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 reports across Canada.
Accessibility Compliance Reports Across Canada
Under the AODA, most Ontario organizations must complete accessibility compliance reports. These reports inform the government and the public that organizations are meeting the requirements of AODA standards. Small and Large public sector organizations must complete reports every two years. In contrast, private or non-profit businesses with twenty to forty-nine (20-49) workers, or fifty (50) or more workers, must complete accessibility reports every three years.
Organizations complete their reports by filling in a form on the Ontario government’s website. One senior member of the organization must give their name and contact information. This senior member, called the certifier, will later confirm that the report is complete and accurate. The certifier must have legal authority to make this claim.
Workers must then answer the yes-or-no questions on the form. Once they have answered all questions, organizations submit the form by clicking a button at the bottom. Organizations must also make their accessibility reports available to the public.
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.
Manitoba and Nova Scotia
The Accessibility for Manitobans Act and the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act do not require organizations to submit accessibility reports. However, both these acts require public-sector organizations to create accessibility plans. In these plans, organizations must describe their progress in identifying, removing, and preventing accessibility barriers. Furthermore, the plans must also outline how the organizations intend to continue to notice and remove barriers in future.
These descriptions of barrier removal could benefit organizations far more than the current yes-or-no-question format of reports in Ontario. For instance, workers writing these plans must reflect on how they and their colleagues have changed policies, practices, structures and services. In contrast, yes-or-no questions do not require the same level of thought. In addition, workers responding to these questions could easily claim that they are complying with standards, while continuing not to comply. However, organizations can make false reports less easily when descriptions are required. If the AODA one day changes to align more closely with other provinces, Ontario could follow this example. Conversely, Manitoba and Nova Scotia could require some private sector organizations to have accessibility plans, as Ontario does.
Accessible Canada Act
Under the Accessible Canada Act, organizations must create accessibility plans that outline future barrier identification, removal, and prevention. Although these plans need not include records of removing barriers in the past, organizations must also create progress reports that show how they are implementing these plans. As a result, these progress reports function as a public record of the steps organizations have taken to comply .
However, organizations are only required to develop accessibility plans, and progress reports, if the organization that governs them chooses to enforce the requirement to do so. As a result, some organizations may not develop progress reports.
As governments work together to align their accessibility laws, the AODA may change to correspond more closely to other accessibility laws across the country. For instance, the AODA could require organizations to develop accessibility compliance reports that required organizations to do more than clicking “yes” or “no”. Alternatively, other provincial and federal accessibility legislation could change to align more closely with the AODA. For instance, the Accessible Canada Act could adopt some AODA mandates, such as requiring all organizations to create and implement accessibility plans and progress reports.