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Wynne Government Commendably Announces Targeted AODA Enforcement Blitz on Workplace Barriers Aimed at Large Retail Establishments in Ontario

What Could This Mean for the Campaign to Make Ontario Fully Accessible for 1.8 Million People with Disabilities?

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities

November 2, 2015

SUMMARY

On October 5, 2015, the Wynne Government issued a News Release and Backgrounder announcing a targeted Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) enforcement initiative. We set out the Governments announcement below. What does this mean for people with disabilities?

Recent history provides the important backdrop to this announcement. Before the 2003 election, the Ontario Liberals promised to enact a strong and effective AODA which would be effectively enforced. Two years later, the Liberal Ontario Government passed the AODA ten years ago, in May 2005. It has passed a series of accessibility standards under that legislation, including provisions in the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation that address accessibility in employment.

Two and a half years ago, in the first Throne Speech under Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Government set, as a priority, increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Just about one year ago, on November 28, 2014, former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, now Economic Development Ministers Special Advisor on Accessibility, proclaimed that the unemployment rate facing people with disabilities is not just a national crisis – it is a national shame.

Overlapping these events, two years ago, in November 2013 we revealed to the public that the Ontario Government had resoundingly broken its promise to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We revealed that the Government knew of rampant AODA violations in the private sector. Yet the Government had not issued a single compliance order nor imposed a dime in monetary penalties. This was so even though the Government had ample unspent budget that had been allocated for the AODAs implementation.

After the Government was roundly criticized, it announced in the 2013 fall that it would step up AODA enforcement, and target some 2,500 private sector organizations for audits. According to the information that the Government later provided, that effort led to a significant increase in AODA compliance, but mostly if not only among the organizations against which the Government took enforcement action.

To our consternation, last February, the Government revealed to us that it was cutting the number of AODA audits this year by over one-third. It was doing that despite the fact that it knew of continued massive non-compliance with the AODA. It took this harmful step despite the fact that the 2014 Report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review called for strengthened AODA enforcement.

As public and media criticism of the Governments 2015 backsliding on AODA enforcement grew, the Government suddenly shifted gears last June. On June 3, 2015, Minister Brad Duguid announced that the Government would eventually double the number of organizations it would audit per year under the AODA. Increases in the number of audits would start in 2016. The Government did not say when after this year it would have doubled the number of organizations audited per year.

Oddly, that announcement was made amidst a more extensive plan on the AODAs implementation, but the increase in audits was not included in the text of that plan. Minister Duguid acknowledged at that time that the Governments implementation of the AODA had been flagging. He was seeking to give the AODAs implementation a new boost by his overall plan including the planned increase in AODA audits to start in 2016.

We commend any effort to now strengthen and make more visible the promised and hitherto-undelivered effective enforcement of the AODA. We and the Government know that when it doesnt effectively enforce the AODA, large numbers of organizations disobey it. The Government learned from its small 2013-2014 enforcement blitz that when organizations are the focus of Government enforcement efforts, those organizations largely bring themselves into compliance with the AODA. For an obligated organization, the Governments decision to enforce against it is often tantamount to a Government decision on whether the AODA needs to be obeyed.

We urge the Government to swiftly and fully implement its June 3, 2015 pledge to double the number of organizations whose AODA compliance will be audited per year. We ask the Government to make public as soon as possible the results of this new enforcement blitz.

We also call on the Government to take three important additional steps to strengthen this enforcement blitz: First, it should include in this audit an examination of an organizations compliance with the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and not just its compliance with the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Second, it should audit organizations for whether they are taking proper steps to implement their AODA accessibility plans, and not merely to see if they have the required plans. Third, this blitz should be extended well into 2016 so that it can include auditing for compliance with new employment requirements that go into effect for the private sector in 2016.

Below we set out:

* Reflections on the Governments October 5, 2015 announcement;

* The Governments October 5, 2015 news release and backgrounder, issued to make this new blitz public; and

* key parts of an email exchange between AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and the office of Minister Brad Duguid, the AODAs enforcer-in-chief, in which we seek more details on this announcement. We have left out any back-and-forth emails that dont include substantive questions or answers.

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We encourage you to use the Governments toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025

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MORE DETAILS

A Closer Look at the Wynne Governments October 5, 2015 Announcement of an AODA Audit Blitz Aimed at Large Retail Establishments

It is good that the Government has announced this new and overdue AODA enforcement blitz. Until now its very limited and inadequate efforts at enforcing the AODA have been extremely low-visibility.

For several years Ontarios Liberal Government, which had repeatedly promised to effectively enforce the AODA, seemed afraid to ever use the word enforcement in its public statements about the AODA. This new announcement is a welcome departure from that long term trend.

In its News Release and Backgrounder, the Government makes very formidable commitments. The Government pledges that it is ensuring that Ontario workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Its news release bears the headline: Ontario Ensuring Workplaces are Accessible by Launching Compliance Audits. The news release says that the goal of this blitz is ensuring that employers are making accessibility a regular part of recruiting and supporting employees with disabilities.

We will measure the Governments actions against these very substantial and commendable commitments. Ontario workplaces are now far from fully accessible to workers with disabilities. Unemployment facing people with disabilities is at rates considerably higher than for people without disabilities.

The Governments news release commits to make public the results of these audits. The news release states: The results of the audits will be available in Ontarios annual compliance and enforcement plan.

This commendable commitment must be viewed with considerable caution. In the 2014 Ontario election, Premier Wynne committed to make public the content and results of the Governments AODA enforcement efforts. In her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, Premier Wynne pledged:

6. We will make a detailed plan on all enforcement activities available, along with establishing and publicizing an accessible toll-free phone number to report violations of AODA requirements. Unfortunately, communication of the enforcement plan is on hold during the writ period. I look forward to releasing it promptly should we win the honour of re-election.

7. To ensure increased transparency going forward, we will make an annual report publicly available on levels of compliance including the effectiveness of our enforcement measures.

Premier Wynne’s May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her Government’s 2014 accessibility election pledges, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp

Regrettably, one-third into the Governments new term in office, the Government has still not kept that promise. It has not released a comprehensive enforcement plan. It has not issued an annual enforcement report. Most new information we have learned about the Governments AODA enforcement activities has resulted from our pressing the Government for answers or filing Freedom of Information applications.

Last November the Government posted on the internet a short document that it claimed to be an enforcement plan. The Government has had occasion to point back at it as its AODA enforcement plan. However that posting included little detail and little if anything new. It clearly fell far short of the Governments May 14, 2014 election promises. To see the Governments November 2014 posting on AODA enforcement and our analysis of it, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11182014.asp

The Governments Backgrounder makes a bold assertion of fact which must be viewed with caution. It states as a fact:

January 1, 2012: all employers in Ontario (public sector and private sector) with one or more employees began complying with the requirement to provide individualized workplace emergency response information under the following conditions:

The Government is in no position to know whether and to what extent private sector organizations started to take these steps in 2012. Despite our pressure, the Government has never audited any of them for this requirement, before this new enforcement blitz, as far as it has revealed to us.

It is important to explore the specific AODA requirements for which large retail organizations will be audited. All the Backgrounder says about the actual contents of the audits is as follows:

Organizations selected for an audit during this three-month initiative will be asked to provide evidence that they have in place, or are prepared to put in place, individualized emergency response plans for their employees with disabilities. They will also be asked to provide a copy of the multi-year accessibility plan and to confirm that the plan is:

( Posted on their website, if they have one.
( Available in an accessible format upon request. ( Reviewed and updated every five years.

These are, of course, important things to audit. However, it is palpably insufficient near the end of 2015 to simply try to ascertain if a large retail establishment is prepared to put in place, individualized emergency response plans for their employees with disabilities, if they dont now have one. These organizations have had years to put these in place.

This is a concern of personal safety for people with disabilities. If an audited organization does not now have such a plan in place, immediate and strong enforcement action should be taken. A slap on the wrist, or official acquiescence so long as an audit organization promises to behave in the future, only signals to the public that mandatory AODA requirements, even those bearing on personal safety, need not be taken seriously until, and even potentially after, official audits take place.

The Governments October 5, 2015 News Release and Backgrounder provided very little information on the scope of these audits. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky emailed Minister Duguids office on October 5, 2015 to seek more details. Below we set out the ensuing email exchange

On October 21, 2015, the Ministers office eventually gave a fuller and direct answer, as follows:

In 2015, our government committed to conducting various compliance activities focusing on large, private sector organizations to ensure that they meet the requirements of the AODA and its standards that have come into effect, including the Customer Service Standard and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR).

As part of these activities, the ADO recently launched a targeted audit initiative. The intention of a blitz initiative is to focus on specific requirements under the legislation, over a specific period of time. In this case, the ADO is verifying that retail organizations with 500 or more employees are meeting the requirements under the IASR to have in place a multi-year accessibility plan (s 4.1) and to provide workplace emergency response information (s 27.1).

The requirement to have in place a multi-year accessibility plan provides a good indication of an organization’s commitment to meeting the other requirements of the AODA and its accessibility standards.

A multi-year accessibility plan is a roadmap of how employers will build and maintain an accessible and inclusive organization. During the course of an audit, the government verifies that these plans are compliant with each of the elements reflected in s 4.1 of the IASR that you referenced.

For example, organizations will be required to demonstrate how their plans outline a strategy for: ” Preventing and removing barriers to accessibility; and,
” Meeting the requirements of the IASR (both those already in effect and those that will take effect in the future, such as Employment, Information and Communications etc.).

The requirement under s 4.1 to develop a strategy that prevents and removes barriers speaks to the fact that organizations are expected not only to meet their requirements but also to apply an accessibility lens to their business practices.

During the audit, evidence will also be requested to demonstrate that the plan is: ” Posted on their website, if they have one.
” Available in an accessible format upon request.
” Reviewed and updated every five years.

Organizations cannot be asked to demonstrate compliance with requirements that are not in effect. Section 27.1 is the only requirement of the Employment Standard that is currently in effect for large private sector organizations.

On January 1, 2016, large private sector organizations will begin complying with the remaining requirements of the Employment Standard. By focusing the blitz on the requirements to have in place a multi-year accessibility plan and to provide workplace emergency response information, the ADO is able to evaluate an organization’s level of preparedness to meet these upcoming employment requirements.

Large private sector organizations are also required to file self-certified compliance reports indicating that they are meeting all of their requirements. Each year, the government audits a number of organizations that have submitted compliant reports in order to confirm that they are in fact meeting their obligations. The AODA establishes that providing false or misleading information in a compliance report or to a Director is an offence that may be referred to the courts for adjudication and that may result in fines of up to $100,000 for corporations.

This answer sheds more helpful light on what the Government is doing than does its October 5, 2015 News Release and Backgrounder. The measures to be audited are helpful and important. The Government is to be commended for those measures.

However, this fuller answer leaves open these serious concerns:

1. Why is the Government not auditing these organizations for their compliance with the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA. Accessible Customer Service is critical for retail establishments. Those organizations have had fully eight years to bring themselves into compliance with that accessibility standard. The Government already knows that a significant majority of private sector organizations with at least twenty employees have for years failed to take the most basic step of filing their required AODA Accessibility Report in connection with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

To only audit for requirements in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, but not for requirements under the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, is a very inefficient use of scarce enforcement resources.

2. It seems clear from the information the Government provided that the Government is commendably auditing to see if these organizations have created and made public their multi-year accessibility plans. However the Government does not say it is auditing to see if the organization has actually implemented that plan.

Section 4 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation requires these organizations both to establish these plans and to implement them. It provides in material part:

4. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall,

(a) establish, implement, maintain and document a multi-year accessibility plan, which outlines the organizations strategy to prevent and remove barriers and meet its requirements under this Regulation;

Why isnt the Government auditing to ensure that these organizations are meeting their legal duty to implement these plans? An accessibility plan is useless if it is not implemented.

The Ontario Liberal Party, then in opposition, criticized the previous Conservative Mike Harris Governments weak Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 on this very score. That Act required public sector organizations to create accessibility plans. However it imposed no duty on obligated organizations to implement those plans. It did not empower the Government to enforce their implementation. The Liberals, in opposition, said that that was terribly insufficient to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities. The same goes today as it did in 2001.

3. Why are these audits timed to occur largely if not totally before January 1, 2016, when most of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulations employment provisions first go into effect for the very organizations who are the target of these audits? When we are fortunate enough to have the Government audit a private sector organization for AODA compliance, with a focus on the vital issue of employment accessibility, it seems terribly inefficient to time these audits to take place in whole or in large part just before those organizations will have on-the-ground obligations in the employment context. These large retail establishments have had had fully four and a half years to prepare to comply.

We call on the Government to take these three important steps during this enforcement blitz: First, it should include in this audit an examination of an organizations compliance with the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and not just its compliance with the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Second, it should audit organizations for whether they are taking proper steps to implement their AODA accessibility plans, and not merely to see if they have the required plans. Third, this blitz should be extended well into 2016 so that it can include auditing for compliance with new employment requirements that go into effect for the private sector in 2016.

October 5, 2015 Ontario Government News Release

Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure

Ontario Ensuring Workplaces are Accessible by Launching Compliance Audits Province Takes Another Step Towards an Accessible Ontario by 2025

NEWS October 5, 2015

Ontario is conducting targeted audits of retail companies with 500 or more employees to ensure workplaces and employee practices are accessible during a three-month audit blitz this fall.

The Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure is leading the audits, with the goal of ensuring that employers are making accessibility a regular part of recruiting and supporting employees with disabilities.

The ministry will check that large retailers meet requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), including:

( Creating and making public a multi-year accessibility plan that outlines the steps put in place to remove and prevent barriers for employees and customers.

( Developing customized emergency plans for employees with disabilities.

The province has made resources available and worked with organizations to help
ensure workplaces are accessible, and will continue to support businesses in these efforts going forward. Many of these resources were developed in collaboration with employers.

The results of the audits will be available in Ontarios annual compliance and enforcement plan. Compliance with the AODA is an essential part of the governments goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025.

Supporting an accessible province is part of the governments plan to build Ontario up. The plan includes investing in peoples talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontarios history, creating a dynamic, innovative environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.

QUOTES

I am excited by the progress Ontario has made towards its goal of becoming an accessible province by 2025. But its clear we still have work to do, so were working to increase awareness among businesses and provide them with the resources and support they need to comply. For those who continue to fail to comply, we will take steps to enforce the law. We all have a role to play in embracing accessibility and promoting a cultural shift in Ontario so that it becomes embedded in everything we do and is recognized for what it is an essential part of our future economic competitiveness in a dynamic economy and an inclusive society.
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure

QUICK FACTS

( One in seven people in Ontario has a disability.
( Ontario has five accessibility standards: customer service, employment, information and communications, transportation and design of public spaces.
( Organizations that fail to comply could face inspections, notices of order, directors orders and prosecution. Penalties for not complying with the AODA range from $500 to $15,000 for corporations.

LEARN MORE

Resources and support to help you meet requirements before January 1, 2016 are available at the ministry website: Ontario.ca/accessibility

Ontarios Targeted Accessibility Compliance Initiative

Andrew Forgione, Ministers Office, 416-212-4217
Brigitte Marleau, Communications Branch, 416-325-2479 ontario.ca/economy-news Disponible en fran├žais

October 5, 2015 Ontario Government Backgrounder

Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure

Ontarios Targeted Accessibility Compliance Initiative

Ontario is conducting targeted audits of large retail organizations with 500 or more employees to determine compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

There are resources to help businesses and organizations comply with the AODA including:

( Guide to help create multi-year accessibility plans. ( Free online training on accessibility.
( Guide to help develop a plan to help an employee with disabilities with an emergency. ( Free online sessions to help organizations comply.
( New website to make it easier to understand the requirements.

Organizations selected for an audit during this three-month initiative will be asked to provide evidence that they have in place, or are prepared to put in place, individualized emergency response plans for their employees with disabilities. They will also be asked to provide a copy of the multi-year accessibility plan and to confirm that the plan is:

( Posted on their website, if they have one.
( Available in an accessible format upon request.
( Reviewed and updated every five years.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

There are five standards under the AODA to make it easier for people with disabilities to participate in their communities and ensure accessibility for everyone.

1. Customer Service
2. Employment
3. Information and Communications
4. Transportation
5. Design of Public Spaces

The requirements under these standards are staggered to give organizations time to comply.

January 1, 2012: all employers in Ontario (public sector and private sector) with one or more employees began complying with the requirement to provide individualized workplace emergency response information under the following conditions:

( When the employees disability is such that the information is necessary.
( The employer is aware of the need for accommodation due to the employees disability.

January 31, 2014: all public sector organizations and private organizations with 50 or more employees were required to have in place a multi-year accessibility plan. It outlines how the organization will meet its accessibility requirements while identifying, removing and preventing barriers to accessibility.

December 31, 2014: Private sector organizations with 50 or more employees were required to submit an accessibility report to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

Andrew Forgione, Ministers Office, 416-212-4217
Brigitte Marleau, Communications Branch, 416-325-2479 ontario.ca/economy-news Disponible en fran├žais

October 5, 2015 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Minister Brad Duguids Office

(Note: Referring to the Governments October 5, 2015 news release and backgrounder)

What little I saw seems to suggest that the only employment requirement you are auditing for is emergency plans? And what in their 5 year plan (if required) covers emergency plans? Is this the only thing your targeted audit will focus on? No other employment barriers or requirements? No customer service or information and communication requirements? Please treat this as an on-the-record request for an on-the-record answer. Thanks.

October 12, 2015 Email from Minister Brad Duguids Office to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

The compliance blitz is focussing on large retail organizations employing 500 or more employees across Ontario. These organizations are responsible for directly employing over 250,000 Ontarians, meaning that their compliance with our requirements will result in over a quarter of a million people working for organizations that are committed to accessibility in the workplace. We focussed on elements of the employment standard for businesses with over 500 employees for this audit blitz, especially because it comes into effect January 1st, 2016. The blitz started in September and it will wrap up in December. The results will be released in our annual Accessibility Compliance Action Plan in March 2016.

October 19, 2015 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Minister Brad Duguids Office

This is a further on-the-record request for information about the Governments announced new AODA enforcement blitz.

On October 5, 2015, I emailed your office, asking what specific AODA accessibility standard requirements would be audited for in the blitz you recently announced. Specifically, I wrote:

What little I saw seems to suggest that the only employment requirement you are auditing for is emergency plans? And what in their 5 year plan (if required) covers emergency plans? Is this the only thing your targeted audit will focus on? No other employment barriers or requirements? No customer service or information and communication requirements?

The response I received does not provide a direct and specific answer to this question. In his October 19, 2015 email to me, Andrew Forgione wrote:

The compliance blitz is focusing on large retail organizations employing 500 or more employees across Ontario. These organizations are responsible for directly employing over 250,000 Ontarians, meaning that their compliance with our requirements will result in over a quarter of a million people working for organizations that are committed to accessibility in the workplace. We focused on elements of the employment standard for businesses with over 500 employees for this audit blitz, especially because it comes into effect January 1st, 2016. The blitz started in September and it will wrap up in December. The results will be released in our annual Accessibility Compliance Action Plan in March 2016.

1. This implies that the audit only focuses on employment accessibility requirements and not accessibility requirements that a large retail organization must comply with regarding Customer Service and/or information and communication. Is this correct?

2. We would like to know what specific elements of the employment standard will be audited for. Is it only the requirements regarding emergency preparedness? If not, then what additional employment requirements?

We gather from your announcement that you will be auditing for required accessibility plans. Section 4 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation provides:

4. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall,

(a) establish, implement, maintain and document a multi-year accessibility plan, which outlines the organizations strategy to prevent and remove barriers and meet its requirements under this Regulation;

(b) post the accessibility plan on their website, if any, and provide the plan in an accessible format upon request; and

(c) review and update the accessibility plan at least once every five years.

Large private sector organizations were required to comply with this by January 1, 2014.

3. We want to know if you will simply audit for the existence of these plans, or will also be auditing to ensure that these plans fully comply with the AODAs requirements regarding the plans contents.

For example, the plan is required to outline outlines the organizations strategy to prevent and remove barriers and meet its requirements under this Regulation; That includes requirements regarding employment, as well as regarding information and communication. Are you going to audit only for the plans contents regarding employment, or also for information and communication?

4. As well, the plan is required to go much further than simply setting out how the organization plans to comply with the specific employment accessibility requirements that are set out in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. The plan is also supposed to set out how the organization will act to remove and prevent barriers. That includes barriers in areas like employment which the IASR may not itself specifically enumerate and address. Will the audit address the whether the organizations plans go beyond the specific employment requirement sin the IASR, to ensure that the organization also addresses strategies for removing and preventing employment barriers in the organization more generally?

5. Will the audit merely examine whether a plan exists or also whether the organization has properly acted to implement the plan? A plan is of little value if it is not implemented.

We are eager for your on-the-record response to these questions as soon as possible. it should be easy for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to provide swift answers to these questions. Can you please let me know when we can expect a response.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

October 21, 2015 Email from Minister Brad Duguids Office to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

In line with other modern regulators in the Ontario Public Service, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO) promotes a risk-based approach to overseeing compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and its standards in order to move closer towards the goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025.

As a reflection of this risk-based approach, each year the ADO undertakes a variety of compliance and enforcement activities in order to help verify that organizations are meeting their obligated requirements.

In 2015, our government committed to conducting various compliance activities focusing on large, private sector organizations to ensure that they meet the requirements of the AODA and its standards that have come into effect, including the Customer Service Standard and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR).

As part of these activities, the ADO recently launched a targeted audit initiative. The intention of a blitz initiative is to focus on specific requirements under the legislation, over a specific period of time. In this case, the ADO is verifying that retail organizations with 500 or more employees are meeting the requirements under the IASR to have in place a multi-year accessibility plan (s 4.1) and to provide workplace emergency response information (s 27.1).

The requirement to have in place a multi-year accessibility plan provides a good indication of an organization’s commitment to meeting the other requirements of the AODA and its accessibility standards.

A multi-year accessibility plan is a roadmap of how employers will build and maintain an accessible and inclusive organization. During the course of an audit, the government verifies that these plans are compliant with each of the elements reflected in s 4.1 of the IASR that you referenced.

For example, organizations will be required to demonstrate how their plans outline a strategy for: ” Preventing and removing barriers to accessibility; and,
” Meeting the requirements of the IASR (both those already in effect and those that will take effect in the future, such as Employment, Information and Communications etc.).

The requirement under s 4.1 to develop a strategy that prevents and removes barriers speaks to the fact that organizations are expected not only to meet their requirements but also to apply an accessibility lens to their business practices.

During the audit, evidence will also be requested to demonstrate that the plan is: ” Posted on their website, if they have one.
” Available in an accessible format upon request.
” Reviewed and updated every five years.

Organizations cannot be asked to demonstrate compliance with requirements that are not in effect. Section 27.1 is the only requirement of the Employment Standard that is currently in effect for large private sector organizations.

On January 1, 2016, large private sector organizations will begin complying with the remaining requirements of the Employment Standard. By focusing the blitz on the requirements to have in place a multi-year accessibility plan and to provide workplace emergency response information, the ADO is able to evaluate an organization’s level of preparedness to meet these upcoming employment requirements.

Large private sector organizations are also required to file self-certified compliance reports indicating that they are meeting all of their requirements. Each year, the government audits a number of organizations that have submitted compliant reports in order to confirm that they are in fact meeting their obligations. The AODA establishes that providing false or misleading information in a compliance report or to a Director is an offence that may be referred to the courts for adjudication and that may result in fines of up to $100,000 for corporations.