Government of Canada invites youth leaders to help build a more accessible Canada

News release

May 29, 2019                Toronto, Ontario             Employment and Social Development Canada

In celebration of Canada’s third National AccessAbility Week, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, announced several initiatives to support youth leaders in their efforts to build a more accessible Canada.

Minister Qualtrough made these announcements at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U). While there she announced, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, that OCAD U is receiving $1.7 million in funding from the Accessible Technology Program to develop a new coding platform that will support the participation of students with complex learning needs and will share critically needed classroom resources to support educators in inclusive teaching.

The Minister also announced over $430,000 in financial support from the Youth Innovation Component of the Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) to 53 organizations across Canada for youth-driven projects that will increase accessibility for persons with disabilities in their communities and workplaces. The Youth Innovation Component of the EAF empowers youth to play a leadership role in their communities by identifying barriers to accessibility and safety in community spaces and workplaces, and then partnering with local businesses and organizations to manage a project that will remove those barriers.

Two additional funding opportunities were launched by Minister Qualtrough:

  • a new call for expressions of interest under the EAF Youth Innovation Component: youth interested in participating must identify accessibility barriers in public places or workplaces, and seek out interested organizations willing to work with them to develop an accessibility project proposal. Funding of up to $10,000 is available to eligible organizations.
  • a call for proposals under the Disability component of the Social Development Partnerships Program to support capacity building and youth leadership: for projects that promote partnerships between youth-focused organizations and national disability organizations to develop the next generation of youth disability leaders, and facilitate succession planning and sustainability in the disability sector. Funding of $900,000 over three years is available for eligible projects.

In addition, a third funding opportunity to improve the financial security of persons with disabilities was launched:

  • a call for proposals under the Disability component of the Social Development Partnerships Program to address barriers to financial security of persons with disabilities: will provide $1.8 million over three years in funding to support projects aimed at identifying and testing innovative solutions to improving the financial situation of working‑age Canadians with disabilities living in or near poverty.

Minister Qualtrough also took the opportunity to highlight a Budget 2019 investment of $15 million over five years to modernize the Canada Student Loans Program and help make post-secondary education more accessible. For student borrowers with disabilities, these changes will:

  • increase the cap on the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities from $8,000 to $20,000 per year;
  • expand eligibility for the Severe Permanent Disability Benefit, so that more student borrowers with severe permanent disabilities qualify for loan forgiveness;
  • implement interest-free and payment-free leave for a maximum of 18 months for borrowers taking temporary leave from their studies for medical or parental reasons, including mental health leave, starting in 2020–2021.

All these measures complement the proposed Accessible Canada Act, which has been adopted by the Senate and is awaiting Royal Assent. The proposed legislation is another concrete step that the Government of Canada is taking to break down barriers to accessibility. This proposed legislation will promote broad organizational and cultural change across Canada, while proactively identifying, removing and preventing barriers in a number of priority areas.


Building a more inclusive Canada requires everyone’s contribution. By giving young Canadians the tools they need to make their communities more inclusive and more accessible to persons with disabilities, we give space for innovation and creativity. The investments our government announced today reflect our collaborative approach to removing barriers so that more Canadians can enjoy their communities, find jobs and contribute to Canada’s economy. I am delighted to have made these announcements at OCAD U, a university that is taking a leadership role in modernizing its resources so that students with disabilities have the tools needed to succeed. It’s partnerships like this one—between OCAD U and our government—that help build a more accessible Canada, where everyone is fully included.
– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

“Together we are building an innovation nation—one that is inclusive and works for everyone. To achieve this, our focus is squarely on our greatest asset: our people. Programs like the Accessible Technology Program, and partners like OCAD University, are setting the bar higher, sparking discussions, and leading the way with their passion for increasing accessibility and our awareness of its necessity.”
– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Quick facts

  • Since 2015, the Government of Canada has supported over 2,000 accessibility projects through the Enabling Accessibility Fund. These projects have helped several thousand Canadians by improving their access to their communities’ programs, services and employment opportunities.
  • Budget 2017 provided $77 million over ten years, starting in 2018‑19, to expand the activities of the EAF, allowing the program to support even more small and mid-sized projects and launch a new youth-driven innovation component, so that Canadians of all abilities have better access to their community spaces and workplaces.
  • The EAF enhancement is part of the Government of Canada’s Investing in Canada infrastructure plan in which the Government is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities.
  • The Disability component of the Social Development Partnerships Program (SDPP-D) is a grant and contribution program that supports Government of Canada priorities to improve the participation and increase the social inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society as well as support the proposed Accessible Canada Act. SDPP-D provides $11 million annually to not-for-profit organizations for operating and project funding; starting 2021–2022, it will provide an additional $2.7 million annually to support the implementation of the proposed Accessible Canada Act.
  • The Accessible Technology Program invests $22.3 million over five years, starting in 2017–2018, to help fill the gap in support for the development of assistive and adaptive digital devices and technologies that can enable persons with disabilities to fully participate in the digital economy.

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For media enquiries, please contact:
Ashley Michnowski
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Carla Qualtrough

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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