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Inclusive Design: Thrive Health’s AA Compliant Canada COVID-19 App

February 19, 2021

- 5 Minute Read

Roughly 6.2 million Canadians experience one or more disabilities, according to a 2017 Stats Canada survey [1].

This number works out to approximately one in five Canadians, and the variety of disabilities spans physical, sensory, cognitive, and mental health-related. While the focus of the survey is on disabled Canadians’ access to employment and social services, this figure also highlights the need for accessible information channels within the context of COVID-19. Given how the pandemic has disproportionately affected aging populations, and how this survey notes that “the prevalence of disability increase[s] with age,” it’s crucial that all Canadians, regardless of the obstacles they face, have access to the same health information and guidelines from public health.

Over the past year, Thrive Health has been developing and improving the Canada COVID-19 App in partnership with Health Canada - and from the beginning, making the app accessible has been at the forefront of all conversations. The importance of accessibility factored into every aspect and iteration of the app, from baseline code to UX/UI design to written content. In December 2020, Thrive completed a sweeping app upgrade centered around increasingly accessible design ensuring that the app could continue to support all users, regardless of what challenges they faced.

“Health Canada did a great job of setting an example for the kind of priority that accessibility should be given. While our designers were aware of the standards that came with accessible design, Health Canada inspired a new level of accessibility throughout the Thrive product suite.” - Dylan Otruba, one of Thrive’s Lead Developers.

While there are a wide variety of sensory disabilities that accessible design can help support - ie. visual, motor/mobility, auditory, cognitive, seizures - it also helps those individuals with socioeconomic and geographic limitations, such as language barriers, location, and internet access [2]. Thrive Health’s goal is to make important health information accessible for all Canadians, and the Canada COVID-19 App was developed to offer users the latest public health guidance - regardless of whether or not they are experiencing symptoms - as well as resources for keeping themselves healthy. In other words, the app was purpose-built to give Canadians access to important information no matter which province or territory they live in, or accessibility challenges they face.

To ensure that the December 2020 app upgrade continued to reflect this mission, Thrive’s engineering and design teams followed the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s official Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The W3C works collaboratively with organizations worldwide to provide a global standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of both individuals and governments. The WCAG are organized around four leading principles: perceptibility, operability, ease of use, and robustness. Learn more about these principles here [3].

Currently, the Government of Canada is building a $22M Accessible Technology Program for both hardware and software solutions so that more accessible tools like the Canada COVID-19 App will be available for Canadians [4]. Alongside our partnership with Health Canada, Thrive also engaged the Neil Squire Society - Canada’s leader in Assistive Technology - to make sure that all app upgrade plans aligned with the needs of disabled populations [5].

“As a person who has worked in the accessibility space for several decades, I found Thrive Health’s seriousness and responsiveness refreshing. They are treating the topic of accessibility with eager interest and respect.” - Ryan Thomas, Senior Software Developer from Neil Squire.

Thomas and his team have been working on accessibility implementations since 1984, and have provided Thrive’s development team with valuable input on over 500 support requests. The feedback from Neil Squire continues to support Thrive’s design collaborations with Health Canada as we evolve the Canada COVID-19 App to be increasingly accessible and relevant.

“Even though the app is AA compliant, what we’ve learned throughout this process is that accessible design is never done. We know that accessibility is a primary feature of a quality health information app, and it will be a central focus point for our development team moving forward.” - Dylan Otruba, one of Thrive’s Lead Developers.

The Canada COVID-19 app is no longer active. To continue accessing the latest data and guidance please visit canada.ca/covid-19

Works Cited

  1. Morris, S., Fawcett, G., Brisebois, L., & Hughes, J. (2018, November 28). Canadian Survey on Disability Reports A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017. Stats Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2018002-eng.htm
  2. Interaction Design Foundation. (2020). What is Accessibility? Accessibility Your Constantly Updated Definition of Accessibility and Collection of Topical Content and Literature. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/accessibility
  3. Henry, S. L. (2020, August 17). Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview. Web Accessibility Initiative WAI: Strategies, Standards, Resources to Make the Web Accessible to People with Disabilities. https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/
  4. Minister of Innovation Science and Economic Development. (2019, November 22). Accessible Technology Program. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/118.nsf/eng/home
  5. Neil Squire. (2021). We use technology, knowledge, and passion to empower Canadians with disabilities. About Neil Squire. https://www.neilsquire.ca/

Calgary (June 6th-10th):

  • A fun and informative tour of the University of Calgary's Simulation Health Center, featuring innovative, simulative technology for health professionals to improve patient outcomes
  • Cesar, a member of our Customer Solutions team, preparing everyone a special Colombian breakfast with arepas, sausages, eggs and hot chocolate
  • Friends, families and colleagues gathering for an outdoor summer BBQ

Toronto (June 13th-18th):

  • Gathering together to work in the Four Points by Sheraton Toronto Airport
  • Enjoying dinner at Amsterdam Brewhouse with a beautiful ocean view
  • Joining the Integra Health team for a tour of their clinic and wellness services, such as massages and skin treatments
  • Gathering with our customers and partners for an event filled with fun, socializing, and delicious food and cocktails by the pool

Vancouver (June 27th-30th):

  • Working together at our office space downtown with different teams coming together, all while enjoying delicious breakfast, fresh coffee and lots of snacks!
  • Company town hall: discussing our progress so far this year, the road ahead, and our goals, giving us time to reflect and look to the future
  • Wrapping up the week with a picnic in Flora's Field, Kitsilano while enjoying the sun, food, drinks, and friendly competitions

Monday, March 28

Hosted by our Development team

- Our inaugural Thrive Health ping-pong tournament

- Welcome dinner for our team members who flew in for the week

Tuesday, March 29

Hosted by our Product and Marketing teams

-Volunteering at a local women’s shelter, and preparing care packages for people experiencing homelessness

-Sushi-making workshop! M Sushi stopped by our Thrive office and prepared an amazing assortment of sushi for our team, while giving us the opportunity to design our own rolls - and even use the blow-torch.

Wednesday, March 30

Hosted by our Customer Success, Support, and Solutions teams

-Parfait Breakfast Bar to fuel us up for the day ahead

-Coaching workshop for our leadership and management teams, to provide us with new and exciting ways to think about growing our individual teams and continuously offering new leadership opportunities

-Commercial-themed cocktail hour and pizza night, followed by a stroll at beautiful Stanley Park

Thursday, March 31

Hosted by our Admin & Strategic Initiatives teams

-Coming together as a team for a mindfulness session hosted by Peak Wellness that gave us time to destress, check in with ourselves, and be reminded of the importance of getting in touch with our emotions

Friday, April 1

Hosted by our Executive team

-Company fireside chat, where we discussed our vision, goals, and key initiatives for the remainder of 2022, giving us time to celebrate in all of our exciting work ahead

-Ending off the week with a pub social at Colony Granville, featuring a (mildly) competitive bocce tournament!

Our Q1 2022 Onsite Week not only brought a lot of joy and laughter, but gave us the opportunity to come together as a team and connect after a long period of working remotely during the pandemic. We are already looking forward to our next onsite week, and continuing to grow the connections and friendships we have formed.

Monday, March 28

Hosted by our Development team

- Our inaugural Thrive Health ping-pong tournament

- Welcome dinner for our team members who flew in for the week