will be unable to advance on its priority to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive public service. As Clerk Shugart recently stated, "This is both an obligation and an opportunity we all share."

On slide seven we have provided a sample list of projects underway. These in particular have a government-wide scope. The Government of Canada Workplace Accessibility Passport is one of the key initiatives of the accessibility strategy. Currently in its demonstration phase, it is a tool that an employee uses to describe the barriers they face in the workplace. To document solutions, devices, or supports received in the past, and the adaptive tools that the employee would like to bring with them should they change jobs or organizations.

The passport is intended to facilitate conversations between an employee and their manager. The idea is that an employee brings their passport and their workplace accommodations with them throughout their career in the public service. There are currently about 20 so-called early adopter departments using the paper or demonstration phase version of the passport. In addition to the form and instructions guidance is available that includes a conversation guide and a frequently asked questions document. And work has begun on building the requirements for a digital version, including interoperability with other systems. You will hear more about SSC's Centralized Lending Library, the second project on the sample list, when they present in May regarding their Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology program, or AAACT, and how to access this program's specialized services.

If you are not already familiar with AAACT, among other things they assist with assessment and recommendation of adapted IT for employees with a need for this type of workplace accommodation. SSC will also discuss their new process and guide related to what AAACT offers managers and employees and the acquisition of IT-related adaptive products and services. For now, I will say that the lending library was established to enable those persons with disabilities hired on a short-term basis to quickly obtain the adaptive tools they need to do their job. The last thing you want if you have hired someone to work for you for three months is for them and for you, their manager, to have to wait a month for their adaptive tech to be selected, acquired, and installed.

Information about both the passport and the lending library is available on the accessibility hub. If you haven't yet had the chance to visit the hub on GCpedia, I suggest you take a look when you have a moment. A link to the hub has been provided on slide 26. There you will find a plethora of resources, as well as examples of what some departments are doing to advance accessibility in their organizations.

As I mentioned, these projects target the entire public service. However, the fund is also working on or towards the implementation of projects that are smaller scope, but that lend themselves to export for expansion. By export, we mean that the project or initiative could be copied, essentially redone by another department or departments. Expansion, meaning the scope of the project or the initiative could be expanded from one or a single department to a cluster of departments, or ideally government wide.

Moving onto the benchmarking study. On slide eight, as mentioned earlier, two surveys were conducted in 2019. Now, for a government-wide survey, especially two surveys, you may think the overall number of surveys completed looks low: 6,225.

However, I would ask that you keep the following in mind. The May 2019 survey was voluntary, but unlike, for example, the Public Service Employee Survey or PSES, there was no invite email sent to every public servant.

Instead, the opportunity to complete the survey was communicated through various networks, newsletters and GCTools. In other words, you had to opt in. Then, only employees and supervisors who requested accommodation in the past three years were included. So out of a total of approximately 10,000 public servants with disabilities, as of the published representation for March 31st 2019, over 3,400 responded to our survey. In addition, over 1,800 supervisors. Not bad. Now, at this point, I would also like to acknowledge that while our focus was primarily on disability-related accommodations, workplace accommodation covers more than situations of disability. And we did have a roughly 5% response rate where individual accommodation requests were not due to disability or health condition.

So, why two surveys in one year? The focus of the May survey was more quantitative in nature. Questions where respondents selected one or more preset answers. Whereas the follow-up survey in October provided respondents with the opportunity to provide more textual or open-ended answers.

For example, questions along the lines of, "Briefly describe how your primary health condition or disability impacts you in the workplace." And as a result, well, because those who completed the May survey and agreed to be contacted for follow-up were invited in the October survey, the second survey was considered public opinion research, or a POR exercise. Being public opinion research, the report associated with the October survey is posted on the library in Archives Canada's site, archivescanada.ca. In fact, this and other reports related to this study in various formats are on canada.ca. Again, links are provided in the annexes.

Finally, I would also like to emphasize that throughout the study ensuring the confidentiality of respondents was paramount. That being said, some demographic information was collected, as is done in the PSES. So I can tell you that the majority of respondents were non-EX and they fell within the 35 to 49 age bracket.

And what are we doing with all this data we've collected? We use it to inform fund investments. In other words, now that we have clearly identified the issues, what can we, the public service do about them?

So, what are the issues? The overall findings consolidated from both surveys revealed themes and patterns. And here I am turning to slide nine, that confirmed what OPSA had heard anecdotally through town halls and other consultations while developing the Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service. Employees and supervisors identified what I would characterize as foundational or structural changes they deemed necessary to improve workplace accommodation practices and outcomes.

Specifically, there is a need to rationalize the process, to streamline and standardize it. Centralization of the process, and potentially the funding for workplace accommodations, were suggested as ways to improve efficiencies and support standard that is consistent approaches. Now, just what is meant by centralization is open to interpretation. Even those who responded to our survey recommended different variations on centralization.

And here I am quoting supervisor responses. From centralization of information, information about different steps in the process is not all in the same place. I could not find any actual description of the process.

[A dog barks loudly.]

That's my dog. Apologies, everybody.

[She chuckles, and the dog stops barking.]

To a centrally defined process, I think that a more centralized approach would ensure uniformity. It would be great to have procedures and processes, which are standard across all departments. Everyone does it differently. Why can't we have one consistent approach so if a manager changes a department, it would be easy for them to find out how to implement?

And finally, to a centralized service. There should be a specialist dealing with all accommodations. This would be more efficient because accommodation requests are relatively rare. Someone knowledgeable in this topic with whom we could talk in person, instead of trying to navigate and interpret the various laws and policies.

These last quotations refer to advisors with expertise in disability and accommodations management. That was also a recommendation from the employees. Streamlining also came up in survey questions around procurement. The presentations by SSC and PSPC in May and June we'll delve more into this topic. But I think a lot of this comes down to clarity. Simplification is a word we hear often, especially around evidence requirements. That is, medical evidence. Many believe a "yes by default" approach is one way to make the process more efficient. That is, both employees and supervisors feel this way. Employees often see it as a question of trust and supervisors find they are unable to obtain the information they require from medical specialists. And both find the entire exercise burdensome, time consuming, and costly. Particularly in situations where multiple medical visits are required and delays in approval or implementation of accommodations occur as a result. Another supervisor quote: "As with our move to bring decision-making, authority and efficiency to build delivery of services to clients, so too should we consider the same approach when caring for the needs of our employees."

And speaking directly to the trust issue, one supervisor wrote that "We need to remove all cynicism and adopt an attitude of trust in the employees making the requests. Make this a positive experience. You have the opportunity to gain tremendous engagement, and it is just the right thing to do." I particularly like this quote because it speaks to the employee-manager relationship and the impact that workplace accommodation practices can have on that relationship.

Slide 10, on which we we'll find the last of the overall findings, discusses the difference that appropriate workplace accommodation makes on, not least of all, the health of the employee. Approved appropriate accommodation equates to optimism, which I would argue means engagement and productivity. While ineffective or a lack of appropriate accommodation results in negative outcomes. Anything from extended sick leave to outright departure of the employee. A simple accommodation can make the world of difference and ensure that your employees remain productive members of the workforce.

Starting on slide 11, more detail is provided under the heading "Specific Findings." This is a little more detail about what we've already discussed, plus a few new pieces of information. As mentioned previously, both employees and supervisors view the current process as burdensome. [Audio cutting out] were asked what one or two key things they would like senior management to know about the accommodation process. A key message was that senior management needs to understand how much time supervisors spend administering these requests. And how much time employees spend navigating the process. supervisor stated, "The accommodations process is too slow. It discourages people from speaking up and asking for accommodations and it discourages managers from hiring people with disabilities." This sentiment is particularly disturbing, as is the notion that funding could possibly present a barrier to workplace accommodations. According to supervisors in our study, 39% of them said the single most common source of funding for accommodation requests in the department is the budget of working level managers. And almost as many supervisors, 38%, do not know the source of funding within their department.

While centralized funding has been recognized, not just within our study, as an element that could remove a potential barrier to approving accommodations, mainly because of its unpredictable nature from year to year, that is in terms of budgeting for a single fund center, for example. Our focus is on the complexity of and the delays in the process that appear at various stages, which indicate a need for centralization of practice. I mentioned how centralization can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

Centralization has been interpreted to mean something as basic as all requests are received through a single generic email box. But we in OPSA and the fund believe the solution is to think of it at the level of practice of accommodations. That is, a work unit whose job it is to manage all accommodation requests, guiding both the employee and the manager through the process. Facilitating the necessary contacts with internal departmental units, such as IT facilities. And with groups [audio inaudible] which is Health Canada for assessments where warranted. Or to obtain the assistance of Shared Services Canada's Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology program.

Both employees and managers can experience difficulty navigating the workplace accommodations process. Case managers who specialize in disability and accommodations management would facilitate the process for both groups. Based on survey feedback, both employees and supervisors believe there is a need for access to this type of specialist. When you recognize, as was revealed in our study, that two thirds of supervisors handle fewer than one request per year on average, it is understandable that there would be a call for departmental specialists to assist. These individuals would also have, as a result of their business line, experience with a variety of disability situations and solutions. Employees in particular spoke to the need for these specialists or case managers to be neutral. That call for neutrality appears based in the negative experiences of employees, whose requests for accommodation were perceived as labour relations issues.

Some departments are moving in this direction, and some are already there. And this begins to raise the issue of culture, which is also at the root of some of the issues around medical evidence. Our study revealed that the vast majority on a scale of nine out of 10 employees is required to provide evidence to support their request or their need for accommodation. And given the lack of clarity regarding evidence requirements, partly tied to the forms used such as the functional abilities form, multiple physician visits are often required to capture the information that the supervisor feels they need to address the request. As an aside, these forums are a subject that our office would like to delve into deeper, but that work is still pending.

Another negative recurrence, and this is one that the passport is intended to address, happens when an employee must resubmit medical certificates and or other evidence for the same accommodation due to a change in their position, physical office, or supervisor.

And now I am on slide 12. It is understandable why both employees and supervisors feel that clearer criteria around the role of medical specialists and evidence requirements would address certain delays in the process. And why some go so far as to state they believe that request should be approved by default, unless there is an objectively justifiable reason to question its validity.

On slide 13 we have provided a couple of examples of the data collected by the study about delays. Startling is the fact that 40 to 50% of respondents, depending on if you look at the employee or the supervisor results, indicated that it took anywhere from two to six months for accommodations to be implemented after the request's approval.

Just as with the observations of how long it took for accommodations to be implemented, on slide 14, it is clear that employees and supervisors perceive different reasons behind the delays. Now, this was a "choose one or more" question in terms of responses related to approved disability-related accommodations. In particular, I draw your attention to the percentage gaps. For delivery of required products or services delayed there's a gap of 14%, with supervisors stating this as the reason at a rate of 42%. And there's a gap of 10% where the reason is a delay in the initial installation of products for services.

Now, while there's no direct correlation or identified relationship between the supervisors and the employees who completed the surveys, these are still worth noting. I also have to say, and here I'm speaking personally, such large gaps for these two items made me wonder about the level of communication between the supervisors and these employees, or their employees. And as with most things, communication is key, but I digress.

The other number on this table that I would like to draw your attention to is the 23% of supervisors see delays being caused by difficulty in obtaining information from a doctor or a specialist. This speaks to the earlier points around medical evidence.

Moving to slide 15, these delays explain in part why respondents indicated that only six in 10 of accommodations requested and approved in the last three years preceding the survey were fully in place. And why four in 10 employees report negative impacts to their health and careers. And while never the primary concern—health is always the primary concern—here is a corresponding negative impact on productivity, compounding the issue for managers who have the employees they want to see contributing to their full potential. And a team whose morale is undoubtedly impacted. All for the want of appropriate accommodation.

Slide 16 speaks to lost opportunities and underutilized talent. Again, all due to inappropriate accommodation. And again, I believe on gaps in communication. More than anything, these negative career perceptions on the part of employees speak to the issues of environment, of a culture in which requests for workplace accommodation are either perceived in a negative light or have resulted in negative experiences. Some would rather lose their opportunity to advance in their careers than risk losing their accommodation.

Culture is the specific subject of the findings on slide 17. This is an area where your role as managers is especially crucial. As managers you have such a critical role to play in the attitudes present in the workplace. Every day you are demonstrating behaviours to your employees, your peers, and senior management. Your attitudes influence those of your teams and influence the nature of the workplace environment. If nothing else, I hope that you leave this session today thinking, "How do I ensure that our workplace is inclusive and that everyone is treated equitably?" You will notice that I refer to equity and not equality. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of that workplace accommodations can engender perceptions of special treatment or favouritism. Especially in situations where an employee's disability is not visible.

And here I would refer you to the statement on slide 18, and one that we believe warrants further study. That there are material differences in the experience and outcomes of those with visible and invisible disabilities. Now, in terms of what is visible and what is invisible, think of it this way, which is how it was defined for this study. A health condition or disability is visible if someone interacting with an individual would in most cases be aware of it. Invisible, where in most cases they would not. More than half of supervisors, 54%, agree that invisible conditions make assessments more complex. For example, situations in which an employee has a mental health condition or cognitive disability. Now, while this may be a contributing factor, the study [inaudible] civil disabilities were required to provide medical evidence at a rate of 83% compared to 67% for those with a visible disability, and were required to participate in a formal assessment at a rate of 72% versus 60%.

Those with invisible disabilities are also much more likely to see their accommodation denied. As I said earlier, it's a question of equity rather than an equality. It's not a question of everyone having the same tools or work arrangements. It's a question of everyone having the same opportunity to succeed, being equipped to produce to their full potential. It's about every member of the team feeling productive and [inaudible]. By now, most of you have seen the double image of three children watching a ball game that has happened on the other side of a fence. Three children are at different heights and there are three equally sized boxes on their side of the fence. On one side of the image, each child is standing on one of the boxes. This is the "equality" side of the image. So all three children have been given the same box to stand on, because of the height of the fence only two of the children can see over it. One child still cannot see the baseball game.

On the other side of the image, the "equity" side, the tallest child, the one who can already see over the fence, has no box. The middle child has been given one box to stand on, and this allows them to see over the fence, while the third child now has two boxes to stand on and has the same opportunity to watch the game as the others. This is equity, the division of resources so that each is provided the same opportunity as their peers—or, in the workplace, as other employees.

On slide 19 you will find information regarding a validation exercise that was conducted regarding the benchmarking study. Due in part to the sample size, which we discussed earlier, the 6,225 surveys, we wanted to address concerns that the findings were not representative. We were prepared for the study's findings to be supported or disproved. But, as with our study, the analysis is of a variety of resources, the full list of which we have provided in annex I, confirm a timely, effective accommodation leads to greater employment and retention among those with disabilities. The validation exercise also resulted in recommendations, which are on slide 20, that parallel those of the benchmarking study.

On slides 21 and 22 we have listed our next steps following the study, some of which I've already mentioned and are already underway, such as this presentation to you, and work with various departments, partner departments and third-party suppliers. So, suppliers regarding projects.

On slides 23 and 24—and if it appears that I'm wrapping up, I am—we have provided some key takeaways for you. The ideas we hope that have been impressed upon you today, especially the critical role that you as managers have to play in accessibility. Your engagement and collaboration are essential.

So, to lead us into our question and answer period, I will turn your attention to slide 25, where we ask your views on the benchmarking study, and again, ask you to think about what you can do to enable all of your employees to contribute to their full potential. How can you be proactive? How can each of you ensure that your work environment is inclusive and accessible? And just before I turn it over to the moderator, I would like to thank all of you again for your participation today.

On slide 26 you will find the various ways you can communicate with our office. And finally, I will remind you that the next session in this three-part series takes place on May 14th, when Shared Services Canada will discuss the acquisition of IT-related adaptive products and services and how their Accessibility, Accommodation and Adaptive Computer Technology program, AAACT, may assist you and your employees. Please watch for the registration notice. I believe it should be coming out next week. Again, thank you. Isabelle?

[Isabelle's video window reappears alongside Kirsten's, as well as two other participants' windows.]

IR: Thank you, Kirsten for the great presentation, which highlighted very well the key role played by managers and the importance of simplifying the process. We will now open the floor to questions for participants.

[Kirsten's window disappears, and a third panelist's video appears.]

The panel members for this section of the presentation will be Luna Bengio, principal advisor to the deputy minister at OPSA. Mangla Shandal acting director of the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund at OPSA. Stephanie Austin, director of policy and engagement at OPSA. I remind you that you may send your question by pressing the raise the hand icon in the upper right corner of your screen. I forgot to mention that Stephanie will be moderating this section of the event. As a first question, I would like to ask Mangla, could you try to clarify what you mean by neutral advisors?

[Mangla smiles. She is a woman with brown skin and long black hair, and she wears a dark purple blouse. She has the same "The Future is Accessible" Zoom background as Yazmine and Kirsten. Mangla's video window fills the screen. A purple text box in the bottom left corner reads, "Mangla Shandal, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat."]

Mangla Shandal [MS]: Thank you, Isabelle, absolutely. So just for a bit of context, the benchmarking study found that supervisors most often first turned to labour relations when an accommodation request is received. And in most organizations, labour relations advisors are seen as a resource who support management in addressing performance issues and issues between both employees and supervisors. So for this reason, we believe some concerns were raised or there is a perception that labour relations works only in management's interests, and their involvement, the report implies, that the employee requesting an accommodation poses a problem. Whereas a disability management advisor who assists employees in navigating the accommodations process works in collaboration with the employee's manager, and is perceived as having a more neutral role. So, these are basically specialists in the areas of accommodations who are there to help both the employee and the manager. And that's what we mean when we say neutral advisors.

[The other panelists' windows reappear. The moderator, Stephanie, smiles. She is a white woman with short silver hair and black glasses, and she wears a maroon shirt. A blue wall and white door are visible behind her. Her window fills the screen, and the purple text box reads, "Stephanie Austin, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat."]

Stephanie Austin [SA]: Thank you, Mangla. So, I would ask a question—Kristen mentioned the passport as one of the fund's key projects. Luna, can you tell us more about the passport and how different departments can be involved in that project?

[The other panelists' windows reappear. Luna smiles. A screen reader voice speaks, and she silences it. Luna is a white woman with long burgundy hair and bangs, and she wears a black blouse with a white pattern. White walls and a hallway are visible behind her. Her eyes drift away from the screen. The purple text box reads, "Luna Bengio, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat." She repeatedly silences her screen reader's notifications as she speaks.]

Luna Bengio [LB]: Thanks Stephanie. Yes, the government of Canada worked this accessibility passport as Kirsten indicated is one of the initiatives under the fund. And it's a tool whose main objective is to facilitate the process of workplace accommodations, particularly from the perspective of ensuring that there is an open and frank conversation between the employee and manager about the barriers that the employee may encounter in the workplace. And the potential solutions, whether it's tools or measures that can help the employee be as successful as they can be on the particular job. So the passport records an agreement between the employer, the employee and their manager. The passport is owned by the employee and follows them throughout their career in the federal public service. We're currently in the demonstration phase, gathering feedback from real life users, employees and managers, on the passport concept, going towards the goal of having an online tool that can be accessed from any organization within the GC by any employee, so that they're able to have it with them throughout their career.

[Stephanie and Mangla's windows reappear.]

SA: Thanks, Luna. A comment from one of the participants, which I thought was very telling. So, this participant was saying, "Many of us are diagnosed late in life and are also learning. And especially there's a lot of learning involved when it's an invisible disability. It's a huge balance to maintain our own dignity when we don't know if we will be judged by disclosing. Yet we have to disclose enough telling information to get the help and accommodations we need." I wonder if either of you, Mangla, Luna, or maybe even Kirsten would like to comment on that?

MS: Yeah, absolutely. I'll just give a comment.

[Mangla's window fills the screen.]

Just to say, I completely understand it's a very personal decision to decide whether or not to disclose a disability, particularly if it's an invisible disability. It's really your choice in how much information you share. But what we have seen in various studies is that open and honest communication usually leads to positive outcomes when you can share, in particular, what supports are required to help you do your job and work to your full potential.

So, on that note, what we usually recommend is to focus on the barriers that you're facing. You don't need to necessarily disclose the specific condition or diagnosis or specific issues that you're facing from a health perspective. But if you focus on the barriers you have in the workplace and what supports would help you to do your job better, that can lead to a positive discussion and a good starting point.

[Stephanie and Luna's windows reappear. Luna smiles.]

Stephanie Austin: Luna or Kirsten, would you like to add to that?

LB: Well, that's an excellent response, Mangla, thank you.

[Luna's window fills the screen.]

I think that as individuals we can be both in the situation of being the employee and the manager. Each and every one of us has a manager in the federal public service. And so I think it's important to realize that as a manager, but also as a colleague, we can help create that atmosphere, that climate that is going to make people more comfortable being able to explain what barriers they face. By being open, by really leading by example and modelling the behaviour of creating that trust within the team that is going to encourage people to feel comfortable saying, "I encounter this and this barrier and this and this measure would be beneficial for me because it's going to be enabling me to succeed in my job."

[The other panelists' windows reappear.]

SA: Thanks, Luna. There are lots of questions coming in quickly. So I'll take us to the next question, which is about, "What's being done to alleviate the burden of those requesting accommodations for the required medical documentation? Either from their supervisor or others. What, if anything, will be done for those who cannot provide medical documentation due to systemic issues accessing healthcare or accessing a diagnosis, or for those who are currently self-diagnosed?" So, Mangla, did you want to get us started on that question?

MS: Sure, I'll get us started, and then I'll probably pass it over to Luna to add more.

[Mangla's window fills the screen.]

But this is the issue of medical documentation is definitely a key pain point that has come up in the benchmarking study, and we've heard this over and over again. One recommendation that came up in the benchmarking study and that we also saw in the validation report is to adopt a "yes by default" approach. And that basically builds a culture of trust where medical documentation is not required for basic accommodations that can be put in place without great financial burden for the employer. And it is a responsibility for the employer to accommodate their employees. And I'll pass it over to Luna to maybe talk a little bit about some of the work that the passport project is doing in conjunction to look at documentation needs that are often required.

LB: Thanks, Mangla.

[Luna's window fills the screen.]

Very quickly, we have established a workplace accommodation documentation working group. And the purpose of that documentation working group, which involves several departments, is to develop guidance to help HR professionals, managers, and employees streamline the workplace accommodation process by identifying first of all circumstances where no documentation is required. And I agree with Mangla, if we establish this "yes by default" approach, then the discussion is to focus on, "okay, it's yes, what do you need, and what can we provide?" And the question that managers should be asking is, "how can I best support you?" So, our documentation working group will develop guidance and recommendations for departments and agencies. And one of the things that we've realized very quickly is medical notes seldom are the tool that is going to identify the specific barriers in the workplace. So, it is important to focus on those barriers and to focus on the potential solutions.

And Kirsten alluded in her presentation to organizations like the AAACT at Shared Services Canada, who can provide the actual recommendations for the tools and measures that are most appropriate in the workplace context. So stay tuned for the work of our documentation working group, because there will be guidance.

[Stephanie, Mangla, and Kirsten's windows reappear.]

SA: Thanks very much. Here's a question related to somebody wanted some examples of invisible disabilities, and somebody had a comment that I think is really important, saying that, "As an employee with invisible disabilities, it's concerning to me that a change in work culture and access to accommodations for people with disabilities is highly dependent on a manager's training, understanding, empathy, and support. How can equity be achieved this way without a change in policy?" So, would you, Mangla, like to get us started on that question about invisible disabilities and changes in policy, possibly?

MS: Yes, absolutely. So, just in terms of some examples of invisible disabilities, this can include mental health challenges.

[Mangla's window fills the screen.]

It can include some chronic conditions that are not easy to see, for example, arthritis or diabetes. It can also include environmental sensitivities, but basically an invisible disability is something that is not readily apparent to others. And it really depends on how the individual identifies in that case, and it can also depend on the extent of the disability. So, for example, if somebody has partial hearing loss, it might not be obvious to others if you're in a large meeting with many people and you might not be able to notice if they have a hearing aid or another assistive device. And so in that case, that could be categorized as an invisible disability as well. And, Stephanie, if you don't mind, can you remind me the second part of the question?

[The other windows reappear.]

SA: Sure. So it was related to, the person was saying, "As an employee with invisible disabilities, it's concerning to me that a change in work culture and access to accommodations for people with disabilities is highly dependent on a manager's training, understanding, empathy, and support. How can equity be achieved this way without a change in policy?"

MS: Okay.

[Mangla's window fills the screen.]

Yeah, so on that point, I would just comment, Kirsten touched on this in her presentation about the need for neutral advisors. And I think that's one of the approaches that we're trying to work towards, is having disability management advisors that are there to support both the employees and the supervisors. And so if there is a case where the manager doesn't have the resources or the training to address the accommodations request, in this case there would be a neutral third party that the employee can also work with. And AAACT also provides these services that you can request as an employee. You can also go to them in conjunction with your manager and your management team. This is really on a department by department basis as well. And some departments have already started setting up a separate neutral unit that is addressing accommodations requests.

[The other windows reappear.]

SA: And maybe I'll turn it to Luna to talk more about how can equity be achieved with the change in policy? Luna?

LB: Thanks, Stephanie.

[Luna's window fills the screen.]

Yes, first of all, Canada fundamentally has a very strong tradition of human rights legislation and policy, including the key Human Rights Commission and the Employment Equity Act. And now we have the Accessible Canada Act. So not only did the Employment Equity Act established a duty to accommodate, which entrenches the access to workplace accommodation into law and policy, the Accessible Canada Act goes even further and says that the government organizations have an obligation to prevent the creation of barriers, to prevent and avoid the creation of barriers, and to eliminate barriers to accessibility. This includes ensuring that employees with disabilities within the federal public service, among other things, have access to the tools and support that they need in order to do the job. So, it is part of our legislation and policies. This is why it is so important to have these opportunities to make that known and to raise awareness, not just of the obligations, but also of the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace.

[The other participants' video windows reappear.]

SA: Thank you very much, Luna and Mangla. So, another question was also related to that kind of systemic level change across the government of Canada. When trying to drive change at a branch level or an agency level, we need to have decks to present to director generals. Are there PowerPoint deck templates available that have already been created by OPSA?

[Kirsten smiles, and there is a brief pause.]

LB: Steph, if I can start?

SA: Go ahead, Luna, go ahead, Luna.

LB: So, first thing is, OPSA has an accessibility hub on GCpedia which includes, as Kirsten indicated, and I believe the information is at the end of her presentation, a ton of resources that can be used, including the federal public service accessibility strategy, Nothing Without Us, including information and PowerPoint presentations on the GC Workplace Accessibility Passport, and other fun projects. I also would bring to your attention the fact that OPSA offers a PowerPoint template, which is accessible and which allows you to create accessible PowerPoint presentations. So not just from the content perspective, but also for ensuring that everybody can use the information that's on the PowerPoint presentation. You can find those on the accessibility hub. Mangla or Kirsten?

[The other windows reappear.]

MS: I think that covers it, nothing to add for me.

SA: Yeah, definitely you can find a lot of good resources on the—including decks, and you can contact us directly if you want one of us to come and give a presentation at any of your executive tables or in your branches, et cetera. We're here to help in OPSA. So, moving on to another comment that was raised in the discussion was about kind of micromanaging people with disabilities, which this person was saying is humiliating. A more, kind of... that micromanagement is not supportive. "It can be embarrassing and just makes things much harder for people with disabilities. Whereas being kind, empathetic and supportive is like providing a superpower and it's far more effective." So is there anything that you might like to add in your experience working in this area about a micromanaging leadership style versus a more proactive leadership style that asks people what they need and a leadership style that invites people to remove barriers and optimize people's capacities? Mangla?

MS: Sure.

[Mangla's window fills the screen.]

I'll just start by saying that I think it really comes down to the individual manager's management style, but it sounds like for this individual that they're being micromanaged while maybe others are not, and it's a result of having disclosed a disability, which doesn't seem fair. And I think one of the best ways to really address this is through open communication. And in this case, I think it's important for the manager to understand the individual's capabilities and everything that they can achieve, and especially once any necessary accommodations have been put in place. And I think another thing we've also heard of in instances where it might be a temporary or an episodic disability and accommodation is put in place is that it's also important for managers to trust that the employee will use that accommodation when they need it. And then again, not to micromanage the use of that accommodation that has been agreed upon. So really just trusting that the employee knows their situation best, they know what they need to do their job, and treating them with the respect and equity that they deserve.

[The other video windows reappear. Luna smiles.]

SA: Luna, is there anything you'd like to add to that?

LB: Only that I agree so much with the person who made that comment, having been in that situation before. And thanks for the response, Mangla, I agree with you.

SA: All right. So, here's another question. "Is there anything being done to bring awareness to managers on the fact that often invisible disabilities such as depression or anxiety may need accommodations that will affect the output of employees, but should not be used against the employee, for example, on their performance reporting of that individual?" Mangla?

MS: Sure.

[Her window fills the screen.]

Actually, one of the projects we're working on under the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund, which is still in progress, is to develop a number of one-pagers or short guidance documents on various disabilities and some ideas and suggestions for the types of accommodations that can be put in place. And so we definitely acknowledge that it can be challenging with invisible disabilities and we're working on developing some guidance that would be shared through the accessibility hub once it's ready.

[The other participants' windows reappear, and Stephanie nods.]

SA: Anything you want to add, Luna?

[Luna's window fills the screen.]

LB: Well, I think the important—it is important that the conversations take place before any performance issues appear, as early as possible, and the relationship between the employee and their manager, and that openness on the part of the manager to say, "How can I best support you?" And that not every single difficulty or challenge that the employee may have be attributed to the disability. Sometimes the job is just not the right job for the individual. Sometimes the conditions are not the right conditions for the individual. So, it is important as a manager to really establish that front conversation that is going to enable the employee to explain how they can best function, to get the support that they need, and to becoming comfortable to alerting the manager if there are any challenges, which may or may not be related to the disability.

I think also we've made some strides in terms of raising awareness about mental health conditions and how to address these issues and how to talk about them. And the more we are able to speak frankly about them, the more they will become something that people can understand and can adapt to and can work with in the workplace.

[Mangla's window fills the screen.]

MS: If I can just add also, I think part of the question asked about adjusting outputs and workload as well. And I think that's definitely something that's part of the conversation when you're requesting an accommodation or when an accommodation is being put into place, because the nature of some disabilities, be it mental health, or even some cognitive disabilities, might require a bit more time or flexibility in terms of work hours and how the outputs are ultimately delivered and presented. And so that's part of the manager's responsibility to help manage that workload, and also if workload needs to be rebalanced within the team. It's also highly encouraged that as coworkers it's great to be supportive. If you know that another colleague maybe has a challenge and just being willing to balance that workload and work together is something that's just highly encouraged and always appreciated in this context.

[The panelists reappear.]

SA: Thank you so much, Mangla and Luna. So, a question somebody is asking, "I'd like to know more about the organizational accessibility self-assessment tool." Mangla, did you want to try to answer that one?

MS: Yes, absolutely.

[Her window fills the screen.]

The self-assessment tool is actually one of the projects that is being funded under the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund. And it's a tool that's currently being piloted with a handful of departments and its intent is to help departments identify and remove barriers to accessibility in their own organizations. So it identifies potential areas for improvement, and then also provides a list of resources and information to help that particular department reach those improvements. And for example, some of these resources are already available on the accessibility hub. If anyone is actually interested in getting more information about this pilot, you're welcome to email us at OPSA through our generic email address, which was provided in Kirsten's presentation on slide 26.

[The other windows reappear.]

SA: Thanks very much, Mangla. Somebody is asking, "How do I get more involved? I'd love to assist in this. I'm six years into my journey, and I can contribute a great deal, perhaps as a Champion locally or nationally?"

[Mangla and Luna smile.]

So, is there anything, Mangla that you can help organizationally point this person to?

MS: Wow, that's fantastic first of all, to hear that somebody is interested in getting involved in doing more, that's always very encouraging to hear.

[Her window fills the screen.]

I would recommend reaching out to a local network that might be already established within your department for employees with disabilities. And if there isn't a network already, you can consider starting one up. I think, continuing to participate in events like these, and just continue to build awareness and have positive, productive conversations with your colleagues and coworkers, just to help raise awareness in the workplace is really beneficial as well. Perhaps Luna or Kirsten, you have other ideas?

[Their video windows reappear.]

LB: Well, I would invite you, encourage you to reach out through the email address, the generic email address for OPSA, because definitely on the passports project side, we welcome contributions. We are looking to engage potential users, whether they're employees or managers, we'd love to hear about your experience. So please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Thank you.

[Luna smiles widely.]

SA: And perhaps I'll add a little bit of broader context in addition to all the important work being done on workplace accommodations that we're really focused on today.

[Stephanie's window fills the screen.]

The Accessible Canada Act really requires the federal public service to lead by example in accessibility and disability inclusion. And every department and agency is going to be developing their multi-year accessibility plan and needs to submit that by

December 31st 2022. And that accessibility plan needs to involve input from persons with disabilities, whether they're employees with disabilities or clients outside of government receiving government services. And so there are ways to connect within your department and provide that kind of input and advice and help with the development of that plan. Also, those plans need to be reported on annually. So there needs to be an annual progress report on the progress that's been made in that year.

So, there is a lot of fantastic work to be done, and there's a growing community of practice of accessibility leads across all departments and agencies, co-chaired by Statistics Canada and Health Canada. So as Luna and Mangla said, connect with us and we can help connect you to some of the emerging governance and ways of doing this collaborative work as a whole system, because we are the largest employer in the country and the largest service provider, and we still have a long way to go in our accessibility journey. So, there's a lot of room for a lot of people to participate. So, another question.

[The panelists reappear.]

KP: And Steph, if I could—sorry, Steph, if I could just add?

SA: Please.

[Kirsten's window fills the screen.]

KP: So yes, I would check to see if your department has yet to name an accessibility champion, and you could email their support staff, and if not, go through your diversity or employment equity champion and see what's going on there, but also check out on GCconnex, GCpedia. There's a lot of groups that are set up, interdepartmental as well as departmental, that are talking about these things and where you can lend a hand.

[The other windows reappear.]

SA: Fantastic. So, lots of on-ramps to get involved and to be an agent for positive change. So, a question about, "is there guidance for organizations on setting up or putting in place a mechanism for a complaints process for accommodations, or accessibility-related requests or processes?" Mangla?

MS: I might actually pass this to Luna, if that's okay?

[Mangla and Luna smile, and Stephanie nods. Luna's window fills the screen.]

LB: Thanks, Mangla. This is a great question, actually, because obviously complaints have, in the public service, there's a certain number of formal avenues for complaint, including grievances and so on, and even ending with complaints to the Canadian

Human Rights Commission. But also, departments have a number of informal mechanisms around conflict resolution. And I would certainly encourage that as the first place to start in terms of understanding the situation, trying to come to a resolution. Of course, if nothing happens, there's always, as I said, the formal mechanism and going up to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. For public servants, you've got to first go through the formal grievance processes before you can submit a complaint to the CHRC. However, that's always an option.

[Luna smiles, and Mangla and Stephanie's windows reappear.]

SA: Thank you. So this one is related to sort of self-identification or self-declaration. Somebody is saying that, "As part of their hiring process in 2017 candidates who wished to self-identify as requiring special accommodations needed to fill out a lengthy questionnaire. When there is more than one special need requirement, it becomes very time consuming and almost discouraging to the point of opting to not fill out the required documents. In my experience, the listing of two accommodation means resulted in a 15-page document once completed. Very challenging, especially having to have parts of the questionnaire completed by a physician who may not have all the required details of your disability. Other specialists are involved. Will this process be changed, or has it been changed since 2017?"

[There is a small pause.]

MS: I'll pass it over to Luna, but I'll just offer a few thoughts on this question.

[Mangla's window fills the screen.]

Definitely this is something that we've heard often through the benchmarking study and other surveys. And in terms of what we can do to sort of help this process that is very cumbersome, through the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund we are currently piloting a recruitment initiative to look at alternative strategies in the hiring process that would make the hiring process barrier-free by default, so that specific accommodations would not necessarily have to be requested or be done on a case-by-case basis. So, we are looking into more innovative approaches to go through that hiring process right from the initial application phase through screening and interview and other assessments that need to be done to ensure that the hiring process is as barrier-free as it can be.

That said, just because of the unique nature of different disabilities and conditions, it's possible that there will still be a need for an additional accommodation. And this is definitely an area that I think needs more work. And we're continuing to look into to see what else can be done to try to simplify that process, make it less cumbersome, and ultimately just make it more fair and equitable for people going through those hiring processes.

[Luna's window fills the screen.]

LB: Well, I think that—thanks, Mangla—I think as Steph indicated before, we have our ways to go. We have quite a lot of work ahead of us to simplify these processes. I'll just refer to a couple of things. First of all, the passport, once it's implemented across the government of Canada, the goal of the passport is to avoid having to repeat and to simplify the type of explanations that need to be provided. So the individual, the employee who owns the passport, would describe the barriers they may face and with their manager or others, identify the potential solutions or measures. Once that's in the passport, it is important to keep it up to date if circumstances change. But by and large, you wouldn't have to repeat those at every process.

Related initiatives that we're doing with the passport, as I mentioned, is the documentation working groups, so trying to simplify the process of any justification or any evidence that needs to be provided in order to obtain the accommodation. For example, listing all the circumstances where no documentation is required. Also looking at simplifying—if any evidence is required, what does it need to be? And our documentation working group will definitely make recommendations in terms of those complicated forms that you may be alluding to. For example, the forms that are required in terms of, for example, disability management or et cetera, we'll be making some recommendations to simplify. I think we all have to work towards streamlining by using the "yes by default," by using the proactive approach. And hopefully we'll get there and we'll have it simplified for sure.

[Mangla and Stephanie's windows reappear.]

SA: Thanks, Mangla and Luna. So, seeing the time go by quickly, maybe I will leave you with one last question, Mangla. You mentioned that those with mental health-related disabilities are twice as likely to see their request denied, the request for workplace accommodation. Are there other differences when it comes to mental health?

MS: Yes, absolutely.

[Mangla's window fills the screen.]

So, we did notice some key differences that came up in the study. What we saw was that it's not just differences in mental health, but also for chronic pain, as well as cognitive disabilities and others. For example, those that said they were most dissatisfied with the accommodations process overall were those that also indicated that their primary health condition or disability was either sensory or environmental, mental health, or a chronic pain or chronic condition. And interestingly, these same groups are also more often asked to provide medical evidence or participate in formal assessments. There is more information about the differences and experiences of persons with disabilities in the October survey report. And the link to that report, if you're interested in reading more, is available on the canada.ca page, along with the benchmarking study.

[Stephanie, Luna, and Isabelle's windows reappear.]

SA: Thank you so much. And thanks to all of the participants for a really interactive and lively Q&A session. Thanks to Mangla and Luna, and also to Kirsten, and back over to you, Isabelle.

[Isabelle smiles. Her window fills the screen.]

IR: The federal public service is stronger and most effective when we reflect the diversity of Canada's population we serve. I noted many great takeaways from today's session, namely the need to reflect on barriers to inclusivity that could be present with our teams and programs. It is our hope that the information and tools shared with you today will be helpful as we continue to make progress to increase representations of persons with disabilities. On behalf of the School and the NMC I'd like to thank, Yazmine, Arun, Kirsten, Luna, Mangla, and Stephanie.

Recognizing that one of the strengths of Canada is our diversity, on behalf of the NMC and the School I'd like to thank you for being part of today's discussion from coast to coast. I hope that you've enjoyed today's event and that it will leave you inspired.

Your feedback is very important. I encourage you to complete the electronic evaluation that you will be receiving within the next few days. Over the next few weeks, the NMC will host several events, including topics on coaching, co-development, and mentoring. I greatly encourage you to follow our Twitter handle at @NMC_CNG, our Facebook, LinkedIn, and GCconnex pages, as well as our newsletters for updates and registration details. The school also offers many events, and I encourage you to check the CSPS website regularly for updates and to register for other learning opportunities.

[A URL appears in the bottom left corner of the screen: canada.ca/school-ecole.]

As mentioned previously, the second event of the series is scheduled to take place on May 14. We hope that you will participate with us during that next session. Once again, thank you all, and have a wonderful day.

[Isabelle smiles and the Zoom call fades out. The animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears on a purple background. Its pages turn, closing it like a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. The government of Canada Wordmark appears: the word "Canada" with a small Canadian flag waving over the final "a." The screen fades to black.]

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