ACCESSIBILITY LEGISLATION IN ONTARIO
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) became law on June 13, 2005. Ontario is the first province in Canada to pass legislation that will develop mandatory accessibility standards with the goal of identifying, removing, and preventing barriers for people with disabilities in key areas of daily living. The goal is to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.
WHO IS AFFECTED AND WHEN
The AODA Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429/07) came into force on January 1, 2008 and are now the law. The Ontario government and other designated public sector organizations were required to comply by January 1, 2010.
The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service also apply to private and non-profit sector employers that have at least one employee in Ontario and that provide goods or services to members of the public or other organizations. Private and non-profit sector organizations will be required to comply by January 1, 2012 and those with 20 or more employees will also have to file a written report with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.
The Province has worked with representatives from the disability community, as well as public and private sector organizations, to develop all five accessibility standards that will be implemented in stages with plenty of time for businesses to comply.
THE FIVE AODA ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS
Under the AODA, the Standards Development Committees have developed standards in five key areas.
1. Ontario Regulation 429/07
Accessibility Standards for Customer Service were the first developed to become a regulation, in January 2008. This standard addresses business policy, practices, and procedures and stipulates employee training needed to provide better customer service to people with disabilities. It is not about making structural changes but rather about changing attitudes and systems that create barriers to accessibility.
2. Ontario Regulation 191/11
This regulation takes into account three sets of standards at the same time and became a regulation in July 2011:
A. Accessible Information and Communications standards address the removal of barriers in access to information and include information being provided in person, through print, telephone, websites, and other means.
B. Employment Accessibility standards will address paid employment practices relating to employee-employer relationships, and these include recruitment, hiring, and retention policies and practices.
C. Accessible Transportation standards have been identified as crucial for people with disabilities to participate in aspects of daily life such as going to work, school or shopping. These standards address aspects of accessible public transportation including buses, trains, and taxis.
3. Regulation still pending
Accessible Built Environment standards will address access into and within buildings and outdoor spaces and are expected to be harmonized with the Ontario Building Code. These standards will include things like counter height, aisle and door width, parking, and way-finding signage.
HOW ACCESSIBILITY BENEFITS BUSINESS
Disability impacts the lives of many Ontarians, and the numbers of people with disabilities is increasing as the population ages. Today, over 15% of Ontario’s population has a disability, including more than 40% of people over age 65. About 1.85 million people in Ontario have a disability. That’s one in seven people. Over the next 20 years, as the population ages, the number will rise to one in five Ontarians. More than half of the population has a friend or a loved-one with a disability, and is influenced by them when deciding which businesses to solicit.
Improving accessibility is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. The Royal Bank of Canada estimates that people with disabilities have discretionary spending power of about $25 billion annually across Canada.
In addition, people with disabilities also represent a large, relatively untapped source of skilled workers that could solve many of Ontario’s employer needs over the coming years. Hiring people with disabilities is proven to increase employee satisfaction and loyalty.
AODA DEFINITION OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
People with disabilities are often thought of as those in wheelchairs and with visible physical disabilities. However disabilities can also be non-visible and not apparent. There is a wide range of disabilities that includes vision, deafness or being hard of hearing, intellectual or developmental, learning, and mental health disabilities.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) uses the same definition of “disability” as the Ontario Human Rights Code, which includes both visible and non-visible disabilities.
IMPLEMENTING THE STANDARDS
Organizations covered by the standard will file accessibility reports. Non-compliance with an order, filing false reports and other infractions may result in serious financial penalties.
For more information contact:
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Contact Centre (ServiceOntario)
TTY: 416-325-3408 / Toll-free: 1-800-268-7095