While the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, S.O. 2005, c. 11 ("AODA" or the "Act") came into force almost twenty years ago, there has been a phased implementation to accessibility requirements under the Act. There has also been confusion as to what requirements apply to an organization and in what circumstances those requirements will apply.
One particular area of confusion has been what threshold of reconstruction/redevelopment/replacement will trigger an obligation to comply with the design of public spaces requirements provided for by O. Reg. 191/11 Integrated Accessibility Standards (the "IASR") under AODA.
We will examine the application and implications of the IASR over a three part series. In this Part One we will cover how and when AODA and the IASR will apply. In Part Two we will look at the threshold of reconstruction/redevelopment/replacement that will trigger an obligation to comply with the IASR. Finally, Part Three will set out the penalties for non-compliance.
As a starting point, Section 4 of AODA provides that the Act applies to every person or organization in the public and private sectors of Ontario. Section 1(3) of the IASR provides that the accessibility standards apply to every person or organization that provides goods, services or facilities to the public or other third parties and that has at least one employee in Ontario.
AODA and the IASR do provide for different application of the requirements for different entities, based on whether the entity is public or private and the number of employees. There are a total of four categories of entities:
- large designated public sector organization, which is a designated public sector organization with 50 or more employees;
- large organization, which is an organization with 50 or more employees in Ontario, other than the Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization;
- small designated public sector organization, which is a designated public sector organization with at least one but fewer than 50 employees; and
- small organization, which is an organization with at least one but fewer than 50 employees in Ontario, other than the Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization.
As of January 1, 2018, the design of public spaces standards ("DPS Standards") now apply to all four categories that must comply with the IASR.
The most immediate impact of the DPS Standards is the requirement that all obligated organizations must make sure that their multi-year accessibility plan are in writing and have outlined how their obligations under the IASR, including the DPS Standard, will be met. It is important to note that small organizations are exempted from some of the DPS Standards, including the requirement to have a written accessibility policy.
A final note on the application of the IASR and the DPS Standards, the entity that must comply with the requirements is the one that has authority or approval to build on or make planned significant alterations to the public space, but not necessarily an organization that may have approved the construction or otherwise have an interest in the property. This means that the entity that must comply may not necessarily be the owner of the land, but could be a lessee or operator of a property.
With the framework of AODA and the IASR established, stay tuned for Part Two, which will examine what threshold of reconstruction/redevelopment/replacement will trigger an obligation to comply with the design of public spaces requirements.
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.