Communications Security Establishment Accessibility Plan Progress Report 2023


How to provide feedback

We invite you to provide feedback on the Communications Security Establishment’s Accessibility Plan 2022-2025, your experience of our accessibility, or any other matter related to accessibility. Your feedback will help CSE identify and break down barriers.

Accessibility feedback form

You can also contact the Senior Advisor to the Chief (Diversity) at:

Accessibility feedback process

Submit anonymous feedback

Your feedback will always remain anonymous in our public reports. We will not identify you with your feedback beyond our Accessibility team. The only time your feedback will be connected to you is when you request a personal response.

If you want to provide anonymous feedback:

  • do not state your name or provide any other identifying information (for example, your email address or phone number)
  • do not include your return address on the envelope if you send feedback by mail

Request an alternate format

You can request the alternate versions of the accessibility plan or the feedback process by contacting the Senior Advisor to the Chief (Diversity) at:

Formats available:

  • print
  • large print (larger and clearer font)
  • braille (a system of raised dots that people who are blind or who have low vision can read with their fingers)
  • audio (a recording of someone reading the text out loud)
  • electronic formats that are compatible with adaptive technology

Caroline Xavier (She/Her)
Chief, CSE

Emma Sobel (She/Her)
Senior Advisor (Diversity)

CSE’s commitment to accessibility

At the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre), we recognize that individuals with accessibility needs make significant contributions to our mission each day. These individuals have roles in every branch of our organization, from corporate services and communications to engineering and cryptography. Through our Communications Security Establishment Accessibility Plan 2022-2025, One CSE: A framework for equity, diversity and inclusion, and other initiatives, we are moving towards our goals of being an equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization.

In 2023, through the continued evaluation of our processes, practices, policies, and operations, we continued to identify and remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion. Every employee deserves to have the tools they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. We know that by working together to create a more accessible environment, we are enabling the organization to be more productive, effective, and representative of the people CSE is dedicated to serving. We are committed to our priorities and are making great progress in accomplishing them.

CSE’s accessibility priorities

  1. Employment: building a diverse work environment free from harassment and creating accessible conditions for day-to-day work life and career progression
  2. The built environment: designing physical spaces that are barrier-free for individuals with disabilities
  3. Information and communication technologies (ICT): delivering accessible web content to external and internal audiences and assistive technologies where required
  4. Communications: providing communication in accessible formats and making information readily available to the public in an inclusive and barrier-free manner
  5. Procurement: incorporating accessibility requirements and considerations into CSE’s procurement of goods, services, and facilities
  6. Programs and services: delivering people-centric programs, policies, and initiatives
  7. Training: advancing advancing accessible training for all employees to allow for personal and professional growth
  8. Transportation: maintaining a safe barrier-free workplace


The improvement of accessibility-related recruitment, hiring, and retention processes at CSE is something we take seriously. The majority of our work requires an Enhanced Top Secret clearance, which means that our hiring process is more demanding than most. This creates some unique challenges that other Government of Canada departments do not need to account for. However, we are committed to building a skilled and diverse workforce reflective of Canadian society. We promote employment equity, diversity, and inclusion, and are developing selection processes and work environments that reflect this.

Should there be a case during the security screening process where an accommodation cannot be met, we would have further discussion on what would be the best next step with all parties. All applicants are treated as individuals, and accommodations are done on a case-by-case basis.

Numerous employment goals were advanced in 2023.


First, the Candidate Outreach team, which is part of the Human Resources branch of Corporate Services, dedicated a group of employees to recruitment efforts related to the four employment equity groups. As stated in the Employment Equity Act, these groups are:

  • women
  • Indigenous peoples
  • persons with disabilities
  • members of visible minorities

In this dedicated role, the employees are tasked with identifying and pursuing engagement strategies that could improve recruitment of persons with disabilities. This includes but is not limited to targeted job boards, job fairs, and student and community organizations. In addition to this, employees who are involved in the applicant contact process developed communications strategies to ensure accessibility requirements are discussed and identified when contacting applicants. If an applicant has an accessibility requirement, the team will work with the applicant to ensure, when possible, solutions or compromises are provided to ensure the requirement is met.

Assessment Accessibility Ambassador

The Public Service Commission (PSC) established the Assessment Accessibility Ambassador Network (AAA) to contribute to the accessibility strategy for the Public Service of Canada and increase the recruitment, retention, and promotion of persons with disabilities in the public service. This network, with HR representatives from many public service departments and agencies, aims to disseminate accessibility skills across the public service that will help to ensure candidates have an accessible and inclusive recruitment experience.

A Senior HR Advisor with the Candidate Assessment and Selection team has been named as CSE’s Assessment Accessibility Ambassador. If during an assessment process, a guild or hiring manager has a candidate who identifies that they require accommodation or if they want to ensure that their assessment tools are accessible, they will first contact the HR Advisor that they are working with on the process. If the HR Advisor needs further support or assistance, they will reach out to the Assessment Accessibility Ambassador who can connect with this network. This role will aid in the support of accommodations for hiring new candidates and demonstrates CSE’s commitment to improving the hiring process.

Barrier-free selection process

For the Enhanced Top Secret Security clearance process, candidates may be required to:

  • fill out a personal history questionnaire and consent form
  • meet with CSE security personnel for an in-depth interview
  • be fingerprinted and photographed
  • undergo a polygraph examination to assess reliability as an individual and loyalty to Canada

All applicants who are contacted for an interview or testing, are asked to advise CSE of any accommodation measures we should take to facilitate a fair and equitable assessment. This information will be treated as confidential. From accessible software to how interviews are conducted to the physical spaces at CSE properties, CSE works with many stakeholders to investigate, identify, and addresses accessibility barriers to our rigorous application process. Some of the solutions are quick wins, while others, such as facility changes, require a longer approach that can take months or years to achieve. CSE is eager to continue consultations in the future and wishes to hear feedback on how we can improve the current methods we use to identify barriers and remove more barriers to increase the accessibility of the application process.

Workplace Accessibility Passport

Employment goals related to neurodiversity were also advanced in 2023. Consultations and specific solutions related to the experiences of CSE employees who identify as neurodivergent were important to developing CSE’s approach to accessibility. One way this is being addressed is through the ongoing collaboration between the Senior Advisor to the Chief on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the Neurodiversity affinity group. The Neurodiversity affinity group is an employee-led community. Each member is an employee of CSE who identifies as neurodivergent or an ally, and is currently working at CSE. Throughout 2023, the Neurodiversity affinity group and the Senior Advisor to the Chief on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion worked together to prepare the groundwork for implementing the Government of Canada Workplace Accessibility Passport. This passport will also contribute to the redesign of the entire accommodation request process at CSE. Now more than ever, we are committed to engaging with the appropriate stakeholders and affinity groups to ensure the needs of our employees are heard and addressed.

Once established, the passport will allow employees to document the barriers they may face at work and propose potential solutions. Then, employees and their management team can collaborate to determine effective and appropriate solutions so that the employee can succeed. Once the passport is finalized and signed, it moves with the employee as they change jobs, and their new leadership can refer to the document to support the employee. This will help to reduce or eliminate repeated requests for additional documentation or justification, unless the employee’s circumstances or responsibilities have changed or more effective solutions can be identified.

Consultations for this project took place throughout 2022 and 2023 in both the Neurodiversity affinity group and the Disability affinity group at CSE. Business owners whose operations would change as a result of GC passport implementation such as Labour Relations and the Disability Management Office were also included. These consultations were conducted as Teams meetings, virtual group forum discussions, and in person. The Senior Advisor to the Chief on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion met with many employees whose careers had been impacted by a lack of continuity and consistent tracking for accommodations in the workplace. This was especially true for individuals who had changed teams multiple times or participated in acting assignments. This tool will be key to addressing bureaucratic continuity and logistical barriers experienced by employees who require accommodations. Once it is launched, we look forward to receiving feedback on how this project operates and impacts the day-to-day experiences of employees.

Neurodiversity training

CSE will also bring in special training in winter 2023–2024 for our HR and security professionals. This training will aim to provide a deeper understanding of neurodivergent candidates and how to effectively interact with them throughout the hiring process to make the process accessible and free of bias.

Tracking progress

The Labour Relations and Human Resources teams, along with the Senior Advisor to the Chief on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion worked hard to develop business plans that will track progress for each task. The most significant barriers identified in 2022-2023 are related to people resources and capacity. Continued hiring, ongoing education and personal development, and retention best practices will continue to be of the highest importance when working towards employment-related accessibility goals.

The built environment

The Communications Security Establishment is based in Ottawa. It consists of two buildings:

  • Edward Drake Building (EDB)
  • 1625 Vanier Parkway

The tasks identified for the Communications Security Establishment Accessibility Plan 2022-2025 account for both buildings. Each building has different logistical, security, and technical requirements.

Completed tasks

We are pleased that 4 of the tasks identified in our plan were completed in 2023.

Light sensitivity study

In 2023, a light sensitivity study of the Edward Drake Building was conducted by CSE’s Occupational Health and Safety team in collaboration with an external agency. As a result of this study, shading film was applied to windows and new window shades that decrease light were installed in relevant areas. Installing these accommodations has improved the work-life experiences of many employees, notably individuals who suffer from light sensitivity due to visual impairments, migraines, and other conditions.

Automatic door operators

At 1625 Vanier Parkway, all common area doors were updated to automatic door operators, including the lobby doors. At the Edward Drake Building, ten additional automatic door operators were also installed in 2023 at key locations to support accessibility. The outcome of these upgrades is improved accessibility and easier access to a variety of locations in the building for employees and guests with a range of needs. Installing additional automatic door operators at the Edward Drake Building is ongoing. Similar facility upgrades are also being investigated.

Waste and recycling product accessibility study

A review was conducted of the placement of waste and recycling disposal products to ensure accessibility, particularly with regards to mobility and vision. From this review it was determined that accessibility requirements for these products were met. This included correct signage, labelling, placement, and height of the products. Should any challenges or barriers be identified by employees, the Facilities Management team will address them promptly.

Accessibility working group

The Director of Real Property and Business Continuity created a Facility Consultation Working Group which connects employees and Facilities and Occupational Health and Safety teams. This group is active across both CSE work sites. The purpose of this group is to ensure that the needs of employees are being addressed appropriately and promptly. If a need cannot be addressed, the group identifies the barrier and includes it in future business planning, and interim solutions are explored until the barrier is removed or resolved. It will continue to operate and encourage collaboration and engagement in the coming years.

Ongoing tasks at the Edward Drake Building

There are several ongoing tasks at the Edward Drake Building. Many of these tasks will continue into 2025 and beyond. Some tasks are considered to have indeterminate dates as accommodations must be addressed as needed.

Height adjustable desks

The installation of height adjustable desks building-wide is ongoing. Currently, there are 436 height adjustable desks in use. The procurement phase of the rest of these desks is underway and is estimated to continue until fiscal year 2027.

Reducing visual stimulation

Reviewing the design and layout of desks to reduce visual stimulation is currently in the pilot phase. Solutions for this project are being researched and further requirements are being discussed with the Disability and Neurodiversity affinity groups.

Reducing acoustic distractions

Reducing acoustic distractions and investigating ongoing auditory and noise complaints are also in progress. These tasks are in the business planning phase and research is being conducted on possible solutions. In the interim, employees may request noise cancelling headphones through their managers to help reduce auditory distractions. The Facilities Management team is also researching equipping desks with sound reduction panels to assist those with hearing sensitivities.

The Senior Advisor to the Chief on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is bringing together input from the Disability and Neurodiversity Affinity Group as well as business owners in labour relations, occupational health and safety, assistive technologies, and disability management to work through a more barrier-free way to offer these products. Security concerns, the need for a doctor’s note, and cost are all considerations in working towards a future where these products (height adjustable desks, noise cancelling headphones, etc.) will be included in the CSE implementation of the GC Passport. Building a “yes by default” culture will further improve the work experience and environment for people who require reduced visual and acoustic distractions while working.

Ongoing tasks at 1625 Vanier Parkway

At 1625 Vanier Parkway, acoustic and sound consultations are being planned for future fiscal years. This facility is not currently at capacity, therefore, consultations and tests are on hold until occupant capacity is consistent to ensure accurate results from the tests. As an interim solution, in 2023, CSE was able to provide noise cancelling headphones and certain assistive technologies without the need for a doctor’s note.

A pilot project at 1625 Vanier Parkway involving the installation of panels on desks in key areas to reduce visual distraction is underway. Several panels have been installed in test areas to separate individual workstations (desks) and collaborative spaces or kitchenettes. Results of this project are expected in 2024.

Soap dispensers review

At both the Edward Drake Building and 1625 Vanier Parkway, a review of the design and placement of soap dispensers in washrooms and kitchenettes to ensure accessibility for mobility, vision, and other impairments is ongoing. In 2023, based on employee feedback, soap bottles were placed in some washrooms as an interim accessibility measure for those experiencing difficulties accessing or using the built-in dispensers. These dispensers are built into or attached to the washroom counters or walls. Further consultations with employees, affinity and accessibility groups, and relevant corporate teams will continue into 2024.

Information and communication technologies (ICT)

Communicating in an accessible manner with Canadians, industry partners, Government of Canada employees, and employees of the Communications Security Establishment and the Cyber Centre is critically important. Each of these stakeholders plays a role in the ecosystem of the information and communication technology environment. CSE has been working hard to ensure that any material that already exists is either updated to meet current accessibility standards or tagged to be reviewed and updated to ensure it meets key requirements.

Web accessibility

Relevant teams at CSE have been working to review and edit existing web content. This is for content that is internal (employee) and external (public) facing. The goal is to meet or exceed Harmonised European Standard EN 301 549 (2018) and the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA (2018). This process will be ongoing. There is a large amount of material to get through the review process, as well as evolving priorities, especially as they relate to critical security and safety information for Canadians. As WCAG standards evolve, CSE is committed to meeting those standards as they change. Communications teams stay up to date on new requirements and trends, as well as the direct needs of clients. With consistent reviews, vigilance in responding to client needs and inquiries, and ongoing training, CSE aims to comply with WCAG and Government of Canada standards on an ongoing basis.

Graphic design

From a graphics perspective, the Creative Services team at CSE is also aware of the expectations to meet accessibility standards. They have taken a variety of trainings to learn about accessible font, colour, information structure and configuration, alternative text, and many other critical elements of accessibility. With this training completed, there are ongoing reviews and updates to internal and external facing graphics that are informational and decorative to ensure they meet or exceed accessibility standards. With this training completed, the creative team was enabled to provide advice and guidance to other CSE employees. Many teams now encourage employees to create accessible products for internal sharing. This might include measures like adding alternative text and proper content order in slide shows. This practice has been particularly beneficial when having meetings with clients and partners.

Center of Expertise on Accessibility

Goals related to the creation of a Center of Expertise to support accessible ICT development are still in the planning and revision phase. This goal may need to change in scope to align with the current capacity of our workforce. In the interim, we have created a series of style guides for internal use. The style guides provide users with basic standards for accessibility and writing style that must be met before the Communications team will review and publish new materials to the internal website.

Accessible online portals

The goals related to the updates of the job application portal (external resource) and the GeekWeek portal (external resource) are also under review at this time. The job application portal is under review and requires and an accessibility upgrade. CSE’s Web team is investigating solutions to fix the issue and ensure compliance with current WCAG standards. The goal of this investigation is to ensure any applicant using the portal can interpret, navigate, complete, and submit the form, thus removing a barrier to applying to CSE. As first steps on the job application portal, the web form is being reviewed and the job posters are being re-created to address accessibility issues.

The GeekWeek portal has also been identified as having accessibility barriers. GeekWeek is an annual unclassified workshop organized by the Cyber Centre. It brings together key players in the field of cyber security to generate solutions to vital problems facing the industry. The GeekWeek team is collaborating with the Web team for ongoing business planning to redesign how participants access GeekWeek registration and other services related to the workshop. Accessibility is a priority for the Cyber Centre website and reviews and updates will continue on an ongoing basis.

Communication (other than ICT)

We undertook several other initiatives to improve the accessibility of our written communications.

Plain language writing

The Communications team at CSE is also aware of the importance of writing using plain and inclusive language. Training is provided to all communications employees on this topic. This ensures that a baseline standard for writing is set. For CSE employees in other teams, plain-language writing workshops were offered throughout 2023 by the Toastmasters group and will continue to be offered in the future.

Plain language is important for reaching the public, but also for reaching colleagues. It saves time on the part of the reader, cuts down on requests for clarification due to misunderstanding, and reduces translation costs. Using a mix of theory and practice, the workshop raised awareness and covered the basics of plain language writing and editing. During the workshop, participants were introduced to 10 plain language principles through before and after examples, demonstrations, and practice exercises. They learned how to apply these principles in their own writing and communications.

This initiative was done in partnership with Employment and Social Development Canada, which hosts the workshops. Furthermore, these workshops are hosted in both official languages, to ensure standards are being met in both English and French. Outcomes of this workshop were improved adherence to writing standards and best practices, which facilitates accessibility and improves readership.

Accessible writing checklist

CSE’s Internal Communications team is responsible for the management of the internal Internet and corporate postings for all CSE staff. A web accessibility checklist was created to help address consistent errors and gaps in web accessibility when receiving documents to publish from internal clients. This checklist was a great success. Not only did it improve accessibility standards compliance in the content Internal Communications received, the checklist also shortened the time required from the team to edit and publish the material. Decreased turnaround times led to the team having more time to work on other priorities. This outcome was beneficial for improved accessibility, as well as business efficiency.

Guidance on accessible font

Another valuable resource that was developed in 2023 was an all-staff announcement with guidance on using accessible fonts. In this article, it was explained that font choice, especially when creating documents that would be shared with larger groups of people, was an important factor for improving accessibility. Font choice may impact people who may have visual impairments, learning challenges, brain injuries, or other factors that can change how they interpret font. In this guidance, it is explained that while no font works best for every person, there are some better and worse options to improve readability for users. The document recommended the use of sans-serif fonts and spacing between letters and provided internal points of contact on the topic as well as links to other Government of Canada resources on accessibility. This guidance originated from one of CSE’s internal accessibility guidance documents, which included instructions on how to change fonts when using various software products while at work to improve accessibility on individual accounts or devices.

The procurement of goods, services and facilities

The Procurement team has had an active 2023 incorporating various accessibility pieces into their operations. To begin, as of August 2023, they have implemented mandatory training, specifically Workplace Accommodation Consultation Series: Accessible Procurement (INC1-V35). This training is provided by the Canada School of Public Service as a mandatory requirement in all Performance Agreement Learning Plans for the 2023–2024 fiscal year. This team is also working on a collection of job aids for accessible procurement best practices and aims to have this available for their staff in 2024.

One barrier encountered by this team is employee bandwidth. Operational requirements on this team are extremely demanding, and the development of additional training was not able to be completed in 2023. Another outcome of this barrier has been a hold on the development and delivery of a biannual information sessions on accessible procurement strategies to management. The intention for these information sessions was information and best practice updates on accessibility as it relates to CSE and the broader Government of Canada. Future planning for reinvigorating this project is being discussed.

The design and delivery of programs and services

Stakeholders across CSE are committed to making their programs, services and procedures accessible. The Senior Advisor to the Chief on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is working across business lines to ensure managers are aware of accessibility requirements and obligations across the Government of Canada and how those relate to CSE specifically. The Cyber Centre, which has many external facing clients and partners, will be conducting major reviews of programs and services they deliver in 2024 and 2025. Accessibility in this division of CSE is a top priority, and the Cyber Centre aims to meet or exceed inclusion and accessibility requirements in the content they deliver. Ensuring events are held in both official languages, being mindful of room to manoeuvre between tables, appropriate use of microphones and setting etiquette rules such as the freedom to get up and take a break if needed are all best practices being incorporated into the design and delivery of programs and services. Being a Five Eyes (FVEY) partner, CSE hosts many conferences and gatherings. Hosting in an accessible manner is of primary concern to our department.

In addition, CSE’s Labour Relations team is working on policy and training related to the Directive on the Duty to Accommodate. This team helps CSE meets its legal obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) and the Employment Equity Act (EEA).

It is CSE’s goal to create and maintain a workplace that is inclusive, respectful of differences and barrier free. This includes the opportunity to fully participate in all types of work-related events. CSE will ensure the needs of individuals and groups protected under the CHRA or those who may identify as belonging to designated groups under the EEA are accommodated up to the point of undue hardship. Consultations with stakeholders within the organization will begin in 2024.


Microsoft Word and PowerPoint accessibility tools have been enabled across CSE systems on both unclassified and classified networks. CSE employees have been instructed to use this feature as needed and points of contact are available internally if there are questions about the features available. Teams responsible for corporate information sharing are aware of the need to create documents that meet standardized accessibility requirements. Individual teams are responsible for ensuring documents or presentations are compatible with text to speech, for example, based on their audience.

Course providers at CSE have been instructed to test all online learning courses using Nonvisual Desktop Access (NVDA) screen readers. NVDA is a free and open-source portable screen reader for Microsoft Windows. This technology has been approved for use in CSE unclassified systems. For use on the classified systems, a request must be made. If this happens, the technology will be put through a security review and testing to ensure it meets security standards.

Finally, the Neurodiversity affinity group is working with an external agency to acquire training for CSE employees. This training will provide CSE employees with information they need to support the neurodivergent community. This training will cover topics such as disability and neurodiversity, different labels, diagnoses and identities, autism, ADHD, and how discrimination and misconceptions can be challenged in the workplace.


In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, CSE’s commitment to modify the accessible visitors parking at the Edward Drake Building to be more user-friendly was completed. This process was done in two parts. First, it included a collaboration with external building management partners and CSE corporate teams like Facilities Management to ensure they had an up-to-date awareness of how to accommodate guests requiring parking accessibility assistance. The second part included a review of the Edward Drake Building parkade and front of building guest parking.

It was concluded from this review that the spaces available are compliant with Ontario provincial standards and well over the minimum standard requirement in the parkade. While no additional spaces were added, the parking management group agreed to provide temporary accessible parking in front of the Edward Drake Building if an external visitor (not employee) requires it. Advanced notice and permission from the parking management group is necessary for the accessible parking space in front of the building to be used for more than a few hours (full day or more). All accommodations to date have been met and this process will continue in the future. Additionally, parking is made available to anyone in their third trimester of pregnancy.

We have also added a shuttle service between the Edward Drake Building and the parking lot that is approximately a kilometre from the building. This has made a significant difference to our employees experiencing temporary injuries, chronic pain, or the effects of aging.

For future business planning cycles, the Facilities Management team is having ongoing discussions about accessible parking and transportation requirements for the Edward Drake Building and Vanier campus.


Consultation with internal groups is ongoing. CSE works closely with internal groups and individuals to make any accommodations needed when doing consultations. This can look like:

  • having one-on-one conversations rather than group conversations
  • meeting online rather than in person
  • providing questions well in advance of a consultation to allow for reflection and processing
  • utilizing ASL interpretation services
  • speaking in the official language of choice
  • implementing other methods and tools for accommodation

We strive to make each participant comfortable and equipped with what they need to engage to the fullest.

Groups who contribute to the projects and commitments related to the CSE Accessibility Plan are:

  • Disabilities network – a group that supports and advocates for persons with disabilities at CSE and the unique needs they may have
  • EmbRACE – supports employees from Indigenous and racialized communities
  • Pride Network – supports equality based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression
  • Women in Cyber and Intelligence – supports, advocates for, and offers a community to women working in the fields of cyber and intelligence
  • Neurodiversity group – supports the understanding of neurodiversity at CSE, making recommendations, and taking action to make CSE a more equitable, supportive, and neurodiversity-friendly environment for all. The group provides a safe space for neurodiverse people and allies to communicate their experiences, share information, and provide a support network.
  • Public Service Alliance of Canada Union Local 70654 – works with members to obtain fair treatment and respect in the workplace, employment security, fair pay and benefits, and safe working conditions
  • People Committee – ensures that CSE keeps “an inspired workforce” at its core, as outlined in CSE 2025, our strategic vision

Consultations for projects and commitments will vary depending on the type of work being done. This process includes virtual group discussions over Microsoft Teams (which allows for written and spoken discussions), email correspondence, in-person meetings, and townhalls. To ensure these consultations are accessible to all, agendas and other documents are shared with participants prior to the meetings. Sessions are conducted in both official languages. Furthermore, a sign language interpreter is used on an as-needed basis to support employees who require it. Given that participants work in various teams and facilities across the organization, this method allowed for the greatest participation.

Questions asked during the consultation

In 2023, external CSE consultations were not tracked with as much detail as stated by the Employment and Social Development requirements for progress reporting. This gap was identified and to remediate the issue, business planning will take place to ensure necessary resources are allocated in future years. Between 2024 and 2025, CSE will work to identify priority goals that require external accessibility consultations and when those take place, they will be recorded to meet the ESDC reporting standards. CSE continues to research private industry as well as other Government of Canada departments and programs that would meet the needs of the organization.

Some organizations CSE did consult with in 2023 for various projects are Specialisterne, LiveWorkPlay, and WithYouWithMe. These groups were of particular importance to the Candidate Outreach team and Neurodiversity and Disability affinity group. These specialists were able to help by providing valuable information related to the hiring, onboarding, and retainment of neurodivergent employees. An outcome of collaborating with these partners is that three hiring managers interested in leveraging services to hire a neurodivergent candidate have been identified. Pilot programs for hiring these candidates are an ongoing discussion that will continue into 2024–2025.

CSE will continue to work closely with relevant affinity groups and other internal stakeholders to identify their needs and goals and ensure that any external consultations are with resources and groups that align with the needs of CSE employees.

What we have learned

As CSE continues to grow as an organization, there are many changes that will happen along the way. In 2023, CSE had many lessons learned and we are open to the challenges and solutions this experience continues to bring.

To begin, it has been identified that specialized training related to neurodiversity is an ongoing need for CSE employees that the Canada School of Public Service and other Government of Canada resources do not currently meet. CSE is investigating independent training as well as creating in-house training through our Neurodiversity affinity group. These training pieces would help managers and colleagues relate to neurodivergent employees and set them up for success in the workplace.

Another win for culture and community at CSE has been ASL and QSL lunch and learn sessions. These popular sessions are hosted by a leader in the Disability affinity group and regularly have 10 to 20 participants. Being able to use simple ASL or QSL signs in the workplace has helped to create an inclusive environment and continues to encourage a mindset of acceptance and normality of this method of communication.

CSE has also been able to identify some critical barriers. Barriers related to our hiring and security clearance process, technology use, and physical space are unique to CSE due to the classified environment many of our employees work in. Working in a classified environment means that our security clearance process is rigorous and psychologically demanding. This often proves difficult for neurodivergent candidates. Ongoing research into what changes may be made to improve the process and facilitate the hiring of more neurodivergent candidates is taking place.

In terms of technology, all technology, both hardware and software, must pass security vetting before it is brought into the Edward Drake Building. This means that assistive devices or applications must be vetted before they can be used. This takes time and people resources and, as such, some accommodations can take months or more to process. An example of an assistive technology that is not allowed in a classified environment could be a microphone that is used with a speech to text conversion application. This microphone poses a risk because it may pick up or record classified information. CSE’s security teams are doing ongoing research into what accessibility tools are needed on a priority basis so that they can be vetted and either approved or denied for use in the classified environment. We are also testing “hardened phones” which would enable the use of Bluetooth compatible hearing aids or insulin pumps without posing a security risk to the organization. Some restrictions may still apply, though, and most accommodations require individual review and potential adaptations before they can proceed. The security teams can also work with employees or applicants to reach a compromise when the situation is appropriate.

Lastly, both the Edward Drake Building and the Vanier building are open concept offices. This creates a lot of sound, visual, and motion distractions in the office. Disruptions to concentration are a frequently reported issue, and there are ongoing investigations into solutions to remedy these issues. In addition to this, people who have light, scent, or other sensitivities have also reported challenges with the open concept office space. Some areas in the Edward Drake Building have specific lighting plans, such has dimmed lighting or thicker window coverings to address the issue. For scents, there are several areas with signage designating them as scent-free zones. Longer term solutions are being investigated for both concerns.

Looking forward

An inspired workforce is at the heart of the shared vision for the Communications Security Establishment. It will take every employee contributing to their fullest to achieve CSE’s objectives. As we reflect on our values as an organization and try to abide by the principles of our Accessibility Plan, we recognize that we will not always live up to our intent. Nevertheless, it is our commitment to each other and to Canadians that CSE is a dynamic, innovative, creative, and inclusive organization that is here to protect and advance our shared interests. We recognize the importance of having a culture and work environment that allows anyone to thrive, and the criticality of meeting people where they are as opposed to expecting them to fit one particular box. Enabling participation through accessibility will serve to benefit CSE’s mission.

In 2023, we were able to identify some critical gaps in the production, tracking, and business continuity of the accessibility plan. With that taken into consideration, we are investigating options for updating the goals and commitments of the plan to reflect a more holistic picture of the work being done at CSE. With the help of the Senior Advisor to the Chief on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, we are also exploring the feasibility of creating a dedicated accessibility team. This would ensure continuity with the plan and dedicated support to persons with disabilities at CSE.


In 2023 no feedback was received on the Communications Security Establishment Accessibility Plan 2022–2025. If you would like to provide feedback on this Progress Report or the Accessibility Plan, please review the section How to provide feedback.


Includes anything (physical, architectural, technological, attitudinal, or anything that is based on information or communications or that is the result of a policy or a practice) that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.
Any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment — or a functional limitation — whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.
Employment equity (EE)
Fair representation and distribution of the four designated groups in the workplace. It is accomplished by employment practices that correct and prevent disadvantages in employment for designated groups through positive programs and reasonable accommodations to remove barriers to equitable employment and promotion opportunities.
Affinity and equity groups
These entities are grassroots, employee efforts to bring together colleagues with similar concerns, issues, and interests. They are forums where CSE employees can and do share experiences, identify issues and propose practical actions that can be shared with management or can be implemented directly. These groups are at the core of CSE’s values, including being an organization dedicated to learning from mistakes of the past. They are vehicles for effecting change and are essential partners in being an open, accommodating, transparent and engaged organization.
Neurodiversity affinity group
A CSE affinity group supporting persons who are neurodivergent.
Persons with disabilities
Persons who have a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric, or learning impairment and who:
  • consider themselves to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment
  • believe that an employer or potential employer is likely to consider them to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment.
This includes persons whose functional limitations owing to their impairment have been accommodated in their current job or workplace.
Invisible disabilities
Also known as hidden disabilities or non-visible disabilities, these are disabilities that are not immediately apparent, are typically chronic illnesses and conditions that significantly impair normal activities of daily living. Some examples of invisible disabilities include autism spectrum disorder, depression, and learning and thinking differences such as ADHD and dyslexia.
Voluntary information provided by applicants in appointment processes for statistical purposes related to appointments and in the case of processes targeted to EE groups, to determine eligibility.
Collection of EE information voluntarily by employees, for statistical purposes in analyzing and monitoring the progress of EE groups at CSE and for reporting workforce representation.
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