EQAO’s Accessibility Plan—Report, 2013–2019

EQAO is committed to fulfilling the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and its corresponding regulations and, as such, provides updates on its multi-year accessibility plan. Below is a detailed report on how EQAO has been responding to accessibility requirements from 2013 to 2019.

EQAO’s provision of goods and services has fulfilled AODA requirements

EQAO has provided goods and services to people with disabilities with the same high quality and within the same timelines as it has for others.

  • EQAO has received numerous accessibility-related requests through a variety of means, including e-mail, telephone, regular mail and the Student Data Collection (SDC) system.
  • EQAO has responded to approximately 1836 accessibility-related requests made through the regular means (e-mail, telephone and regular mail).
    • Most of the requests were related to the format of and access to the EQAO assessments.
    • Most of the answers to such requests have been provided through EQAO’s administration and accommodation guides.
    • EQAO has responded to questions from schools regarding requests to have accommodations (due to a temporary condition or other circumstances) during the administration of EQAO assessments.
  • Requests, in general, have come from different stakeholders, including schools, boards, scorers, students, parents, EQAO staff and the general public.
    • For example, EQAO has received calls from scorers requesting very-specific seating and accessibility accommodations (e.g., an assistant for a scorer with low vision).
    • Thousands of special-version assessment materials ordered by schools have been provided by EQAO every year.
    • EQAO has developed different formats of its assessments, including Braille (Unified English Braille [contracted and uncontracted], French Braille), audio (MP3) and assistive-technology formats (e.g., HTML, PDF, Kurzweil 1000, Kurzweil 3000, Word optimized for Premier, WordQ, Read and Write Gold, Word [unformatted], Google Read&Write for Chrome).
    • EQAO has created special versions of its assessments every year and has added new formats and removed any old or unused formats.
    • EQAO has worked with several departmental units and vendors to create accessible materials (e.g., Braille booklets).
  • EQAO has provided accessible versions of SDC resources and guides through the SDC system.
    • Accessible versions of SDC resources and guides have been provided by e-mail to requestors.
  • EQAO has responded to internal and external requests for accessibility-related accommodations, including
    • ergonomic assessments,
    • sit-stand workstations,
    • a desk-alignment accessory (for positioning of a computer monitor),
    • assistive-technology formats and alternative formats of the assessments (provided and/or created to meet the needs of students),
    • materials for sign language interpreters,
    • accessible parking spaces (additional accessible parking spaces were added),
    • charging/parking areas for mobile scooters,
    • note-taking services and American Sign Language interpreters (for scorers with hearing impairments),
    • proximity to washrooms,
    • mobility and visual accommodations such as
      • laptops for scorers with visual impairments (who could not use the Personal Digital Assistants [PDAs]) Note: PDAs are no longer being used, and the scorer application, accessible via laptops, is now in a much larger format than it was in the past (larger fonts, larger screens).
    • the provision of tablets,
    • an interpreter for meetings and
    • a teletypewriter (TTY) device for a phone.
  • When conducting presentations for stakeholders, the outreach team has worked to ensure that people with disabilities were accommodated. Upon request, the team has provided materials and alternative formats of materials in advance to sign language interpreters when needed.
  • EQAO has received accessibility-related requests at different stages of the operations process:
    • about 10 requests per year for the primary- and junior-division assessments
    • about 10 requests per year for the OSSLT
  • Internal accessibility requests have been dealt with through EQAO’s human resources department.

EQAO has been proactively responding to accessibility needs

  • EQAO’s website redevelopment was an opportunity to enhance the accessibility features of the website (more details below).
  • Improvements to the assessment items have been made based on feedback from the Sensitivity Committee and the application of an equity lens.
  • Improvements have been made to the types of assistive-technology formats provided for assessments (e.g., Google Read&Write for Chrome was created in response to stakeholder requests), and barriers have been removed so that students can access accommodations (e.g., extra time, the use of headphones for calming music and white noise) without requiring an individual education plan.
  • EQAO has ensured that accommodation requests can be made during the confirmation of scoring process.
  • The Event Management System (EMS) scorer profile is now more accessible than the previous scorer application.
  • Documents posted for scorers are now in basic format, and EQAO has converted the Pay, Expense and Reimbursement Guidelines (PERG) from a chart format to straight simple text.
  • In the 2017 school year, EQAO contracted an AODA specialist for advice on the production of in-house accessible formats of EQAO’s assessments. The specialist confirmed that the agency has already produced a broad variety of accessible formats of EQAO assessments.

EQAO has provided public notice of the availability of documents to people with disabilities

As required by the AODA, All documents required by the IASR, including EQAO’s accessibility policy, notices of temporary disruptions, training records and written feedback process, can be made available upon request subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Upon request, EQAO provides documents or the information in them to people with disabilities in a format that they can use.

  • To this end, a standing policy regarding the availability of alternative formats has been posted on EQAO’s website.
  • Schools have been made aware of any new alternative formats for sample assessment booklets.

EQAO has welcomed any accessibility-related feedback

  • The agency has welcomed and acted upon the feedback received during committee activity sessions (e.g., Assessment Development Committee [ADC] and the Sensitivity Committee [SENS]) and focus groups (e.g., low vision/blind).
  • A guide has been created to support individuals designated as equity consultants.

EQAO has regularly monitored provincial legislation and regulations to ensure compliance

In 2016, the Ontario government issued a new version of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) that included the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service Regulation. As such, the revised IASR has a Customer Service Standards section. EQAO has met the IASR customer service requirements.

EQAO has ensured that people with disabilities have received all of EQAO’s goods and services with the same high quality and timelines provided for others.

  • Previously, accessibility customer-service training (i.e., training on how to provide goods and services to persons with disabilities) was only required for staff who interact with the public and for those who make policies. The 2016 IASR requires all staff to take the training.

EQAO is reviewing its policies, procedures and guidelines with accessibility in mind

The agency has reviewed (and is continually reviewing) its policies and guiding principles to ensure that they comply with the AODA and IASR regulations.

  • EQAO has created an overarching policy to develop policies, procedures and guidelines. One of the principles included in the policy outlines the agency’s commitment to the accessibility principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity for any of EQAO’s new and revised policies, procedures or guidelines.
  • The agency is developing a Procurement Policy and a Procurement Procedure with accessibility considerations included.

EQAO has responded to employment-related accessibility needs

  • EQAO’s human resources department has made sure that all employees (current and new) have received training as a part of their EQAO orientation.
  • EQAO employees who have identified themselves as having a disability and who have the required documentation have been able to work with the human resources department to develop individual accommodation plans. Upon request, the human resources department will also develop return-to-work plans for employees who have been absent due to a disability.
  • If there is a change to the agency’s procedures and practices governing the provision of goods or services to people with disabilities, training sessions can be provided for staff.
    • EQAO’s employees have received training on how to provide documents and publications in accessible formats.
    • For scoring and assessment committee processes, EQAO has moved from a self-application-based recruitment solution to a profile-based solution.
      • Hiring is now based on qualifications and other task-based criteria specified in the EQAO profile of applicants.
      • Positions are offered to applicants with an EQAO profile, and it is their responsibility to accept or reject the position offered, through their EQAO profile.
    • Participants can now provide any accessibility requirements and access their confirmation letter of scoring session and PERG in simple text and as a PDF file on the participant’s EQAO profile.
  • EQAO has made all aspects of its work accessible. This has included making meetings more accessible to those who have identified their accessibility needs to the human resource department.
  • The agency has ensured that staff members with disabilities have been provided with an accessible workstation and the necessary tools and software to do their job. Examples of accommodations have included the following:
    • access to large-screen monitors (for those with low vision).
    • ergonomic assessments and accommodations, such as
      • sit-stand workstations (including accessible sit-stand workstations) and
      • a desk-alignment accessory (for positioning of a computer monitor).
    • an iPad for assistance in communicating.

EQAO’s website has been redesigned according to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0

EQAO has met the following WCAG 2.0 requirements:

  • Keyboard Accessible (WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.1.1):
    • “All functionality of the content is operable through a keyboard interface without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes, except where the underlying function requires input that depends on the path of the user’s movement and not just the endpoints.” (WCAG 2.0 Level A)
  • Focus Visible (WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.4.7):
    • “Any keyboard operable user interface has a mode of operation where the keyboard focus indicator is visible.” (WCAG 2.0 Level AA)
  • “Bypass Blocks (WCAG 2.0 Guideline 2.4.1):
    • “A mechanism is available to bypass blocks of content that are repeated on multiple Web pages.” (WCAG 2.0 Level A)
  • “Information and Relationships (WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.3.1):
    • “Information, structure, and relationships conveyed through presentation can be programmatically determined or are available in text.” (WCAG 2.0 Level A)
  • Where possible, web content has been provided in HTML instead of as a PDF file.
  • Video transcripts have been posted on EQAO’s website in HTML.
  • EQAO has provided documents or the information in them to people with disabilities in a format that they can use. The preparation of alternative formats may have resulted in delays in providing the requested information.
  • EQAO has offered an additional alternative format (optimized for the Read&Write for Google Chrome extension) of its sample assessment booklets.
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