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Toward greater inclusion and equity: Accessibility Plan 2023–2025

“A Place of Choice” – A 2024–2025 Progress Report for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Accessibility Plan 2023–2025

1. General

This plan is based on our commitment at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) to human rights and the fundamental principle that we are all born free and equal in dignity and rights. Our obligations under the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) provide a framework to identify and eliminate barriers to accessibility so we can prevent and actively address discrimination against persons with disabilities. This plan captures accessibility at the CMHR today and our way forward: work we have done, work we are doing, and work we intend to do. We will review and update this plan often and do so in the spirit of consultation and collaboration, and being in good relationship with our community.

We welcome input and feedback about accessibility at the CMHR and this plan. Feedback can be submitted anonymously to:

Kimberley Levasseur Puhach

Vice‐President, People, Culture and Growth
Canadian Museum for Human Rights
85 Israel Asper Way Winnipeg, MB R3C 0L5
Phone: 204–289‑2000
Toll‐free: 1–877–877‑6037
TTY: 204–289‑2050

1.1. Summary

The CMHR was designed based on the principle of providing universal access to its experiences, regardless of age, background, or ability. Inclusion has been a methodology, and accessibility is an outcome. From the outset, our built design, exhibitions and all aspects of operations have been informed by the Smithsonian guidelines for inclusive and accessible design and those implemented by other leaders in our sector, including the Musée de la civilisation in Québec City and the Science Museum in London, England. We also adhere to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) web‐based accessibility standards and the most stringent criteria under both the provincial and national building codes.

Based on the principle of “nothing about us without us,” we have worked with people with disabilities and experts in all aspects of our work, including an internal staff group, an external advisory council, and community organizations and public entities actively engaged in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and human rights as a whole from across the country.

Starting immediately and throughout 2024–25, we will:

  • Develop Level 1 event space accessible exit and access plans in 2024–25 (carried over from 2023).
  • Identify “quiet spaces” for neurodivergent visitors in the Museum.
  • Continue gender‐inclusive washroom renovations in 2024–25, starting with Level 1.
  • Review and revise human resources and procurement policies in 2024–25 to be more inclusive.
  • Provide accessibility training for all teams who work directly with visitors.
  • Enhance software accessibility after administrative staff training in 2023–24.
  • Create an inventory of accessible technologies and share accessibility information proactively.
  • Review and revise procurement policy in 2024–25, with a new procurement specialist on staff.

This plan is a living document and will be updated at the end of each calendar year. As we approach a decade of operations, our priority is to build a team that is representative of the community and that we have a comprehensive, ongoing audit and assessment process that ensures that our workplace is inclusive and that the experiences we provide to the public remain designed to provide an unparalleled visitor experience to all.

1.2. Our Commitment

The CMHR’s mandate is to explore human rights in Canada and beyond in order to enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others, and to encourage reflection and dialogue. Located in Winnipeg, on Treaty One Territory at the crossroads of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and in the birthplace of the Métis, the CMHR continues to be a gathering place dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights.

As with all of Canada’s national museums, the CMHR plays an essential role in:

  • Preserving and promoting our heritage at home and abroad;
  • Contributing to the collective memory and sense of identity of all Canadians;
  • Being a source of inspiration, research, learning and entertainment that belongs to all Canadians.

This plan captures our universal design approach to ensure every person is able to join us on our journey of creating a world where everyone values the importance of human rights and takes responsibility for promoting respect and dignity for all.

1.3. Alternative Formats

You can request alternative formats of this plan and a description of our feedback process by contacting the primary contact of this plan. The Museum commits to providing the following alternative formats within 15 business days of receiving a request for them:

  • Print
  • Large print (increased font size)

1.4. Definitions

The following definitions apply throughout this plan:

  • Disability: Any impairment or difference in physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, or communication ability. Disabilities can be permanent or temporary and can change over time. 
  • Barrier: Anything that might hinder full and equal participation by people with disabilities. Barriers can be architectural, technological, attitudinal, based on information or communications, or the result of a policy or procedure. 
  • Accessibility: The design of products, devices, services, environments, technologies, policies and rules in a way that allows all people, including people with a variety of disabilities, to access them. 

2. Areas Described Under Section 5 of the ACA

2.1. Built Environment

Although no significant barriers for persons with disabilities have been identified in the workplace, opportunities for improvement are always presenting themselves and we have identified areas in which we can remove barriers in our built environment. One of our event spaces on Level 1 lacks an accessible exit, limiting the ability for individuals using mobility devices to evacuate that space easily in case of an emergency. We will develop a plan to address this barrier in 2024–25 and implement any necessary construction or redesign in 2026. This will be integrated into our facilities plan and budget.

Our seven levels of museum galleries are filled with engaging exhibits that provide a range of sensory interactions with visitors. Understanding that some of the spaces may present barriers to those with auditory sensitivities, we are considering how we might improve or adjust the visitor experience to ensure that all visitors can enjoy their experience.

All washrooms are gender‐inclusive, and washrooms on Levels 1 through 3 and Levels 5 through 7 include at least one large, barrier‐free, single‐room washroom. In 2023–24, we developed plans to renovate all gender‐inclusive washrooms to provide greater privacy and we have completed the assessment for this work that will ensure that accessibility is maintained in all spaces. Renovations will be phased through to 2024–25, and possibly beyond, prioritizing washrooms on Level 1, including the single‐room washrooms where there is a need for an emergency alert. We have identified the need for sharps containers to be added to all individual washrooms and will add these in 2024–25.

The single‐room washroom behind the Level 1 Coat Check is equipped with an adult‐sized change table and motorized transfer lift. Future renovations would include relocating the keypad for the adult change table to ensure it is accessible to individuals in seated positions. All other single‐room washrooms are equipped with baby change tables.

The CMHR has an Accessible Drop‐off Entrance that allows individuals to be dropped off in close proximity to the main entry doors. There are four accessible parking stalls adjacent to the Accessible Drop‐off Entrance as well as additional accessible parking along Israel Asper Way. An audio cue is available to assist those who are blind in navigating to the entryways. All three main entrances to the building (Group Entrance, Main Entrance and Accessible Drop‐off Entrance) have an intercom system that enables visitors to connect with security if they require assistance. We have identified that the intercom available in the Group Entrance is not easily available to those using mobility devices, and an additional paving stone is required at that entrance point.

Secondary public entrances to and from the restaurant patio and outdoor terraces, between and throughout the galleries and office spaces are accessible to people using wheeled devices and people who prefer not to use stairs. Motorized and manual chairs as well as scooters are available free of charge and can be booked with staff when planning a tour or on‐site on a first‐come, first‐served basis at the Level 1 Coat Check. Wayfinding signage throughout the building is also in braille. All galleries can be accessed through a series of inclined ramps with resting spots at regular intervals, or by an elevator with audio announcements, braille and floor markers that stops at all gallery levels, Levels 2 through 7. An additional Tower Elevator that serves Levels 3 through Level 8.

In addition, given the shape and layout of our floor plan, we recognize the need for additional tactile floor markers in our office areas. We introduced additional markers in public spaces in 2023–24 and will extend this work to the office area in 2024–2025.

All of our theatres and exhibitions with seating offer a choice of bench seating and seating with backs and arms, and ample space to ambulate is built into the design of all galleries and exhibitions.

2.2. Employment

The CMHR is centred around the principle that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and we strive to have a workforce that is reflective of the diverse communities that we serve and who share their stories within our exhibitions. To that end, recruitment of persons with disabilities, in particular people with physical disabilities and mobility restrictions, and mental disabilities, including intellectual and cognitive disabilities, is a priority. In 2024–2025, we will actively review recruitment and job competition policies in order to ensure equitable access to job opportunities, both internally, and to those applying from the community.

We have a flexible work model that maintains an active offer of accommodation, during recruitment and onboarding, as well as through employment. All human resources staff are trained to support management in responding to requests for accommodation on the basis of disability and any other grounds protected by legislation. There is also an individualized safety planning process for those needing support to evacuate during emergencies. To date, over 70 Museum staff, contractors and volunteers have been trained to assist in the event of an emergency in the capacity of fire wardens.

Mandatory onboarding training is provided to all staff on the Accessibility for Manitobans Act Customer Service Standards, Unconscious Bias, Diversity and Inclusion Training, 2SLGBTQ+, 4 Seasons of Reconciliation, and other industry‐specific training. Administrative staff and other select staff groups receive training on creating accessible documents and presentations in addition to understanding the process and requesting support as needed. Additional accessibility training is being planned for all teams in 2024–25, including disability specialist training for teams who work directly with visitors. All staff in leadership positions will be trained on Reasonable Accommodation policies and procedures in 2024.

2.3. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

We have a maintained list of accessibility features and proactively communicate these to the public. Currently, we offer a fully accessible, self‐guided museum tour through our free mobile application that uses American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). The tour is downloadable using our free Wi‐Fi, or alternatively, it is installed on iPods available for free for visitor use. Induction loops are installed at the Ticketing and Information Desk (box office area). Because of a lack of adequate power sources in the original design for some theatre spaces, induction loops are not installed in these areas. Rather, neck loops, which connect to accessibility stations in the theatres and at digital kiosks throughout the galleries, are available upon request. These are regularly reviewed and maintained. A Braille Gallery Guide is available upon request at the Ticketing and Information Desk. It contains tactile maps of the galleries with English and French braille. A braille menu is also available at our onsite bistro. There are a few copies available for guests and it is updated for menu changes.

All static exhibition content, as well as audio tours, can be accessed through tactile markers called Universal Access Points (UAP). UAPs are located intuitively throughout exhibition areas. The markers are digitally enabled by a mobile device carried by the visitor and consist of raised numbers and braille codes that trigger audio. An audit of UAPs was completed in 2023, and several updates will be made for accuracy in 2024.

Near every touchscreen interface is a Universal Keypad (UKP) that allows visitors to experience the digital content in touchscreen interfaces through accessible tactile controls and voiced instructions.

There are two types of UKPs:

  • Interactive UKPs – are located near every touchscreen interface and allow visitors to access the full functionality of the interactive exhibits. They include: 
    • Basic volume controls 
    • Access to descriptive audio tracks through headphones plugged into an audio jack 
    • A directional keypad for menu navigation, which provides zoom functionality
  • Audio UKPs – are located in theatre benches and at video monitors that are not navigable and include:
    • Basic volume controls
    • Access to descriptive audio tracks through headphones plugged into an audio jack

UKPs can be found by way of tactile floor strips near their location. All videos with spoken words (excluding music lyrics) are interpreted via ASL and LSQ on screen by members of the Deaf community. For some exhibits, the ASL and LSQ is delivered through the mobile app.

All exhibits adhere to strict graphic standards, including fonts chosen for maximum legibility and clarity. Type sizes, placement and even small details such as paragraph alignment and line lengths are considered to make content easier to read. Colour contrast and Light Reflectance Value contrasts ensure sufficient contrast between the text and background to make text easier to read. All videos contain descriptive audio, using a narrator to read on‐screen text out loud, as well as to give a description of what is happening on screen. Also, automated voice dubbings use descriptive audio as a means of dialogue and narration translation, allowing visitors to understand what is being said, even if the video is not in their first language of English or French. All videos with spoken words (excluding music lyrics) also have closed captioning in both English and French.

We have identified the need to assess and update technologies on an ongoing basis, including regularly reviewing induction loop technology in all galleries. We had an external review of our website in 2023 to ensure that we continue to meet accessibility standards and the website is easy to navigate. We will also review current technology and identify opportunities to enhance and/or replace technologies where applicable in 2024–25. Any measures will be implemented in 2025–26.

2.4. Communications, Other Than ICT

All staff receive training in Microsoft 365, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Teams. Electronic newsletters and other communications, including social media, are designed with accessibility in mind and include learnings from accessible document training. We are exploring the use of alt text in our exhibitions to ensure visitors, primarily those with low or no vision, are able to engage with in‐gallery and virtual exhibits as fully as possible. We will engage the local disability community to assist us with the review and develop a strategy in 2024. Measures will be considered for implementation in 2025.

2.5. Procurement of Goods, Services and Facilities

We have identified the need to review and revise our current procurement policy to strengthen expectations and accountabilities around ethical and inclusive business practices, and to assess other barriers that may preclude access by persons with disabilities and others. This work has been delayed until 2024–25 due to staff shortages. A new procurement specialist is now on staff. Updates and/or amendments to the policy will be implemented in 2024–25.

2.6. Design and Delivery of Programs and Services

The design and delivery of programs and services include the same principles and considerations outlined in the ICT section. All exhibits, educational programming and events consider accessibility in their design. In‐person and virtual programs typically include ASL interpretation and/or captioning.

2.7. Transportation

We do not provide transportation but do support visitors on arrival and departure. Please see the built environment section.

3. Consultations

Since before our opening, a group of advisors, consisting of individuals living with disabilities or working in academia, design and architecture, and disability rights advocacy organizations, have been instrumental in supporting the early design and operationalization of the CMHR. Their invaluable contributions have been pivotal in creating an inclusive space, setting the CMHR above the standards of institutions of its kind.

In 2023, the CMHR actively engaged with local disability groups to gain insights and audit the Museum’s facilities and services. This effort has yielded a wealth of comprehensive and nuanced information, enhancing our ability to better serve the disability community and, consequently, the broader public. We had the privilege of collaborating with representatives from local organizations, such as the Arts Accessibility Network of Manitoba, People First of Manitoba, Manitoba Possible, including young adults and parents with children.

Our consultation process included individuals with diverse disability perspectives, encompassing blindness, low vision, neurodivergence, as well as physical and intellectual disabilities. These individuals generously provided their insights and conducted a thorough Museum audit alongside the external support person for this process who was also a person with a disability. To ensure equitable participation, the Museum provided a range of supports, including ASL interpreters, honoraria, and braille materials. Between August and October 2023, the Museum hosted five community member groups at various times and days, varying in size and representing a wide spectrum of disability perspectives and a wide range of ages, all of which played a significant role in informing the audit. Notably, we welcomed blind community members to assess navigation features and wayfinding.

The outcomes of these visits are incorporated into our Accessibility Plan progress report for 2024–25. Community members who joined us have shared positive feedback, often expressing their experiences at the Museum through social media and word of mouth, reaffirming that the CMHR is a “place of choice” for those with disabilities.

Their comments include:

  • “Doing accessibility things!” – accompanied by a picture of an all‐access Museum badge.
  • “Thanks for the invite! It was so nice to have an open and honest conversation with a group who truly cares about accessibility.” 
  • “I’m following this project with great interest – as my arthritis progresses, I find I have to give a lot of thought to how I move about these spaces.”
  • “Great time out at today. An amazing tour with highlights of the #accessibility features throughout the Museum, followed by an open conversation about what has been done well and what could use improvement (or just updates of decade‐old tech!). It was an honour to be among the incredible group of people with disabilities, brought together for this early step in the process toward an even more accessible museum for everyone.”

We have recognized the importance of establishing an ongoing and well‐resourced assembly of disability perspectives. Looking ahead, we are committed to continuing this work in 2024–25 and beyond. Funds have been allocated to provide supportive accommodations, such as ASL interpretation for internal consultations and honouraria as needed. These measures will further advance the Museum's mission of achieving equitable and inclusive engagement.

4. Feedback

The Museum receives feedback on its Accessibility Plan in various ways. On our website, we openly invite the public to share comments and concerns with us through the “Report a Website Accessibility Issue” and “Report an In‐Museum Accessibility Issue” buttons, which direct people to email for a response from the Museum team. We have been encouraged and affirmed as good relatives by our international and local visitors.

Our staff have the opportunity to participate in a disability equity group, the Council for Inclusion and Accessibility. This group serves as a platform for them to share their experiences and collaborate on finding solutions to accessibility issues encountered in the workplace. This work is supported and staff members are compensated for their time attending meetings and working through accessibility issues, sharing their concerns with leadership on a routine basis.

In 2024–25, we’ll focus on enhancing our understanding of how accessibility features are being utilized. This involves gathering data on the usage of accessible devices and refining how we identify issues. We laid the foundation for these improvements in 2023 by implementing regular maintenance and booking records, as well as introducing integration of the audit to help us better pinpoint gaps and barriers.

The Museum utilizes feedback from the public and staff to make informed decisions on our Path Forward. We recognize that each step we take to enhance accessibility is a move toward realizing the fundamental human right where a person can navigate the world freely and be in relationship with others. It’s about creating spaces that consider the intersecting factors of race, sexuality, gender expression, disability, and other aspects of identity, ensuring that accessibility measures are both comprehensive and equitable for everyone. While we strive to maintain and keep up with technology, we are guided by a community that supports us every step of the way.