Special thanks to Eloise Somera (articling student in our Toronto office) for co-authoring.
Before the end of 2023, and every three years thereafter, all businesses or non-profits with twenty or more employees in Ontario must confirm their ongoing compliance with the accessibility requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and submit an accessibility compliance report to the Ontario Government. The same reporting requirement applies to designated public sector organizations, but they must submit an accessibility compliance report every two years.
Failure to submit an accessibility compliance report can lead to significant penalties and fines by the Ontario Ministry of Labour (the Ministry).
AODA’s accessibility compliance report is intended to be an organization’s self-assessment of its compliance with Ontario’s accessibility requirements, including a confirmation that the organization is complying with the Accessibility Standards. The types of questions a business must answer will depend on what organization category it falls into (i.e., business or non-profit, designated public sector, or Ontario public service/Ontario Legislative Assembly). This is because different businesses are subject to different accessibility requirements under AODA. (Electronic copies of the applicable form can be downloaded on the government’s website here.)
As a business, non-profit, or a designated public sector organization, the organization can expect to answer questions regarding whether it:
- employs any person with disabilities for whom it has provided individualized workplace emergency response information;
- provides appropriate training on AODA, which includes the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation;
- provides appropriate training on Ontario’s Human Rights Code as it pertains to people with disabilities; and
- has implemented a multi-year accessibility plan, and if yes, whether that plan is posted on the organization’s website, and whether it is updated at least once every five (5) years.
Businesses may also be asked about the accessibility of its online content. While this requirement applies primarily to public-facing websites, if an employee requests that an employer make internal website content accessible to them in an alternate format, such as large print, availability of audio, etc., then the employer must work with the employee to meet their needs.
Once the report is submitted, a business may be audited by the Ministry to verify compliance. However, if a business indicates that it does not meet all of its applicable accessibility requirements, it will be instructed to come into compliance with AODA, and contacted by the Ministry’s staff to assist with necessary steps towards compliance.
- Certain Ontario businesses must submit an accessibility compliance report to the Ontario Government by December 31, 2023. Non-compliance with the reporting requirement could result in daily penalties in the amount of $100,000 for a corporation/organization and $50,000 for directors and officers of a corporation/organization.
- As part of this report, employers must answer questions regarding whether they have implemented an accessibility plan, and whether they provide training to their employees on AODA and the Human Rights Code regarding treatment of individuals with disabilities. Some employers are also required to have an AODA policy. Failure to have the proper policies in place, and having conducted the proper training can lead to civil liabilities beyond the immediate fines, particularly for employers with employees who have disabilities or medical conditions which require accommodation.
- Now is a good time for Ontario businesses to review their accessibility practices to ensure they are compliant, including ensuring that they have the appropriate accessibility policies and practices in place, where necessary.
For assistance complying with your employer obligations under AODA, please contact a member of our team.