Improving Canada’s Accessibility

It surprised us to learn that Canada has no federal accessibility legislation (and still doesn’t as of October 2018). Universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible public spaces allows everyone to live to his or her full potential. The issue is becoming ever more pressing; while one in seven Canadians (approx. 3.8m) already identify as having a disability, this number is projected to be as high as one in five by 2036, due to our aging population.

Partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), one of Canada’s leading disability advocacy organizations, Yulu had a real opportunity to break down one of the most significant barriers that people with disabilities face: physical barriers in the places where we live, work, learn, and play.

THE CHALLENGE

Our role was to raise awareness of the RHF’s first of a kind certification designed to create a standardized rating system to help building owners and tenants rate the accessibility of commercial, institutional, and multi-family residential buildings. Called the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC), it provides a certification system, along with professional training.

The minimum building codes that do exist nationally are for wheelchair users – not for those with hearing, vision, and cognitive impediments. As well as raising awareness of the RHF’s new accessibility certification program, Yulu needed to communicate the importance of meaningful access for all persons with disabilities – whether they be temporary or permanent.

THE STRATEGY

Yulu developed a communications roadmap to determine the timeline and best approach for reaching each target audience over the course of our 12 months campaign.

This multi-faceted outreach program included; spotlighting landmark buildings or organizations being the first to be rated gold; securing thought leadership pieces; and crafting educational pieces around what it means for a building to be meaningfully accessible.

Highlighting the business case for being accessible was critical to our success. People with disabilities represent 14 per cent of consumer spending or $164 billion annually – and these statistics were mostly unknown until we began sharing RHF’s story. Emphasizing that barriers to people with a disability are barriers to making a profit was vital to building a business case.

RESULTS & IMPACT

Since the beginning of our partnership, over 1,000 buildings across Canada have registered to be rated under the RHFAC program.

Yulu had achieved more than 50 pieces of high-quality coverage, including flagship pieces authored by Brad McCannell, the program lead, in the Financial Post, Vancouver Sun, and he has spoken on CBC and CKNW about the importance of the program.

A high point was the declaration by British Columbia’s Premier, John Horgan, that May 28, 2018, was officially ‘Rick Hansen Day.’ Federal legislation on accessibility has also been tabled in Parliament, and Yulu continues to work with RHF to expand its accessibility certification program to showcase that an accessible and inclusive built environment is not only an economic imperative, but a social one too.