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Guide to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Foreword

A Guide to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 is not
legal advice. It is not a legal document. Its purpose is to provide information
only about what is in the Act and where to look in the Act for information on
specific topics.

Note: The original document is no longer on the Government site but this should still be of some use.

The guide gives an overview of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities
Act, 2005 (AODA). If there is any conflict between the Act and this guide,
the Act is always the final authority.

In this guide, you will find a summary of what is in the AODA. At the end of
each section, you will find numbers in square brackets "[ _ ]". The
numbers
tell you where to look in the Act to find exactly what it says about the topic.
There is also an index for the Act at the end of the guide.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

The purpose of the AODA is to develop, implement and enforce standards for
accessibility related to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation
and buildings. The target date for reaching this goal is no later than January
1, 2025.

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Some Words You Need to Know in Reading the AODA

Accessibility Directorate of Ontario:
The organization within the Ontario government that is responsible for day-to-day administration of the AODA.
accessibility report:
A report that a person or organization must file if an accessibility standard applies to the person or organization.
accessibility standard:
An accessibility standard is a rule that persons and organizations have to follow to identify, remove and prevent barriers.
barrier:
Anything that keeps a person with a disability from participating fully in society because of his or her disability.
comply:
Another word for “obey”. A person or organization covered by the AODA must comply with the Act.
deputy minister:
The senior public servant reporting directly to the minister responsible for the AODA.
director:
The person the government appoints to see that the AODA is carried out. His or her responsibilities are listed in the AODA and its regulations.
disability:
The AODA uses the Ontario Human Rights Code definition of “disability” which is:
  • any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device
  • a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability
  • a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language
  • a mental disorder, or
  • an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (“handicap”).
filing fee:
The administrative charge that a person or organization must pay to appeal an order under the AODA to the tribunal.
incentive agreement:
Under the AODA, an incentive is something that encourages a person or organization to do more than the Act requires to identify and remove barriers for people with disabilities. The incentive agreement sets out what the person or organization will do and the “incentive” that the government will provide. The “incentive” might be filing fewer reports or different kinds of reports.
mediation:
Under the AODA, mediation means a process where a neutral person (a “mediator”) helps parties to the tribunal who disagree about a director’s order to try to reach an agreement and, if they do, not have a tribunal impose a settlement on them.
minister:
The Ontario government cabinet minister who is responsible for the AODA.
notice:
A document that the director sends under the power of the AODA to let a person or organization know that an order will be sent if the person or organization does not comply with the Act. The notice also sets out a period within which the person or organization can send information on why the director should not issue the order and provides other information to the person or organization on what is expected to comply with the Act.
order:
A direction made under the power of the AODA that tells a person or organization what it must do or not do to comply with the Act.
organization:
Any public or private sector organization in Ontario.
person:
In the AODA, “person” means an individual or a corporation.
prescribed:
Anything that the AODA lists or contains in its regulations.
regulations:
A rule of a legal nature that the Cabinet, with approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, makes and approves under the power of the AODA. Regulations
explain how the AODA is put into practice. Regulations also include more details about the Act. On the recommendation of the minister, the Lieutenant Governor in Council can make proposed accessibility standards into regulations.
standard:
In the AODA, a “standard” sets out what a person or organization must do to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities to whom the standard applies.
tribunal:
One or more people who will decide appeals of director’s orders.

The AODA applies to every person and every organization in Ontario, including
the Ontario government [PART I, Sections 1- 3 and PART II, Sections 4 -5].

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Accessibility Standards

Establishing Standards

The AODA’s regulations establish the accessibility standards. An accessibility
standard ("the standard") applies only to a person or organization
that does
at least one of the following activities:

  • provides goods, services or facilities
  • employs people in Ontario
  • offers accommodation
  • owns or occupies a building, a structure or a premises
  • plays a part in a business or other activity that the regulations
    may identify.

The standard gives information about how to identify and remove barriers and
a time schedule for meeting the standard [PART III, section 6].

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Developing Accessibility Standards

The minister invites people to sit on standards development committees to create
proposed accessibility standards. Three groups of people are on every committee:

  • people with disabilities or people who represent people with disabilities
  • representatives from organizations or groups to whom the standard
    will apply (for example, a specific industry or group of people)
  • representatives from Ontario government ministries that have responsibilities
    that relate to the affected industries or groups of people.

The standards development committees set a series of proposed targets (proposed
accessibility standards) for what needs to happen to make Ontario accessible
by 2025. These targets can be policies, measures, practices or other requirements
that need to be met to identify, prevent and remove barriers. The committee
has to identify the classes of persons or organizations that need to achieve
these targets. The committee also proposes how long classes of persons or
organizations have to achieve the targets. The length of time to reach a specific
target must be no more than five years. To decide what length of time
should be set for the targets, the committee can look at economic or other factors.
Different classes of persons or organizations may have different timelines.
Every five years or less, there will be a review of the standards.

Once a standards development committee creates a proposed accessibility standard
(targets), it recommends it to the minister. Members of the public have
an opportunity to give comments and suggestions on the proposed standard. The
minister reviews the committee’s recommendations for the proposed accessibility
standard. Then, the minister decides whether to recommend that the proposed
standard be made into a regulation under the Act.

Within at least five years of making a standard into a regulation, the minister
asks a standards development committee to review it. The committee makes
recommendations to the minister about whether to change the standard or develop
a new one. Members of the public have an opportunity to review the recommendations
of a standards development committee. This happens before the minister considers
recommending to the government whether a revised or a new standard should
become a regulation. [PART III, sections 7 – 12].

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Complying with Standards and Reports

Persons or organizations that a standard covers must comply with the standard.
They must also file a report each year or the director may determine a different
schedule for filing the reports. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario recommends
and the minister decides what must be in the report and how to present
the information. These reports tell how the person or organization is complying
with the standard. Someone who is in an official position of authority
in the organization must "certify" that the report is accurate [PART
III, sections 13 – 17].

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Inspections

Under the AODA, the deputy minister has the power to appoint inspectors. The
inspector’s job is to see if persons and organizations are meeting the
accessibility
standards and/or complying with the Act and its regulations.

The AODA lists all of the activities that an inspector can carry out to determine
if the organization is complying with a standard. For example, inspectors
can make an inspection at any time during regular business or daylight hours.
They have the power to ask for anything or speak with anyone about anything
that relates to the inspection. They may also ask someone who has expert knowledge
on a topic (e.g., an architect) to help with an inspection.

An inspector can also apply to a justice of the peace to issue a search warrant
if it is needed.

It is an offence for anyone to try to prevent an inspection in accordance with
a search warrant, refuse to answer questions, provide false or misleading
information, or deliberately not give information during the course of an inspection
[PART IV, sections 18 – 20].

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Director’s Orders and Administrative Penalties

The director may follow up with a person or organization that does not file
a report or is not doing what the AODA requires it to do. The director may issue
an order to a person or organization. The order may direct the person or organization
to provide more information on its implementation of the standard
or to file the report(s) that the Act requires. The director first sends a notice
of the order. The person or organization can send the director information
about why the director should not issue an order. This must happen within 30
days from receiving the notice from the director. In some cases, the director
may extend the time limit to respond beyond 30 days.

The director may also issue an order requiring the payment of an administrative
penalty. For example, this may occur if the person or organization has not
or will not comply with the Act. The director sets the amount of the administrative
penalty. There is an opportunity for the person or organization to
give a written explanation about why the director should not ask for this penalty.
This must happen within 30 days of receiving the order. In some cases,
the time limit to respond may be more than 30 days.

If the person or organization does not obey the order to pay the administrative
penalty, the director may file the order with a local registrar of the Superior
Court of Justice. If this happens, it may be enforced as if it was an order
of the court [Part V, sections 21- 25].

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Appeals to Tribunal

Under the power of the AODA, a tribunal hears appeals of directors’ orders.

A person or organization has up to 15 days to appeal a director’s order.
There is a filing fee. In almost all cases, the tribunal will hold a written
hearing.
This means that the person or organization appealing the order and the director
("the parties") do not appear before the tribunal. Instead, they send
their
arguments to the tribunal in writing. The tribunal makes its decision and sends
its decision to the parties. The tribunal can agree with, change or remove
a director’s order.

If one or both of the parties convince the tribunal that there is a good reason
to do so, it will hear from the parties in person.

The tribunal may try to get the parties to settle the disagreement through
mediation. This depends on whether both parties agree to mediation and it is
in the public interest [PART VI, sections 26 – 28].

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Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees

The council of every municipality with 10,000 people or more must establish
an accessibility advisory committee. If the municipality had a similar committee
before the AODA became the law, that committee should continue. Municipalities
with less than 10,000 people may either establish an accessibility advisory
committee or continue a similar committee that existed before the AODA became
the law. Two or more municipalities may decide to set up a joint committee,
instead of each one having its own.

The majority of the municipal accessibility advisory committee members must
be people with disabilities. The committees give advice to the municipal council
to help it carry out its responsibilities under the AODA [PART VII, section
29].

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Administration

Director and Inspectors

The deputy minister appoints the director and the inspectors. [PART VII, Section
30 and PART IV, Section 18].

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Accessibility Standards Advisory Council

The minister establishes the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. The
Council gives advice to the minister about:

  • the process for developing accessibility standards
  • progress made by the standards development committees
  • accessibility reports prepared under the AODA
  • public information programs to support and educate people and organizations
    about the Act
  • anything else about the Act that the minister directs.

A majority of the Council’s members are people with disabilities.

From time to time, the minister may ask the Council to hold public consultations.
The minister may also ask the Council for reports [PART VIII, section
31].

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Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

The organization within the Ontario government that is responsible for day-to-day
administration of the AODA.

The functions of the Accessibility Directorate include:

  • giving advice to the minister
  • providing support to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council
    and to standards development committees
  • coordinating consultations
  • conducting research
  • providing information to the public
  • carrying out any other activities related to the AODA that the minister
    requests [PART VIII, section 32].

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Incentive Agreements

Under the AODA, an incentive is something that encourages a person or organization
to do more than the Act requires to identify and remove barriers for
people with disabilities.

The minister can enter into an incentive agreement with a person or organization.
These incentive agreements may set out what the person or organization
will do and the "incentive" that the government will provide. The
"incentive" might be filing fewer reports or different kinds of reports.

An inspector may determine if the person or organization is complying with
the agreement. There are penalties for not fulfilling an incentive agreement
[PART IX, section 33].

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General

Delegation and Documents

The minister can delegate ministerial powers under the AODA to the director
or to other ministry employees.

Although the Act says that certain documents that the minister, director or
tribunal issue must be in a written format (e.g., a director’s order),
if a
person with a disability or someone on that person’s behalf asks to have
these written documents in an alternate format, he or she will receive it in
an
alternate format within a reasonable time period.

AODA notices, orders or other documents will be given or served: by personal
delivery, a mail delivery method that can be confirmed, or by fax or e-mail
and only if the person receiving it has access to a fax machine or e-mail.

Personal delivery of notices or orders go to:

  • the mayor, warden, reeve, chief officer or clerk of a municipality
    if it is a notice or an order for a municipality
  • a director or officer of a corporation or the manager, secretary
    or other person seen to be in charge of a branch office of a corporation
  • a partner or person in charge of the office of the partnership
  • for any other organization, a person who is apparently in charge
    of an office or place where the organization does business [PART X, Sections
    34 – 36].

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Offences

It is an offence to:

  • provide false or misleading information to a director or in an accessibility
    report
  • fail to comply with an order made under the AODA
  • block or fail to cooperate with an inspection
  • intimidate, coerce, penalize or discriminate against someone for
    seeking enforcement of the AODA, cooperating with an inspection or providing
    information as part of an inspection.

There are fines for persons or organizations convicted of an offence under
the AODA. The fines are:

  • up to $50,000 for each and every day or part day that an offence
    happens
  • for a corporation, up to $100,000 for each and every day or part
    day that an offence happens.

All directors and/or officers of a corporation must take all reasonable care
to prevent the corporation from committing an offence. Failure to do so is
an offence. The directors and/or officers of a corporation are liable to a fine
of up to $50,000 for each and every day or part day that the offence happens
[PART X, section 37].

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Conflict with Other Laws

If there is a conflict between the AODA (including its accessibility standards
or its other regulations) and any other provincial law, the final authority
is the law that gives people with disabilities the most access to participating
fully in Ontario in the areas of goods, services, facilities, employment,
accommodation, buildings, structures or premises [PART X, Section 38].

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Regulations

The Lieutenant Governor in Council has the power to make the AODA regulations.
This includes but is not limited to regulations about how much time that
standards development committees have to develop proposed standards, reporting,
making accessibility reports public, the appointments of inspectors, administrative
penalties, fees and exemptions from the Act. For some types of draft regulations,
the public must have 45 days to give comments to the minister.

The accessibility standards may group persons and organizations that the AODA
covers. This grouping might be based on the number of employees, annual revenue,
type of industry, economic sector, and/or the size of buildings, structures
or premises [PART X, Section 39].

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Annual Report

The minister, through Cabinet, gives the Legislative Assembly of Ontario a
report every year. The report has information on the implementation and effectiveness
of the AODA [PART X, Section 40].

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Reviewing the Act

There will be regular, complete reviews of the AODA. Within four years of
the Act becoming the law in Ontario, there will be a review. The Lieutenant
Governor
in Council will appoint a person to conduct the review. That person will report
the findings and recommendations to the minister.

The person doing the review will consult with the public, particularly people
with disabilities. The minister, through Cabinet, will give the Legislative
Assembly the report. From then on, there will be a review every three years
[PART X, Section 41].

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Index to the AODA

This index lists the main topics in the Act and the parts and section numbers
where they appear in the AODA.

  • Accessibility advisory committees (municipal), PART VII, Section
    29
  • Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, PART VIII, Section 32
  • Accessibility report, PART III, Section 14
  • Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, PART VIII, Section 31
  • Accessibility standards established by regulation, PART III, Section
    6
  • Annual report, PART X, Section 40
  • Appeals to tribunal, PART VI, Section 27
  • Application (of the AODA), PART II, Section 4
  • Assistance for standards development committees, PART III, Section
    12
  • Certification of accessibility report, PART III, Section 15
  • Compliance with accessibility standard, PART III, Section 13
  • Conflict (with other legislation), PART X, Section 38
  • Crown bound, PART II, Section 5
  • Definitions, PART I, Section 2
  • Delegation of Minister’s powers, PART X, Section 34
  • Designation of tribunals, PART VI, Section 26
  • Development of proposed standards, PART III, Section 9
  • Directors, PART VIII, Section 30
  • Document formats, PART X, Section 35
  • Enforcement of administrative penalties, PART V, Section 23
  • Filing fee, PART VI, Section 27
  • Incentive Agreements, PART IX, Section 33
  • Inspections without warrant, PART IV, Section 19
  • Inspectors, PART IV, Section 18
  • Mediation, PART VI, Section 28
  • No hearing required prior to order, PART V, Section 24
  • Notice of order, PART V, Section 22
  • Offences, PART X, Section 37
  • Order reviewed, PART V, Section 25
  • Orders, PART V, Section 21
  • Other reports and information, PART III, Section 17
  • Process for development of standards, PART III, Section 7
  • Progress reports, PART III, Section 11
  • Proposed standards made public, PART III, Section 10
  • Purpose, PART I, Section 1
  • Recognition of existing legal obligations, PART I, Section 3
  • Regulations, PART X, Section 39
  • Review of Act, PART X, Section 41
  • Review of director, PART III, Section16
  • Search warrant, PART IV, Section 20
  • Service, PART X, Section 36
  • Standards development committees, PART III, Section 8

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For More Information

If you need more information or have any questions about the AODA, please contact :

Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
777 Bay Street, 6th Floor, Suite 601
Toronto, ON M7A 2J4
E-mail:
accessibility@css.gov.on.ca

or

Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA)
Contact Centre : (SERVICEONTARIO)
Toll-free: 1-866-515-2025
TTY: 416-325-3408 / Toll-free 1-800-268-7095
Fax: 416-325-3407