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AODA Compliance in 2015: Are You Up to Date?

by Yosie Saint-Cyr

Measures under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act develop, implement, and enforce accessibility standards with the aim of achieving accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, information, accommodation, facilities, employment, buildings structures and premises in the whole province of Ontario by 2025.

Obligated organization in Ontario need to be aware of their ever-evolving obligations under the AODA, and should be developing a strategy to ensure compliance now and in the future. Are you up to date with your compliance under the AODA?

Let’s see!

When the Accessible Customer Service Standard went into effect, all organizations in the private and non-profit sector that provide goods and services in Ontario, with at least one employee must have had the following requirements in place since January 1, 2012:

  • Establish policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services to persons with disabilities.
  • Use reasonable efforts to ensure that policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.
  • Establish a policy on allowing individuals to use their own personal assistive devices to access your goods and use your services and on any assistive devices your organization offers to enable persons with disabilities to access your goods and use your services.
  • Establish methods and ensure your employees communicate with a person with a disability in a manner that takes into account his or her disability.
  • Allow persons with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animal on your premises that are open to the public, unless the animal is excluded by another law. If a service animal is excluded by law, use other measures to provide services to the person with a disability.
  • Permit persons with disabilities who use a support person to bring that person with them while accessing goods or services . Where admission fees are charged, provide notice ahead of time on what admission, if any, would be charged for a support person of a person with a disability.
  • Provide notice when facilities or services that persons with disabilities rely on to access or use your goods or services are temporarily disrupted.
  • Train staff, volunteers, contractors and any other individual who interact with the public or other third parties on your behalf on your customer service standard policies and requirements as outlined in the customer service standard.
  • Train staff, volunteers, contractors and any other individual who are involved in developing your policies, practices and procedures on the provision of goods or services on the requirements as as outlined in the customer service standard.
  • Establish a process for individuals to provide feedback on how you provide goods or services to persons with disabilities and how you will respond to any feedback and take action on any complaints. Make the information about your feedback process readily available to the public.

If an organization prepares emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and makes the information available to the public, the organization is required to provide this information in an accessible format upon request. In addition, all employers must provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees who have a disability, if the disability is such that the information is necessary and the employer is aware of the need for such accommodation. The compliance deadline for this requirement was January 1, 2012.

Additional requirements for organizations with 20 or more employees:

  • Document in writing all your policies, practices and procedures for providing accessible customer service and meet other document requirements set out in the standard.
  • Notify customers that documents required under the customer service standard are available upon request.
  • When giving documents required under the customer service standard to a person with a disability, provide the information in a format that takes into account the person’s disability.

Therefore if you met all the above requirements, organizations with 20 or more employees were required to file compliance reports in relation to the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service on or before December 31, 2012.

If you have not yet complied, for example, because you think that you are an organization that is exempt because you do not receive customers on your premises. Don’t fool yourself, there is no exemptions; the definition of customer is very broad and includes your vendors, suppliers, consultants, among others.

Since 2012, new requirements under the AODA are being rolled out on an annual basis for both large (50+ employees) and small (1 to 49 employees) organizations in the private and nonprofit sectors.

The Integrated Standards include standards relating to employment, information and communications, transportation along with standards with respect to the design of public spaces under the built environment. The Integrated Standards also contain certain general obligations regarding accessibility policies and plans and further employee training. Small private sector organizations did not have any upcoming compliance obligations under the Integrated Standards for January 1, 2014, but large organizations did.

  • By January 1, 2014, large organizations must have developed and implemented accessibility policies and a multi-year accessibility plan describing how the organization will achieve accessibility and compliance with the Integrated Standards. The document must include a statement of commitment, and be posted on the organization’s website.
  • By January 1, 2014, large organizations must have regard to accessibility issues when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosk.
  • By January 1, 2014, large organizations’ Internet websites must generally meet the specifications of WCAG 2.0 Level A, but only if the website was created or underwent a significant refresh after January 1, 2012. By January 1, 2021, all Internet websites must meet the specifications of WCAG 2.0 Level AA (with certain limited exceptions).

On or before December 31, 2014, obligated organizations with 20 or more employees must file a second report informing the ADO that they are still complying and achieving accessibility under the Customer Service Standard.

By January 31, 2014, organizations with fifty or more employees must in addition report that they have Accessibility Policies in place and that a Multi-Year Accessibility Plan has been developed to help meet the requirements under the Integrated Standards.

Subsequently, large organizations will be required to file an accessibility report under the Integrated Regulation for all three standards, information and communication, employment and transportation, every three years.

AODA Compliance Update: January 1, 2015, Requirements

Adding to those AODA requirements under the Customer Service and general requirements under Integrated Accessibility Standards that are already in force, effective January 1, 2015, a number of additional requirements come into force.

  • By January 1, 2015, all employees and others providing services on behalf of a large organization must receive training on the Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities and the Integrated Standards.
  • By January 1, 2015, large organizations must ensure that their feedback processes can be administered in accessible formats and with communication supports, upon request.
  • By January 1, 2015, small organizations must ensure have developed and implemented accessibility policies describing how the organization will achieve accessibility and compliance with the Integrated Standards. These policies do not have to be in writing, however, how are you going to communicate these policies to the public or employees if they are not in writing? Something to think about!
  • By January 1, 2015, small organizations must have regard to accessibility issues when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosk.
  • Producers (publishers) and educational libraries must under the Information and Communication standard that is part of the Integrated Standard, whether large or small must make conversion ready educational textbooks. Exceptions do apply.

The government has divided the built environment into two parts, public spaces and buildings. The building standards are part of Ontario’s Building Code and will come into force in January 2015. The amended requirements will substantially enhance accessibility in newly constructed buildings and existing buildings that are to be extensively renovated. Changes to the Building Code is being phased in to allow the building owners, building design industry and contractors, architectural, and ergonomic/accessible design consultants to plan for and adjust to new requirements. These amendments to the Building Code work together with the Design of Public Spaces standard to finalize the government’s commitment to an accessibility standard for the built environment.

Organizations including law firms are cautioned to comply with AODA and its regulations as significant penalties can be imposed for non-compliance.

Reproduced from http://www.slaw.ca/2014/10/09/aoda-compliance-in-2015-are-you-up-to-date/