Welcoming and Inclusive Communities: Accessibility Project

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Over the next two years The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and the Ethno Racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario (ERDCO) project team will complete the following deliverables with funding from:

  • design accessibility curriculum for settlement workers in Ontario with an emphasis on Accessible Customer Service
  • deliver training to 300 settlement workers in Ontario
  • design and implement a strategy to build bridges between the disability and the settlement sectors

The project's advisory committee includes the following organizations:

Community Consultation

General Findings

The Experiences of Newcomers with Disabilities Who Use Settlement Services

Newcomers with disabilities struggle with a number of key barriers common to all immigrants settling in Ontario, for instance, language barriers, affordable housing, access to other forms of education (college or university, trades etc), and employment. However, newcomers with disabilities experience additional barriers as people with disabilities, for example:

  • Challenges in the interaction with settlement workers, due to a lack of understanding of disability issues in general and a lack of capacity, and resources to service them.
  • A lack of disability-related accommodations in ESL classes, and unavailability of American Sign Language (ASL)in their local communities
  • Newcomers with disabilities are sometimes turned away from temporary housing created to service refugees because the welcoming centre or shelters are inaccessible.
  • Newcomers tend to understate their needs for fear of exclusion or deportation.

Barriers to Accessible Settlement Services Reported by Settlement Workers

The settlement workers that attended our focus groups and participated in the one-on-one interviews and filled out our online survey where eager to share and learn new information on how to better service newcomers with disabilities. Main challenges identified by this group were:

  • Serving newcomers with disabilities takes, on average 5 or 6 times more times than serving other newcomers.
  • There is a lack of information on available services for people with disabilities.
  • Lack of dedicated funds at settlement agencies to work with clients with disabilities.
  • Physical inaccessibility of newcomer welcome centres and settlement agencies.
  • There are not enough partnerships between disability organizations and settlement organizations

Key Recommendations:

  • Provide training to settlement workers and their agencies around appropriate interaction with newcomers with disabilities.
  • Include information on different categories of disabilities in the curriculum. This will help frontline workers and managers understand disability beyond mobility related impairments and will allow them to implement accessibility solutions that target the needs of people with visible and invisible disabilities.
  • Training should include information on how to create inclusive spaces and client-centred customer service
  • Train service providers to design/use outreach methods that speak specifically and openly about disability and accessible services in their agencies.
  • Promote networking between disability and settlement sectors.
  • There is a need for an expert or resource person connected to settlement agencies to help settlement workers to strategize around providing appropriate service and referrals for newcomers with disabilities.
  • Create an easily accessible listing of all programs and services available to newcomers with disabilities and their eligibility criteria.

Read the full consultation

File Name
PDF.png Accessibility Project Consultation Report 2011

For further information on this project, contact Chavon Niles, Accessibility Project Coordinator, at cniles@ocasi.org 416 322.4950 x 260

Accessibility Related Resources

Notes to keep in mind when planning an accessible meeting.

Government support programs

This website from the Government of Canada provides information on available services and resources for people with all types of disabilities.

Persons with Disabilities Online:

On this site, you can find information about:

  • advocacy
  • assistive technology
  • community and citizen participation
  • employment
  • housing
  • health, safety and security
  • learning and skills development
  • recreation and active living
  • reference library
  • taxes and financial benefits
  • transportation and travel

Settlement Services Search Engine

Use the Services Near Me search engine on settlement.org to find services related to a specific disability in your area. Simply scroll down to the "Search by Keyword" section and enter a search word and your geographic location. You will get a list of related services in your area.

Employment Programs

This JVS Toronto brochure offers information on employment services for people with disabilities.

Family Services of Peel offers a Labour Market Access program for newcomers with any type of disability. Here are two flyers with information about the program:

Regional Resources

Resources in Hamilton File:Hamilton Resources.docx

Resources in London File:London Resources.docx

Resources in Toronto File:Toronto Resources.docx

Resources in York Region File:York Region Resources.docx

Understanding Barriers to Accessibility

Understanding Barriers to Accessibility

Inclusive Communication & Practice

Inclusive Communication & Practice

Making Information Accessible

Making Information Accessible

Accessibility Project In the Media

The Accessibility Project Team speaks with Matt Galloway from Metro Morning about barriers to employment faced by newcomers with disabilities

Helen Henderson's article in The Star about challenges to employment faced by people with disabilities based on an interview with the Accessibility Project team

Accessibility Related Events

The Accessibility Project Team is offering Accessibility Training sessions for frontline workers and managers in the settlement sector this fall.

Please call or email us for more information.