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Accessibility progress report 2023

New report outlines IDRC’s progress towards meeting its commitments to become more accessible to people with disabilities.

11.  General


The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) champions and funds research and innovation within and alongside developing regions to drive global change. We invest in research to build evidence, inform decisions and generate opportunities that promote an inclusive and sustainable world. Our work is part of Canada’s foreign affairs and development efforts. 

Last year, IDRC published an Accessibility Plan. The plan was written in response to the Accessible Canada Act (ACA). The ACA is a law that aims to make Canada barrier-free by 2040. 

This report describes the progress that we made in 2023 on the goals in the first year of our Accessibility Plan. Next year, we will report on progress achieved in 2024. The following year, a similar report will be produced for 2025, after which a new updated Accessibility Plan will be prepared. 

bContact information & feedback process

IDRC welcomes feedback about accessibility and this progress report from our employees, institutions and members of the public. We are committed to reviewing the feedback in good faith and addressing identified barriers.

Feedback can be sent to Andrée Leduc, manager, Employee and Labour Relations & Health and Safety, at:

  • Email
  • Mailing address: PO Box 8500, Ottawa, ON Canada K1G 3H9
  • Phone number: 613-236-6163

We can also receive feedback via our social media accounts, including X (formerly Twitter), FacebookLinkedIn and YouTube.

Alternative formats of this plan and a description of our feedback process may also be requested by contacting Andrée Leduc at the above address.

Once requested, a print or large print (increased font size) version of the plan will be provided within 15 days. A Braille version (a system of raised dots that people who are blind or who have low vision can read with their fingers) or an audio recording of someone reading the plan aloud will be provided within 45 days.

Information about submitting feedback to IDRC is also available on our contact us page.


The following definitions apply throughout this plan:

Disability: Any impairment or difference in physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, sensory or communication ability. Disabilities can be permanent, temporary and/or can change over time.

Barrier: Anything that might hinder the full and equal participation of people with disabilities. Barriers can be architectural, technological, attitudinal, based on information or communications, or be the result of a policy or procedure.

Accessibility: The design of products, devices, services, environments, technologies, policies and rules in a way that allows all people, including people with disabilities, to access them.

22. IDRC’s progress on 2023 Accessibility Plan commitments

dBuilt environment

In late 2022, IDRC’s head office in Ottawa moved into a new office space. This allowed us to make many accessibility improvements from our previous space. These improvements included barrier-free washrooms and showers, universal washrooms on each floor, wide walkways to ensure people with mobility issues can move unhindered, sliding doors (instead of push/pull), Braille signage and wide door openings. We know that the accessibility of the built environment has a significant impact on how people with disabilities access and function within a given space. 

Two of the five built environment commitments we made in the Accessibility Plan were to be completed in 2023. That timeline is being updated to December 2024. We believe it is best if we first conduct a physical audit of the workplace. These two commitments are:

  • an inventory of which doors could benefit from an automatic door opener in addition to manual door handles (Ottawa office).
  • an inventory of where additional accessible signage may be needed and identification of possible barriers associated with finding one’s way around the office (Ottawa office).

A third commitment, which does not have a date attached to it, will also benefit from first conducting a physical audit in 2024:

  • advocate with building management to make elevators more accessible (Ottawa office).

We look forward to making progress on these three commitments in 2024, along with our other built environment goals. 


IDRC made positive strides in employment accessibility in 2023.

Some IDRC staff rely on our flexible work options. We have continued to communicate our telework option so that people know how to make accommodation requests to their managers. We also worked with managers to ensure they consider individual employee needs when applying the telework policy (i.e. accommodation requirements). We have held in-person and virtual training sessions with some managers on the new collective agreement in the fall of 2023. These sessions discussed the process for accommodating staff who need to telework full-time. In addition, in late 2023, we shared a message about being flexible with staff impacted by the Quebec teachers’ strike. This flexibility was needed particularly for staff who are parents and could not send their children to school or daycare. 

Our goal regarding reviewing the feasibility of adjusting internal meeting norms will be extended into 2024. This work will include considering the possibility of meeting-free hours, breaks between meetings and/or breaks during longer meetings.

We have developed a new policy and process for employee accommodations. The draft policy has been shared with the union and non-union employee association for feedback. The policy has also been reviewed by an accessibility consulting company. The policy and process will be finalized and shared with staff early in 2024. 

As part of our commitment to review and revise all new job postings to reflect respectful and inclusive language, we have started an employment systems review with an external consultant, which will be completed in 2024. The consultant has begun reviewing employment-related policies. Interviews with staff are being scheduled. IDRC will then be able to better understand barriers and opportunities for hiring a more diverse workforce.

Our commitment to documenting how we gather information about participant allergies and food restrictions before events, initially slated to take place in 2023, has been deferred to 2024. 

We want all employees to know how they can self-disclose if they have a disability. The new staff accommodation policy in 2024 will be another opportunity for us to further share how they may safely do so. 

We are committed to reviewing and updating the statement on our careers page that encourages people with disabilities to apply. We will manage this task as part of our employee systems review in 2024.

fInformation and communication technologies (ICT)

We had one ICT goal to complete in 2023, which was to conduct an accessibility audit of our website. We completed this goal early in the year. Barriers were found, including some missing alt-text (which describes an image on a web page for the visually impaired), unnecessary repetition of IDs in system data, long page load times and a screen-reader experience that can be improved with accurate descriptive titles. Our Accessibility Plan indicates that we will develop a plan to remediate these barriers by June 2024, and that the process of remediating them will start by July 2024.

gCommunications (other than ICT)

Seven of our 14 communications goals were slated to take place in 2023. 

One goal was to list a teletypewriter (TTY) number on our website. We have provided an email address for accessibility support and feedback on our website. We are evaluating the TTY goal from the perspective of community uptake of this technology, given that there are communications advances that are used much more frequently by deaf/Deaf and hard-of-hearing users.

IDRC has committed to developing an internal standard regarding when we offer sign-language interpretation. We have set up a standing offer with an American Sign Language (ASL) and Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) interpreter and included a line item for this in our budget. We also met with a peer organization to discuss its approach. Development of this standard is now complete, and our internal event-planning instructions have been modified to reflect this additional service. 

We have developed a process indicating how documents can be requested in an accessible format. We met with a peer organization to discuss its approach. Standing offers have been put in place with a company that performs PDF remediation and Braille printing. A central line item has been created in the budget for these costs. We have also launched an online mechanism through which accessible documents can be requested.

Through our ASL/LSQ and alternate format activities, we completed our goal around creating a source list for required accessibility services. 

IDRC is committed to establishing plain language and inclusive language standards in English and French, based on the target audience of the document that is being published. We have contracted with an accessibility consulting agency to support this work, which will be completed in the winter of 2024. At that time, we will also complete our goal around establishing processes for reviewing written communication to ensure it meets our plain and inclusive language standards. We have also updated our internal IDRC style guide to include reference to the importance of plain and inclusive language, including resources and examples.

hProcurement of goods, services and facilities

IDRC has two goals related to procurement. One is to review the feasibility of adding accessibility considerations to procurement checklists, the procurement policy, requirement templates and template contract. The other is to consider the feasibility of accessibility in all procurement, through the above-mentioned review. We have been unable to complete these goals and have updated their timeline to the fall of 2024.

iDesign and delivery of programs and services

We are committed to implementing a process outlining how individuals applying for grants can request accommodations. We will communicate this process on our website and in our grant materials. Similarly, we have committed to appointing an individual to manage accommodation requests from grant applicants. We have engaged the services of an accessibility consulting agency to conduct this work. The deadline for both goals has been updated to December 2024.

jGeneral actions

IDRC has three 2023 commitments that pertain to training and organizational needs more generally. The first is to review and revise existing accessibility training or seek training from external service providers. We expect that IDRC’s staff needs around accessibility training will be revealed through our employment systems review. The review process will likely reveal areas in which staff can make improvements in how accessibility is handled. We will proceed with this goal in 2024 once the employment systems review is completed, so that we can provide training that is more responsive to the overall needs of the organization.

We have made a commitment to develop an outreach strategy to engage the disability community. Engaging with people with disabilities is important to IDRC’s strategic goals and legislative obligations. We wish to proceed with this goal in a manner that is thoughtful, meaningful, safe and effective. The timeline for this goal has been pushed to December 2024.

We have committed to assessing the feasibility of establishing and paying an accessibility/disability employee resource group (ERG) to ensure that all accessibility initiatives are led by people with disabilities. However, before we begin this work, we would like to understand the feasibility of establishing an ERG. One of the barriers to undertaking this goal is a lack of information regarding the number of employees with disabilities at IDRC. We expect that our forthcoming employment systems review may reveal some reasons for the lack of self-disclosure. Our aim is that, by continuing to make improvements in how accessibility is approached at IDRC, we will be able to better assess the feasibility of an ERG of staff with disabilities.


IDRC does not offer transportation services, so we have not addressed this pillar area in our plan. However, we are aware that the Accessibility Commissioner has an expectation regarding organizations being sensitive to transportation matters that affect staff, for example. IDRC is committed to monitoring transportation issues between now and the development of our next Accessibility Plan.

33. Consultations

We consulted people with disabilities in the development of this progress report. On January 24, 2024, we engaged a panel of Canadians with a variety of disabilities who are members of the Accessibility Advisory Group run by the consulting agency Left Turn Right Turn. Before the meeting, the participants reviewed a draft of this report. 

At the meeting itself, we asked the group the following questions:

  1. What are your general impressions of the progress report? 
  2. What are your thoughts on the progress IDRC has made in 2023? 
  3. What do you think is missing from this progress report? 
  4. Can any improvements be made regarding the flow or organization of the report? Were there any accessibility barriers to understanding it? 
  5. What do you like about the progress report?

The group offered very thoughtful feedback. Some of the themes included:

  • appreciation for a report that is clear, well-formatted and generally easy to read.
  • specific suggestions for using simpler words.
  • requests for more precision in some areas, while acknowledging that the report is not too long or detailed.

We addressed their feedback as much as possible in this updated progress report. We have also noted areas for improvement for subsequent reports.

44. Feedback

IDRC has established a process for collecting feedback from staff and members of the public. There is one person who is responsible for gathering and tracking feedback and ensuring that staff respond to it. That person is also responsible for determining how to act on the feedback. To date, we have received one email from a staff member. The feedback suggested adding visual alarms to IDRC’s fire-alarm system. We have noted this feedback for consideration and potential inclusion in our subsequent Accessibility Plan. We have not received any feedback about our Accessibility Plan or accessibility issues more generally at IDRC from the general public.