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Business Accessibility Needs Common Sense Approach

New regulations in 2012
By Nancy Powers
Posted December 7, 2011

Businesses need not be anxious about the new accessibility rules that come into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

Louie DiPalma, who is the director of the small/medium enterprise program at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, feels that most businesses are already complying with the standards being laid out.

“You are likely about 95 per cent already where you need to be,” said DiPalma, “there might just need to be some tweaking.”

DiPalma was speaking at a breakfast meeting organized by the Strathroy & District Chamber of Commerce.

Accessibility simply means helping people with disabilities take part in life’s daily activities. Sometimes obstacles prevent them from doing these things. These obstacles are barriers to accessibility.

He explained about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed in 2005 and it’s the goal of the provincial government to achieve an “accessible Ontario” by 2025.

The accessibility standards rules businesses and organizations must follow to identify, prevent and remove barriers for customers with disabilities. Currently about 15 per cent of the Canadian population is experiencing some type of disability.

The golden rule when it comes to providing service to those experiencing a disability is to never make assumptions.

“The best way to approach the person is to simply ask, ‘may I help you,’ said DiPalma. “This will start the conversation without making the person feel uncomfortable or self conscious.”

It is estimated that 15.5 per cent of Canadians experience some form of disability. Barriers for these individuals include architectural/structural, communication and attitudinal.

“Obviously, the most common structural barriers are doors, bathrooms and stairs,” said DiPalma. “But there are ones that people don’t always think about.”

DiPalma used the example of a hearing impaired person who walks into a store and no one understands sign language.

According to the compliance manual, there are several ways to work around this situation. The practices of note writing and/or speaking clearly are two of the more common approaches.

“It is key that your staff understand what is expected of them and they are provided training if necessary,” explained DiPalma. “Problem solving on an individual customer basis is key.”

Another misconception related to accessibility is the definition of “service animal” and where they are and aren’t permitted.

“The most common service animal is a dog,” said DiPalma. “However, others include cats, monkeys, snakes, ponies and even a ferret.”

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Reproduced from