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NonProfits and The Act

Guiding Principles and Assumptions

For many organizations in the Nonprofit Sector, the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Customer Service Standard reflect the existing organizational values, mission, vision, and service commitment.

The AODA Standards provide the opportunity to encourage innovation and systems transformation. The reduction or elimination of socially and institutionally structured inequalities will extend far beyond enhancing individual and collective well being.

The reduction of pervasive disparities for People with Disabilities will also contribute to the overall social cohesion, shared values of fairness and equity, economic productivity and community vitality and resilience.

The Customer Service Standard will create and sustain equitable access to a full range of high quality community and commercial services and support.

Reviewing current policies and procedures can create a regular cycle of equity-driven innovation that continually builds on what has been learned as change is bound to be incremental and iterative if it is to have sustainable and lasting impact.

As Bob Gardner, PhD, from the Wellesley Institute wrote, “the challenge is to have a systemic way to enable, encourage and ensure that equity is built into all service delivery and into the very fabric of that delivery.” The
Customer Service Standard is a tangible response to this challenge.

Most Nonprofits in Ontario already strive to offer services in a responsive and respectful manner. Many funders require organizations to demonstrate this through various policies including client rights and responsibilities and non-discrimination policies and frameworks.

The core principles of the AODA – independence, dignity, integration, and equality of opportunity for people with disabilities – are aligned with the core values of Nonprofit organizations and the Sector.

As you review the requirements of the AODA, view the process through the lens of your existing policies and procedures as they relate to your commitment to a healthy, barrier-free, accessible organization for all employees, volunteers, stakeholders, and clients with disabilities.

Understanding and implementing The Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement (CCVI) and the principles of cultural competence can support your work on being compliant with the AODA.


The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law in 2005. Its goal is to create an accessible Ontario by 2025 by removing barriers in a number of areas.

Under the AODA, mandatory accessibility standards are being developed for all organizations and businesses that provide goods or services to the public or to third parties. Accessibility Standards are the rules that all businesses and organizations, including Nonprofit organizations, agencies and other charities in Ontario will have to follow in order to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility.

The AODA is developing Accessibility Standards in five areas:

  • Customer Service (this Workbook is directed towards this Standard)
  • Integrated Standards:
  • Transportation
  • Information and Communications
  • Employment
  • Built Environment (buildings and other structures)

The Ontario Government has introduced a phased-in approach to the implementation of the Integrated Regulated Standards with full compliance required by 2021.

As of January 1, 2010, public sector organizations (including provincial/municipal government, hospitals and schools) have to be in compliance with the AODA Customer Service Standard.

As of January 1, 2012, organizations in the Nonprofit Sector who provide goods or services in Ontario and have one or more paid employees, will be required to be compliant with the AODA Customer Service Standard.

Penalties for non-compliance are:

  • up to $50,000 per day for Directors
  • up to $100,000 per day for an organization


DIGNITY: What does the principle of dignity mean?

Policies, procedures and practices that respect the dignity of a person with a disability are those that treat them as customers and clients who are as valued and as deserving of effective and full service as any other customer. They do not treat people with disabilities as an afterthought or force them to accept lesser service, quality or convenience.

Service delivery needs to take into account how people with disabilities can effectively access and use services and show respect for these methods.

INDEPENDENCE: What does the principle of independence mean?

In some instances, independence means freedom from control or influence of others – freedom to make your own choices.
In other situations, it may mean the freedom to do things in your own way. People who may move or speak more slowly should not be denied an opportunity to participate in a program or service because of this factor. A staff person should not hurry them or take over a task for them if they prefer to do it themselves in their own way.

INTEGRATION: What does the principle of integration mean?

Integrated services are those that allow people with disabilities to fully benefit from the same services, in the same place and in the same or similar way as other customers.

Integration means that policies, practices and procedures are designed to be accessible to everyone including people with disabilities.

Sometimes integration does not serve the needs of all people with disabilities. Alternative measures, rather than integration, might be necessary because the person with a disability requires it or because you cannot provide another option at the time. If you are unable to remove a barrier to accessibility, you need to consider what else can be done to provide services to people with disabilities.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: What does the principle of equal opportunity mean?

Equal opportunity means having the same chances, options, benefits and results as others.

In the case of services it means that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to benefit from the way you provide goods or services as others. They should not have to make significantly more effort to access or obtain service.
They should also not have to accept lesser quality or more inconvenience.


Your organization needs to establish policies, practices and procedures that will provide clear guidelines to staff, volunteers, and third party contractors on providing your goods and/or services to people with disabilities.

Every effort should be made to ensure that new or revised policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the core principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act: independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity to access goods and services.

Your organization’s policies should include a policy about the use of assistive devices to access your goods and services, and about any other measures you offer to enable customers with disabilities to access and use your goods and services.

Your organization should develop a policy and best practices for communicating with people with disabilities in a manner that takes into account the person’s disability.

Your organization’s policies should state that guide dogs or other service animals can accompany customers with disabilities into any area of the premises open to the public. Where the animal is excluded by law, other measures should be developed that will still allow the customer equal opportunity to access your services.

Your organization’s policies should allow customers with disabilities to be accompanied by their support person when accessing your services.

Your organization’s procedures should include informing customers ahead of time what, if any, admission fee will be charged for a support person.

Your organization should have a policy and procedure for informing the public when there will be a temporary disruption of facilities or services that people with disabilities rely on to access your goods or services.
Training should be given to staff, volunteers, contractors, and others who interact with the public on behalf of your organization, to ensure that your services are provided in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Customer Service Standard and the AODA core principles.

Training of staff, volunteers, contractors, and others, should include any people involved in developing your organization’s policies, practices and procedures on providing services to people with disabilities.

Your organization should establish a process for receiving feedback on how you provide service to people with disabilities and how you will respond to feedback and take action on complaints. Information on your feedback process should be readily available to the public.

Additional requirements apply if you are a service provider with 20 or more paid employees or a designated public sector organization:

  • You must document, in writing, all the policies, practices and procedures required by the Customer Service Standard.
  • You must notify people that the documents required under the Customer Service Standard are available upon request.
  • You must provide required documents and information in a format that takes into account the person’s disability.


Many Ontario Nonprofit organizations using this workbook will benefit from working within Volunteer Canada’s Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement available at

CCVI or ‘the Code’ provides a consistent framework for working with and supporting volunteers. All Nonprofits will engage volunteers, if only at the governance level of the Board of Directors, so the Code will be a helpful tool to ensure that best practices are being adhered to in the engagement of volunteers.

Your organization’s endorsement of the Code is a public demonstration of a commitment to fair and equitable engagement of volunteers.

The companion document, “A Guide for Cultural Competency Application of the Canadian Code” (the Guide) provides practical steps to ensure service delivery is culturally competent. It is a tool to support organizations in increasing the accessibility and inclusiveness of volunteer programs.

The model of Cultural Competency provides the baseline that every person is the expert in their own lives and is the most suitable to identify and articulate needs and requirements.

Each person has a personal history and life experience that informs and responds to current situations.

We all have our own ‘culture’ and it is from this point of view that we experience the world, and the world experiences us.

Cornerstones of being culturally competent are not to make assumptions, to ask direct, respectful questions and be prepared to provide nonjudgmental responses and services.

As you review your organization’s compliance with the requirements of the AODA, Volunteer Canada’s frameworks are a useful resource. The following set of questions will help inform and frame your assessment.

Cultural Competence in Organizations

An organization that is culturally competent will be well placed to address the Customer Service Standard requirements.
Points to consider in assessing your organization’s degree of compliance include:

  • Does the mission statement specifically reflect the organization’s commitment to equity, diversity and/or accessibility?
  • Do all communication materials and mechanisms reflect the organization’s commitment to equity, diversity and/or accessibility?
  • Are there concrete, measurable goals to increase the diversity of the Board, staff and volunteers to reflect the community?
  • Is there an equity/diversity/anti-harassment statement/policy/philosophy in place?
  • Is this equity/diversity/anti-harassment statement/policy/philosophy up-to-date with current legislation?
  • Is this equity/diversity/anti-harassment statement/policy/philosophy proactive?
  • Are the organizational systems and procedures consistent with this policy and the legislation?
  • Are the organizational systems and procedures consistent with each other?

What It Means to Me

As organizations move forward with review and compliance work, the following may add further guidance:

  • Informal and formal practices and procedures have been developed to ensure the provision of the best possible customer service for persons with disabilities.
  • Anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies are in place.
  • Staff and volunteers are comfortable serving customers/clients with disabilities and services can be provided in different ways.
  • Staff and volunteers are respectful of people‘s diverse needs in a way that supports their access to services.
  • Every effort is made to ensure that communication is done in a manner that takes into account all persons with diverse needs.
  • The website is designed to be user friendly – this includes the option of customizing font size for ease of readability.
    Reports, announcements and other written materials use respectful and inclusive language, and there is a concerted effort to use clear language in all communication.
  • Advertising and publicity materials portray communities in a representative manner without stereotyping.
  • The use of guide dogs , personal assistive devices and the use of support persons for people with disabilities is permitted at all offices and sites.
  • Emergency plans are in place for all staff, volunteers, clients and visitors, including those with disabilities.

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