About the Service and Support Animals Initiative (SSAI)

Supporting Organizations

The SSAI is a joint effort, with partners that include:

  • The City of Pickering
  • The Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
  • Aequum Global Access Inc.
  • The Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) of OCAD University
  • and a network of professionals in accessibility, business, and governance.


The SSAI purpose has been to collaboratively:

  1. Identify prominent issues around service and support animals in the community – including challenges to businesses, municipalities, and other client-facing organizations – to include barriers that regularly face users of service animals.
  2. Respond with co-designed recommendations addressing the identified challenges and barriers.
  3. Provide formal resources for stakeholders and the community, as drawn from the Public Survey, Innovation Lab, Secondary Consultations and continued participation with various stakeholder venues. 
  4. Educate, using the developed resources through public awareness access and forums.

Resources and Methods

The cornerstone of the program has been meaningful networking and engagement with a broad range, and large number of stakeholders who represent the

  • business community
  • animal users and user assistants
  • governments & services (municipal, provincial, and federal)
  • support organizations, including those in animal training

The project has brought these stakeholders together in a variety of ways, to identify current issues and collaboratively recommend solutions.  This includes facilitating multiple levels of comprehensive stakeholder input through several consultative opportunities.


  • Initial engagement with the City of Pickering, including City Councillors and the Pickering Accessibility Advisory Committee.
  • An established regional task force of stakeholders to provide initial research, problem identification and early planning.  The group fostered networking among stakeholders from the community, region, GTA, and Ontario.
  • Funding and other support as provided through the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.
  • Coordinated project implementation as provided through the City of Pickering, Aequum Global Access, OCAD-University-IDRC, and a network of key accessibility professionals.


  • Conducted a large public survey to gather input from a wide range of experiences and viewpoints.
  • Implemented a four-part Virtual Innovation Lab:  A focused virtual group-environment that fostered interaction, collaboration, and creativity – used to decidedly identify key issues and recommend co-designed solutions.
  • Obtained next-level stakeholder input on the Innovation Lab outcomes, with a broader group of identified stakeholders – regionally, provincially and across Canada.

Outcomes include:

  • A monograph (detailed study) resource for Ontario businesses, municipalities, and community-based organizations, to include:
    • Issues overview
    • Regulatory overview, to include Ontario, Federal, and other provinces
    • Research and Innovation Lab outcomes
    • Recommendations for:
      • Current best practices for Ontario businesses, municipalities, and other organizations.
      • Further issues identification, clarification, and responses
      • Specific recommendations with details for implementation considerations and collaborative efforts.
  • Public Launch Event: December 15, 2021
    Virtual Half-Day event to bring awareness, provide project outcomes, resources, and provide education on the issues and recommendations.
  • Ongoing resources, updated regularly and shared on a variety of pertinent websites (such as the City of Pickering, the Province of Ontario, representative organizations, etc.)
  • Municipally sponsored workshops to help engage stakeholders in collaborative efforts to implement the specific SSAI recommendations.

SSAI - Survey

The SSAI has provided a unique opportunity for stakeholders to influence Ontario thinking on Business & Community Access for Service & Support Animals.

Open Online Survey

To date , we have collected over 350 responses to a comprehensive online survey culminating with over 54, 000 data points.

Stakeholder input has been vital part of the Service & Support Animal Initiative, to help us:

  • Discover the biggest challenges faced by Ontario businesses, services, municipalities, and other organizations.
  • Identify the greatest barriers to public access for service & support animal users.
  • Generate solutions that help all stakeholders

SSAI - Innovation Lab

Our Virtual Innovation Lab (VIL) was a huge success! Thank you to all the participants that put in their hearts, minds, and generous time. We have also collected secondary consultative input to the VIL outcomes. 

All of the generous and substantive stakeholder input has been included in the project findings and reported in the SSAI Monograph Report.

Why an Innovation Lab?

Through an engaging interactive process, an Innovation Lab brings together a variety of stakeholders to

  • Work together as a newly defined team.
  • Identify & Define current (and future) complex challenges.
  • Prioritize the challenges through a newly shared landscape of critical thinking.
  • Co-design solutions and make recommendations that effectively address the identified challenges.

An Innovation Lab Enables its participants to work on complex challenges and co-create solutions that no one group or entity could have accomplished on their own.

Our Virtual Innovation Lab (VIL) was designed as one of the cornerstones of the Service and Support Animal Initiative (SSAI) – Stakeholders identifying the leading challenges among Ontario businesses, services, municipalities, and other organizations to meet public accessibility for service and support animal users.  The core issue areas we addressed included:

  1. Regulations, Policies & Procedures
  2. Emerging Issues/Problems
  3. Systemic/Practical Concerns
  4. Education/Awareness & Public Service

Innovation Lab participants explored, learned together from each others perspectives, and developed solutions to help mitigate the above challenges and barriers.

How the VIL Worked:

Through four modular events, VIL participants worked among their diverse group of stakeholders going through structured cycles of exploration, ideation, and implementation. Each stage advanced the VIL toward effectively building a more accessible community, through:

  • Exploration of challenges and barriers, having intensely focused on the daily lives and functions of all identified stakeholders.
  • Ideation generated many possible solutions. Participants then prioritized the ideas to select the barrier or challenge they wanted to work on.
  • Implementation involved working in individual teams to develop solutions and plans for implementation – then share with the entire VIL group.

 The SSAI Monograph & Poster Resources

SSAI Monograph

From the results of our wide variety of stakeholder engagements and consultations, we have developed a single source document, with background, information, and resources, documenting the SSAI process and its recommendations.  The Monograph is core to facilitating outreach to businesses, municipalities, and other community service organizations and share the resources and tools developed. Areas covered in the Monograph include:

  • SSAI Project Background

  • Overview of Service & Support Animals:  Roles, History & Challenges

  • Regulatory Overview:  Federal and other Provincial Efforts/Regs

  • Current & Emerging Challenges Overview

  • A Collaborative Stakeholder Approach to Challenges & Solutions

  • Research and Virtual Innovation Lab outcomes

  • Recommendations for:
    • Current best practices for businesses, municipalities, and other organizations.
    • Further problem identification, clarification, and recommended responses.

Download our Accessible Public Reports

Poster Resources

In addition to the SSAI Monograph, a set of four resource posters are offered to the public. These resources provide usable tools to help guide municipalities, and other organizations to collaboratively implement any of the specific SSAI recommendations. They are available in English and French.

Download our Accessible Public Resources