Adults in Ontario cannot recall a time when their local shopping
malls did not have parking spots reserved for persons with
disabilities, accessible entrance doors, and closed-caption
television shows. Innovations such as these have improved the
quality of life of the hundreds of thousands of Ontarians with
disabilities over the last 30 years. However, there remain
significant impediments, both visible and invisible, to quality of
life for some Ontarians.
Implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities
Act (AODA) seeks to create widespread change and removes existing
barriers that hinder those with disabilities from fully
participating in society. This legislation is far reaching and
requires that most providers of goods and services in Ontario
develop standards in five areas: Customer Service, Transportation,
Information and Communications, Employment and the Built
Environment. The requirements in each area will be phased in over a
number of years.
The first standard, Customer Service, is now in effect, and
impacts Ontario businesses with 20 or more employees. AODA requires
that employers review their policies, practices and procedures to
ensure individuals with disabilities of any kinds can access those
businesses in such a way that the core principles of independence
and dignity are upheld in all interactions. Multiple websites exist
that set out the requirements associated with this legislation, and
there are legal and other advisors who can assist with what
businesses must do.
Business owners should regard the AODA as more than simply a set
of legislative requirements, however. Within the next ten years,
seniors (who inherently often have certain challenges) and persons
with disabilities will comprise 20 – 25% of the Ontario
economy. A Royal Bank of Canada survey, released a decade ago,
found that this segment of the province's population represents
purchasing power of up to $25 billion per year. It makes smart
business sense to ensure that these individuals can remain active
consumers of any business.
There are also significant penalties for non-compliance. Fines
of up to $50,000 per day for Directors and Officers, and up to
$100,000 per day may be assessed for corporations not in compliance
with the AODA.
The most persuasive reason for ensuring your business is
welcoming to persons with disabilities may be one of a more
personal nature for some. Life can change on a dime, and
individuals who were otherwise fully able bodied can find
themselves struggling with previously familiar tasks.
Many of us have family members, friends or colleagues who, as a
result of accident, illness, or aging, have seen the progression of
disability and the challenges that it brings. The AODA legislation
stresses the importance of the provision of a life of dignity for
persons with disabilities, and none of us would want less for a
Susan Hodkinson is the Chief Operating Officer of Crowe
Soberman, where she has management responsibility for the
operations of the firm, including finance, information technology,
human resources, facilities and marketing.
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.
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