Check-up on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005: Is your organization complying?

February 29, 2012 | Laura Cassiani

On January 1, 2012, the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the “Customer Service Regulation”) and some sections of the Integrated Accessibility Standards, both made pursuant to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “AODA”), came into force for private sector organizations in Ontario with one or more employees that provide goods and services to the general public or to other businesses.  

Is your organization complying?

Pursuant to the Customer Service Regulation, “large organizations” (those with 20 or more employees) are required to have policies, practices and procedures in writing and available to be produced upon request and in a format that that takes into account the disability of the person requesting the document. The Customer Service Regulation does not require these employers to make these documents available in any format requested. Rather, organizations are required to provide a format that takes in to consideration the individual’s disability.  

Small organizations (those with at least one but less than 20 employees) are required to have procedures in place to ensure accessibility in respect of the provision of goods and services. There is no requirement that these procedures be made available to the public or any other party on request.

All organizations are required to train personnel who interact with the public or other businesses on behalf of the organization and those who are involved in the development of the AODA policies and procedures.

The Customer Service Regulation also requires the following:   

  • Policies and procedures must address the use of assistive devices.  
  • Training must include the following: a) a review of the purposes of the AODA and the requirements of the regulation and b) training on how to interact and communicate with persons with various types of disability; how to interact with persons with disabilities who use an assistive device or require the assistance of a guide dog or other service animal or the assistance of a support person; how to use equipment or devices available on the provider’s premises or otherwise provided by the provider that may help with the provision of goods or services to a person with a disability; and what to do if a person with a particular type of disability is having difficulty accessing the provider’s goods or services.
  • Organizations must permit a person with a disability who is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal to enter the premises and have the guide dog or other service animal with him or her at all times, unless the animal is otherwise excluded for other lawful purposes.
  • Organizations must permit a “support person” who accompanies a person with a disability to access the premises with the person with a disability and to remain with that person at all times while on the company’s premises.
  • Organizations must establish a “feedback” process and this process must permit feedback to be given in various forms (in person, by phone, in writing, e-mail or in other form).
  • Large organizations must file an accessibility report annually and organizations must make this document available to the public.

In addition to the customer service standard requirements, organizations should also note that some sections of the Integrated Accessibility Standards (“Integrated Accessibility Regulation”) have already come into effect for private sector employers.

As of January 1, 2012, pursuant to the Integrated Accessibility Regulation, all employers in the province to whom the AODA applies are required to comply with the “workplace emergency response information” requirements of the regulation. That section requires employers to provide individualized workplace emergency response information to disabled employees where necessary and where the employer is aware of the need for accommodation in workplace emergency situations. The Integrated Accessibility Regulation also requires employers to review the individualized workplace emergency response information, (a) when the employee moves to a different location in the organization; (b) when the employee’s overall accommodation needs or plans are reviewed; and (c) when the employer reviews its general emergency response policies.  This may be something that your organization is already doing as part of its accommodation, workplace safety or emergency preparedness practices. Your organization should review the requirements set out in the Integrated Accessibility Regulation to ensure your current practices are in compliance.

In addition, organizations that prepare emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and make this information available to the public are required to make this information available in “an accessible format or with appropriate communication supports” upon request.  Organizations are required to comply with this requirement as of January 1, 2012.  

It is imperative that your organization take proactive steps now to ensure compliance with the AODA and regulations that are currently in effect. 

Disclaimer

This blog sets out a variety of materials relating to the law to be used for educational and non-commercial purposes only; the author(s) of this blog do not intend the blog to be a source of legal advice. Please retain and seek the advice of a lawyer and use your own good judgement before choosing to act on any information included in the blog. If you choose to rely on the materials, you do so entirely at your own risk.