Charles Paul Hoffman
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) sets the goal of creating an accessible Ontario by the year 2025. Because of their important role, it is especially important for schools, libraries, and other educational organizations to be accessible for students, parents, and patrons with disabilities.
While AODA applies to all organizations with one or more employee subject to regulation by the province of Ontario, there are a number of rules that apply specifically to educational institutions. These regulations apply to school boards and most public and private educational organizations that grant degrees, diplomas, or certificates. Libraries are also subject to some special rules.
Covered educational organizations are required to provide educational and training materials in an accessible format that takes into account the accessibility needs of the individual with disabilities. This can be done in two ways:
- Obtaining accessible or conversion-ready materials, where available, or
- Providing a comparable resource in an accessible or conversion-ready format, where the materials are not available in an accessible format.
- Student records
- Program requirements
- Course/program availability
- Course/program descriptions
AODA requires organizations that publish textbooks for educational institutions to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions upon request. In addition, by January 1, 2020, other printed educational materials (such as course packets and other handouts) must also be provided in accessible or conversion-ready formats upon request.
Because educational decisions are often decentralized, especially at the university level, educational organizations need to be particularly proactive to develop and implement plans to ensure compliance with AODA requirements.
Like educational institutions, libraries are also subject to additional rules under AODA.
Libraries associated with educational institutions (such as school or university libraries) must, upon request, provide accessible or conversion-ready versions of print materials. As of January 1, 2020, this will also apply to digital and multimedia resources. But, special collections, archival materials, rare books, and donate materials are exempt.
Public libraries, on the other hand, must upon request provide accessible materials, where they exist. Public libraries must also upon request make information available to the public about the availability of accessible materials. Like educational libraries, public libraries are not required to provide accessible formats for special collections, archival materials, rare books, or donated materials.
In many cases, libraries will be able to comply with AODA requirements by obtaining accessible versions of materials through interlibrary loan. Educational libraries, however, may need to arrange for alternative solutions where accessible versions are not available.
Want to know more about AODA and its requirements?
Download our Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act whitepaper at the link below to learn more!