Canada: Top Six Frequently Asked Questions About The AODA For Franchisors And Franchisees

In Ontario, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has been increasingly active in pursuing enforcement actions against organizations that have not complied with their requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). On February 20, 2014, the Toronto Star reported that the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment is planning to conduct 1,700 compliance audits this year to ensure that organizations carry out their AODA Customer Service plans. Last November, the Ministry issued 2,500 enforcement letters to organizations that had failed to submit compliance reports in accordance with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the Customer Service Standards).

How do these AODA requirements apply to franchisors and franchisees? Is your organization aware of its accessibility requirements with respect to policies, training and new websites?

Our top six frequently asked questions and answers are summarized below.

  1. Does the AODA apply to franchisors and franchisees?

Franchisors and franchisees are subject to the same requirements as any other organization. Most organizations, including franchisors and franchisees, that employ at least one employee in Ontario and provide goods, services or facilities are required to comply with the AODA and its regulations: the Customer Service Standards and the Integrated Accessibility Standards.

These regulations set out a number of accessibility requirements for organizations regarding customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation and the design of public spaces. These requirements include creating policies and plans, providing training, posting certain notices, establishing a feedback process and  filing compliance reports.

Further, organizations with 50 or more employees are required to prepare additional policies, create a multi-year accessibility plan and  ensure that new websites conform to accessibility guidelines. Depending on the nature of the organization, there may be additional requirements that should be considered. A number of additional requirements will also come into force over several years on a rolling basis. For example, effective January 1, 2015, organizations with 50 or more employees will be required to provide additional training to their employees, as well as to ensure that their processes for receiving and responding to feedback are accessible to persons with disabilities.

For more information regarding the specific requirements under the AODA, our AODA Resource page provides links to a number of helpful resources, including the following:

  • Our AODA Compliance Checklist, which provides a summary of the most common legal requirements for private sector organizations that are either currently in effect or will take effect January 1, 2015;
  • Articles and guides, including a previous Osler Update that provides an overview of certain requirements (including the requirement for new websites) that came into force effective January 1, 2014; and
  • The Ministry's AODA Compliance Wizard, which is a tool that can be used to help determine which AODA requirements apply to an organization.

Useful guidance materials have also been developed by various stakeholders, including policy and procedures templates and a franchise compliance manual created by the Canadian Franchise Association.

  1. Who enforces the AODA?

The AODA and its regulations are enforced by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment and the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards, administrative penalties for corporations range from $500 to $15,000 per contravention (depending on the severity of the impact of the contravention and the contravention history of the organization), up to a maximum daily penalty of $100,000. Failure to comply with an enforcement order could result in fines of up to $100,000 per day for corporations and up to $50,000 per day for directors and officers.

  1. Are franchisors and franchisees required to file compliance reports?

As with any organization that provides goods or services to members of the public, if a franchisor or a franchisee has 20 or more employees in Ontario, it was required to prepare certain documents and file a compliance report in accordance with the Customer Service Standards by December 2012. The compliance report can be filed online and requires organizations to answer a number of questions regarding their compliance with the Customer Service Standards.

Franchisors and franchisees with 20 or more employees in Ontario will also be required to file a second accessibility compliance report by December 31, 2014.If the franchisor or franchisee employs 50 or more employees in Ontario, it will be required to answer questions regarding its compliance with the Integrated Accessibility Standards, as well as the Customer Service Standards.

  1. How do organizations count the number of employees they have in Ontario for the purposes of the AODA?

An organization (including a franchisor and a franchisee) must include all full-time, part-time, seasonal and contract employees when counting the number of employees for the purposes of the AODA. Volunteers and independent contractors should not be included in the employee count.

Compliance reports are filed according to an organization's nine-digit business number (BN9). Organizations with more than one BN9 are therefore required to file a separate report for each BN9 with 20 or more employees. We note that in determining whether an accessibility standard should apply to an organization, a director has the power to order two or more organizations to be treated as one organization under the AODA.

  1. Have any other provinces enacted legislation that is similar to the AODA?

The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) came into force on December 5, 2013, and is similar to the AODA in that it sets out a framework for developing accessibility standards in Manitoba. Although no standards have been established under the AMA to date, the Manitoba Disabilities Issues Office has published the Terms of Reference for the Customer Service Accessibility Standards Development Committee on its website and a representative of the office has confirmed that the Customer Service Accessibility Standards will be the first standards developed under the AMA. An organization that commits an offence under the AMA can be liable on summary conviction for a fine of up to $250,000.

In addition to the requirements under accessibility legislation, every province has human rights legislation that prohibits discrimination based on disability.

  1. Can a franchisor and its franchisees have different obligations under the AODA?

The franchisor and its franchisees may have different obligations under the AODA, depending on the number of their employees in Ontario. Different franchisees may also have different obligations from each other. For example, a franchisee with only 5 employees in Ontario will have different AODA requirements from a franchisee that employs 50+ employees in Ontario.

As with any law, it is up to each franchisee to ensure compliance with the AODA; however, to ensure a consistent customer service experience and reduce the risk of non-compliance (which could result in damages to the franchisor's brand), franchisors may wish to consider assisting with an AODA compliance program for all franchisees in Ontario.

We recommend that franchisors and franchisees review their requirements and develop an overall compliance strategy, which may include reviewing consumer-facing material and customer communication methods to ensure that they take into account potential accessibility issues and to ensure that new websites (including existing websites that undergo a significant refresh) comply with the AODA requirements, as necessary. The accessibility requirements under the AODA apply not only to franchisees in the course of their dealings with their customers, but also to the franchisor in the course of its dealing with its customers, which may include franchisees.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Blaney McMurtry LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Blaney McMurtry LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions