An update on accessibility at Waterloo

Friday, January 13, 2017

by Kenton Needham, Director of Human Resources

Accessibility is an important part of our culture and community. When people think about accessibility, many believe that it relates to barriers in our physical environment and related accommodations such as automatic door openers or curb cutouts. But accessibility is much broader and speaks to the University’s ability to provide an equal experience to all students and employees regardless of their age, creed, disability, marital/family status, sex, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Accessibility is really about inclusivity and a culture of respect for others.    

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) defines areas of compliance for the University as it relates to customer service, transportation, employment, information and communications, and public spaces. The legislation continues to evolve and the Ontario government is in the process of developing two new standards in the AODA: (i) health and (ii) education. In 2016, responsibility within the University for accessibility, as it relates to persons with disabilities, transitioned to Human Resources from AccessAbility Services.

With this shift, it is Human Resources’ goal to remain in line with legislation, and to ensure that the University is not only compliant but also recognized as a leader in accessibility for persons with disabilities. To support that goal, Human Resources recruited Joyce Barlow as the AODA Specialist to lead this initiative. Since beginning her employment with the University last July, Joyce has quickly developed a good understanding of the University’s current state of compliance through consultation with stakeholders across the campus and from that, is developing an AODA strategy that ultimately will improve accessibility standards within the University through a collaborative and sustainable approach. 

As part of the transition from AccessAbility Services to Human Resources, when an individual now uses the Accessibility link on the University homepage, they will be directed to the Accessibility at Waterloo pages on the Human Resources website. These pages provide a central point for information on accessibility-related topics within the University, including available support services, campus accessibility, and legislatively required documents. The content aligns with the University’s central commitment to creating an inclusive community and offering support for persons with disabilities campus-wide, in addition to students. 

Staff and faculty with questions or concerns related to accessibility should contact Joyce Barlow, AODA Specialist at extension 30520. Please feel free to forward any suggestions or feedback you may have regarding the website to