An initial look at accessibility at CLBC

CLBC is working to comply with the new Accessible B.C. Act. To help us understand where we need to improve, we conducted a review this past fall to identify ongoing barriers. People, their families, our partners and service providers were generous enough with their time to attend sessions and share feedback and stories on their experiences accessing CLBC services.

We hosted five virtual workshops, engaged in conversations with our community partners, and received over 400 responses to an online survey. We wanted to hear what barriers people were experiencing in getting help from CLBC staff, getting to and around CLBC offices, getting information from CLBC, working at CLBC and how they felt they were treated by CLBC staff.

We also did an internal review with an employee working group to look at accessibility through the lenses of employment, customer service, built environment, information and communication, procurement, and policy. Each CLBC service area working group completed an assessment to identify barriers and discover best practices from other organizations and governments.

Conversations around accessibility tend to center around physically accessible spaces. The people in our sector offer a different perspective into what reducing barriers can look like for all British Columbians. And although physical accessibility was a common thread through our workshops, people in our sector experience attitudinal, informational and technical barriers too.

We heard five main themes in how we can improve accessibility at CLBC:

  1. Relationships make all the difference: People want consistent and understanding relationships with the staff that they’re working with.
  2. Information needs to be shared in many ways: Information offered in plain language, multiple languages, braille, and ASL. People shared that having a staff member or peer talk through information one-on-one was helpful.
  3. Time matters: People asked for more one-on-one time with staff or peers to ask questions, learn about services, and understand information.
  4. Clear communication is key: People want clear information about timelines, processes, and policies to be shared in a way that’s easy to understand.
  5. Welcoming physical spaces: People shared the need for physically accessible spaces for people who use mobility devices. And also, for staff who are there to greet and direct people around offices.

Another important aspect of our report included looking at intersecting forms of barriers. We recognize that people experience multiple and compounding forms of barriers. People who encounter accessibility issues based on disability may also experience it based on gender, age, ethnocultural identity, among other issues such as living in rural locations.

To hear from people in their own words, here are a few quotes from our feedback sessions and surveys. When we talked with people about how attitudes around disability can be a barrier, some participants said:

“Be patient, actively listen and work with me.”

“Talk to the individual, not the support person unless they’re not able to. Communicate calmly and slowly.”

“Use Autistic-friendly language.”

“Don’t use ableist language.”

When discussing how people receive information, we heard about the importance of plain language and accessible forms of communication:

“Information in our language from us.”

“Change the jargon to common language.”

“Having someone else who has been through it all help me so I could understand what was going on.”

“Language interpreters are critical!”

When speaking to the physical environment, participants said:

It is important to “feel valued and welcomed. It’s not always about the what, it also about the how.”

We took what we heard from people and what we discovered internally and put together CLBC’s Baseline Accessibility Report. The report will help us identify actions to include in CLBC’s Accessibility Plan. The proposed actions in the plan will be tested with CLBC councils and the Provincial Advisory Committee. It will then be published by September 2023. Along with the plan, CLBC is developing an accessible feedback mechanism so that people can continue to give us input when they encounter a barrier.

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