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An Accessible Ontario: Activities Undertaken by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) was passed into law in 2005. The aim of AODA is to have a fully accessible Ontario by 2025. To meet the 2025 goal, the Ontario government has introduced area-specific standards while setting compliance timelines for the various sectors.

The table below outlines the various dates of when it took effect and when it needs to be implemented by to help achieve an accessible Ontario.

Various dates of enactment and implementation for an accessible Ontario:

Enactment Date Government Implementation Date Public Sector Implementation Date Private Sector Implementation Date
Customer Service 2008 2010 2010 2012
Employment 2011 2013 2015 2017
Information and Communication 2011 2020 2021 2021
Transportation 2011 2017 2017 2017
Design of Public Spaces 2013 2015 2016 2018

As shown in the table above, people with disabilities should be experiencing the results of the Ontario government’s efforts to make an accessible Ontario. The level of accessibility has increased across the province, but there remains a few key areas that require attention. These areas include:

  • Access to goods and services
    • Many businesses are still not allowing guide dogs
    • not providing interpreters or facilitators to individuals with hearing loss
  • Accessible transportation
    • Some Ontarians are finding subway stations without elevators
  • Access to employment
    • Employers are overestimating how much accommodation will cost and concluding that they cannot afford to hire someone with a disability
  • Accessibility in small communities
    • Resources and expertise required to meet AODA obligations are scarce.

However, there is good news for Ontarians: the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has recognized these weaknesses and is taking an active involvement in ensuring that the 2025 goal is met. As a result, the Directorate has identified three key areas to focus its efforts in making an accessible Ontario: building awareness, encouraging compliance, and verifying and enforcing compliance.

An Accessible Ontario Key Focus Area #1: Building Awareness

Firstly, the Directorate focused on building awareness through:

  1.  Requiring the various sectors to submit accessibility compliance reports
    • This was the first year that both public and private sectors filed reports in the same year
  2. Outreach and education
    • Reminded businesses and non-profits with 20 or more employees and all public-sector organizations of their reporting deadline

The Directorate outlined that the highest submission rates came from the manufacturing sector, retail trade, and accommodation and food services. The majority of the organizations (94%) that submitted their compliance report responded that they fully complied with the Act and its standards. However, what is most noteworthy from these reports are the numbers that show the efforts to increase accessibility by the 2025 deadline are having a positive effect on Ontario and people with disabilities.

An Accessible Ontario Key Focus Area #2: Encouraging Compliance

Secondly,  the Directorate has  helped organizations with their compliance  through various methods, such as:

  • Marketing campaigns
  • Communication efforts
    • Deadline-reminder emails
    • Attendance at trade shows
    • Newsletters
  • Dedicated help desks
    • For example, the help desk provides assistance by answering the public’s questions about the act and its standards

The resources that the Directorate will direct towards working with the various sectors to encourage compliance will be also be a key element of the successful implementation of the act.

An Accessible Ontario #3: Verifying and Enforcing Compliance

Thirdly,  the Directorate identified verifying and enforcing compliance as the last key focus area.

The Directorate performs both P1 and P2 audits to verify compliance.

P1 audits

P1 audits aim at an organization’s requirement to submit a compliance report.

P2 audits

The Directorate performs P2 audits to confirm compliance with accessibility requirements. In 2017, P2 audits focused on the accessible employment standards.

Additionally, in 2017 the Directorate performed targeted audit blitzes to verify compliance with specific requirements in both the tourism and the manufacturing sectors, while in 2018, the Directorate plans to audit organizations from the designated public sector to ensure the development of accessibility policies.

Going Forward

The Directorate’s focus in 2018 will be on the three key areas, as listed above. The efforts in these three areas will aid in ensuring that Ontario’s 2025 deadline is met. However, it will remain up to the organizations of the various sectors to take it upon themselves to become leaders in accessibility and create an accessible Ontario.