Copyright 2012, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
Originally published in Blakes Bulletin on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, February 2012
As noted in our previous Blakes Bulletins on AODA ( June 2011 and March 2011), the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is Ontario legislation adopted with the goal of making Ontario completely accessible for individuals with disabilities by 2025. AODA addresses five areas: customer service; employment; information and communications; transportation; and the built environment. There are now regulations under AODA addressing these areas, other than the built environment.
Customer Service Standard
Private-sector organizations were to come into compliance with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the Customer Service Standard) by January 1, 2012. The Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) recently advised that compliance reporting in relation to the Customer Service Standard will be required on or before December 31, 2012. For further information regarding the online reporting process, please click here.
As a reminder, the Customer Service Standard requires companies and organizations that provide goods and services to the public or other third parties and that have employees in Ontario to take certain steps to ensure that their goods and services are provided in an accessible manner. The Customer Service Standard generally requires most companies and organizations to take the steps set out below:
- Create an accessible customer service policy setting out practices and procedures with respect to accessible customer service, addressing various matters including communication with individuals with disabilities, assistive devices, support persons and service animals.
- Ensure that all individuals dealing with the public or third parties on behalf of the company or organization – as well as all individuals involved in creating and implementing customer service policies – receive training that covers the specific topics required by the standard regarding accessibility issues.
- Notify customers and other third parties of any disruption to services typically used by individuals with disabilities to access goods or services.
- Create a feedback process through which individuals with disabilities can provide feedback regarding the provision of goods and services.
- Notify customers and others regarding the accessible customer service policy and feedback process.
Integrated Standard – Emergency Preparedness
The Integrated Accessibility Standards (the Integrated Standard) set out accessibility standards relating to employment, information and communications and transportation, and also create certain general obligations in respect of accessibility policy-making and training. The Integrated Standard applies to all companies and organizations that provide goods, services or facilities to the public or other third parties and that have at least one employee in Ontario.
There are two obligations under the Integrated Standard that all private-sector companies and organizations were to come into compliance with as of January 1, 2012. As described briefly below, both obligations relate to accessibility standards in emergency preparedness.
- Prepare and provide employees who have disabilities and who require assistance in the event of an emergency with individualized emergency response information in a manner that the employee can understand.
- To the extent that a company or organization has emergency procedures, plans or public safety information that is available to the public, upon request, such information must be provided to individuals with disabilities in an accessible manner.
MCSS recently published fact sheets to assist companies and organizations in coming into compliance with these emergency preparedness obligations. To view the fact sheets, click here.
Integrated Standard – Next Steps
The private-sector obligations and timelines for compliance with other aspects of the Integrated Standard vary widely, and depend in part on whether a company or organization is a "large organization" (meaning an organization with 50 or more employees in Ontario) or a "small organization" (meaning an organization with at least one employee, but fewer than 50 employees, in Ontario).
In general terms, the majority of the general, employment, and information and communications obligations that impact most private-sector organizations will come into force between 2014 and 2016. It is expected that MCSS will publish additional fact sheets and other resources to assist companies and organizations to come into compliance with specific obligations closer to the compliance deadlines. Obligations of particular note include accessibility requirements with respect to websites and employment documentation, as well as additional policy-making and training requirements.
Companies and organizations should consider accessibility issues in respect of the areas covered by the Integrated Standard well in advance in order to ensure compliance is achieved by the various deadlines.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.