Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility compliance orders across Canada.
Accessibility Compliance Orders Across Canada
In Ontario, directors of the AODA review the accessibility reports that organizations are required to submit. Moreover, directors can ask a person or organization for more details about their compliance. The person or organization must provide the director with this information. When an organization has not submitted a report or information, the director can order the organization to do so. In addition, the order can include a fine. Similarly, a director can order a non-compliant person or organization to obey AODA standards and pay fines. Finally, if organizations do not comply with these orders, directors can fine those organizations using more orders.
All these types of orders must include a description of the AODA rule or previous order that the person or organization has failed to comply with. Furthermore, the order must explain what the organization must do to comply. Finally, the order must include a time limit for organizations to comply. However, the director can extend this time limit to accommodate someone with a disability, or for any other reason.
More Directors’ Orders
A director may also create an order when a non-compliant person or organization claims that they do not need to comply with a standard. For instance, an organization might claim that it does not belong to the industry or sector of the economy that a standard applies to. For example, a rideshare company might claim that it does not need to obey the Transportation Standards. The company might make this claim because it is not a bus, train, ferry, or taxi service. However, a director can order that this organization does belong to an industry that must comply with the standard.
Likewise, a director can order that two organizations be treated as one organization, for the purposes of the AODA. For instance, an employer with a private company of sixty workers might not want to obey AODA rules for companies with fifty or more workers. As a result, this employer might divide their company into two organizations. However, a director can order that these two companies must be treated as one company.
Notice of Orders
Before giving any order, directors must give notice to the non-compliant organizations. This notice tells the organizations what the order is about and what steps they should take to comply with the Act. Moreover, notice allows these organizations to explain any reasons they might have for not complying with the AODA. Furthermore, organizations have thirty days after receiving notice to explain in writing. However, the director can extend this time limit to accommodate someone with a disability, or for any other reason.
In addition, organizations who receive any order can appeal it in front of a tribunal that the Lieutenant Governor appoints.
Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Accessible Canada Act
In Manitoba and Nova Scotia, inspectors have similar mandates to order organizations to comply with their accessibility laws. Similarly, under the Accessible Canada Act, the Accessibility Commissioner can also order organizations to comply with the Act. Moreover, under all these acts, organizations may need to pay fines, or they can request that a director or Accessibility Commissioner review the order. However, these laws do not mention the possibility that organizations can choose not to comply by claiming that certain standards do not apply to them. As a result, some organizations may choose not to comply, since the law does not state that inspectors or directors can make orders that prevent this loophole.
In contrast, the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act includes a mandate that the other provincial laws do not. Under this act, fines from non-compliant organizations must be used to improve accessibility. For instance, they could fund efforts to raise awareness about why accessibility matters.
As governments align their accessibility laws, the AODA may change to correspond more closely with standards in other provinces, or with the Accessible Canada Act. For instance, AODA fines could fund efforts to raise public awareness of accessibility. In contrast, other accessibility laws could give inspectors and directors more power to remove loopholes and encourage more widespread compliance.