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 is 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 an Innovation Lab results and other consultative research and outcomes.
  4. Educate, using the developed resources through public awareness access and forums.

Resources and Methods

The cornerstone of the program is networking with a broad range of stakeholders who represent the above groups.  Bringing them 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 is provided through the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.
  • Coordinated project implementation is provided through the City of Pickering, Aequum Global Access, and a network of key accessibility professionals.


  • Conduct a public survey to gather input from a wide range of experiences and viewpoints.
  • Pilot a modular Innovation Lab:  A focused virtual group-environment that fosters interaction, collaboration, and creativity – used to decidedly identify key issues and recommend co-designed solutions.
  • Obtain next-level stakeholder input on the Innovation Lab outcomes, with a broader group of identified stakeholders – regionally, provincially, across Canada and internationally.

Outcomes include:

  • A monograph (detailed study) resource for Ontario businesses, community-based organizations, and municipalities 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
      • Resource bibliography and helpful web links.
  • Public Launch Event:  Virtual Half-Day event to bring awareness, provide project outcomes, resources, and provide education on the issues and recommendations. (by March 2021)
  • 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.)
  • An annual formal re-visit of engaged stakeholders to assess progress, current outcomes and further identify needs. (beginning March 2021)

SSAI - Survey

Opinions Wanted

You have a unique opportunity to influence Ontario thinking on Business & Community Access for Service & Support Animals.

Your input is a 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.

Your input is essential to our efforts and tremendously appreciated.


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SSAI - Innovation Lab

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What is an Innovation Lab?

Our Innovation Lab will be accessible, safe, and Virtual!

It will use a focused group of informed, and diverse participants, representing multiple stakeholders with different and sometimes competing perspectives and experiences.

Through an engaging interactive process, an Innovation Lab:

  • Brings together a variety of stakeholders to
  • Work together as a newly defined team.

An Innovation Lab:

  • Enables its participants to work on complex challenges and co-create solutions that no one group or entity could accomplish on their own.
  • Creates a robust whole that goes beyond the sum of its parts.

What an Innovation Lab can do:

  • 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.


To make participation easier, there will be three short virtual meeting modules.  In total, participation would require about 10 hours of a participant’s time, as follows:

  • Session #1 – Orientation

January 28, 2021.  10:30 am – 12:00 pm.

  • Session #2 – Exploration and Ideation

February 4, 2021. 9:30 am– 12:30 pm.

  • Sessions #3 – Implementation Planning

February 18, 2021. 9:30am – 11:30am.

  • In addition, there will be a group exercise (about 2-3 hours).  It takes place between sessions #2 and #3.


Our Virtual Innovation Lab (VIL) is the cornerstone of the Service and Support Animal Initiative (SSAI) – To identify the leading challenges among Ontario businesses, services, municipalities, and other organizations to meet public accessibility for service and support animal users.  The core areas being addressed include:

I. Regulations, Policies & Procedures

II. Emerging Issues/Problems

III. Systemic/Practical Concerns

IV. Education/Awareness & Public Service

Innovation Lab participants will explore and develop solutions to mitigate the challenges and barriers arising in these four areas.

The results of the Innovation Lab will be used to develop a Monograph resource for all identified stakeholders to include:

  • Service & Support Animal Users
  • Businesses & Services
  • Municipalities and other Governance Organizations
  • Community-Based Services
  • Education
  • Service & Support Animal Training Organizations
  • Accessibility & Disability Advocacy Organizations

All stakeholder engagement, including the Innovation Lab, will include members of the above groups as participants in our process.

The Monograph and public forums will help to:

  • Increase awareness
  • Provide access to shared information
  • Offer ongoing opportunities to stay current on the issues and resources

We also plan a Public Launch Event for March 2021, while developing a growing presence of resources on a variety of stakeholder-based websites.


Bring your creative mind and collaborative attitudes to design new and innovative approaches to solve difficult problems.  There is no challenge too big and no idea too small. 

VIL participants will be assigned to a diverse group of stakeholders and will go through structured cycles of exploration, ideation, and implementation.  Each stage advances the VIL, toward effectively building a more accessible community, as follows:

  • Exploration of challenges and barriers, by intensely focusing on the daily lives and functions of all identified stakeholders.
  • Ideation will generate many possible solutions and participants will prioritize and select a barrier or challenge they wish to work on. 
  • Implementation will lead to developing solutions and planning for implementation.

A Zoom virtual meeting platform will be used.  Zoom was chosen for its accessibility, flexibility, and familiarity.  Each registering participant will receive instructions on using Zoom for our VIL.  On-line help will be provided to participants prior to the sessions, when requested or needed.  During the sessions, supportive staff will be available to assist with using the platform to fully participate in the process.


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After registering you will receive next level details and instructions to make this a functional and enjoyable process for everyone.  Accessibility/Accommodations will be asked for and responded to.


PS:  If you haven’t already completed our online survey, please click here to help us kick off a fully prepared VIL.


Thank you, sincerely, from the SSAI Team!