In 2005, the Government of Ontario enacted the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (“AODA”), which sets out a framework for developing province-wide standards on accessibility. To date, two sets of standards have been created under AODA: (1) the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the “Customer Service Standards”); and (2) the Integrated Accessibility Standards.
Most organizations have already complied with the AODA Customer Service Standards. A number of new deadlines related to the Integrated Accessibility Standards are fast approaching, including reporting deadlines on December 31st. The Integrated Accessibility Standards cover such things as employment, communication, transportation and public spaces. Some of the standards and accompanying deadlines are applicable to organizations of a particular size, while others relate to specific business activities or services.
Organizations with 20 to 49 Employees
1. Reporting Obligations
In accordance with the Customer Service Standards, organizations with 20 to 49 employees must complete and submit an accessibility compliance report to the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure by December 31, 2014. To prepare for the report, organizations should consider the following questions:
- Does your organization comply with the requirements of the customer service standard that came into effect on January 1, 2012?
- Does your organization have policies, practices and procedures about providing goods or services to people with disabilities?
- Have you established and documented a process to receive and respond to feedback from the public about how you provide goods or services to people with disabilities, as well as actions that you will take if you receive a complaint?
- Do you ensure that the following people receive training about providing goods or services to people with disabilities:
- every person who deals with the public or third parties on behalf of your organization, and
- every person who participates in developing your policies, practices and procedures about providing goods or services?
2. Additional Deadlines
Organizations with 20 to 49 employees are required to meet additional standards by January 1, 2015. For instance, they must establish accessibility policies, which should outline how the organization achieves or will achieve accessibility by meeting the requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Standards. Further, organizations that make use of self-service kiosks must also consider accessibility issues when designing, procuring or acquiring such kiosks.
Organizations with 50 or more Employees
1. Reporting Obligations
In accordance with the Customer Service Standards, Organizations with 50 or more employees must complete and submit an accessibility compliance report with the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure by December 31, 2014.
Similarly, beginning on December 31, 2014, and every three years thereafter, organizations will be required to file an accessibility report on their compliance with the Integrated Accessibility Standards.
In filling out these reports, the Government suggests that large organizations consider the same questions as those applicable to organizations with 20 to 49 employees. The Government also suggests that large organizations consider the following additional general questions:
- Do you make your accessibility policies available to the public?
- When asked, do you provide tailored emergency response information for your employees who have disabilities?
- Have you established, implemented, maintained and posted a multi-year accessibility plan?
Additional sample reporting questions are available for organizations that operate in particular industries or offer particular services to the public.
2. Additional Deadlines
Organizations with 50 or more employees are also required to comply with a number of additional standards by January 1, 2015. For instance, they must provide training to all employees, volunteers, individuals who participate in policy-making at the organization, and all other persons who provide goods, services, or facilities on behalf of the organization. The training should relate to requirements under the Integrated Accessibility Standards, as well as Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and should be updated as needed.
Organizations that have processes for receiving and responding to feedback must ensure that the processes are accessible by providing or arranging for accessible formats and communication supports.
In addition to the deadlines falling in December 2014 and January 2015, other standards will come into effect for differently-sized organizations over the coming years. Employers should be aware of these additional obligations.
With thanks to Jennifer Bernardo for her assistance in drafting this blog.