There's one month left to prepare for the AODA in Ontario – is your company ready? 

publication 

December 2011

Employment and Labour Bulletin

The Ontario Government enacted the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the "AODA") to develop standards to improve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities in the areas of customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation and the built environment. Provincially-regulated private sector employers must be in compliance with the Customer Service Standard (the "CSS") and certain provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standard (the "IAS") by January 1, 2012. Is your company ready?

application

With few exceptions, the CSS and IAS standards apply to private sector organizations that provide goods, services or facilities to the public or a third party business or organization and have at least one employee in Ontario (each, a "Provider"). In addition, where a Provider contracts with another organization to provide goods, services or facilities on its behalf, the Provider must ensure that the third party organization also complies with the CSS and the IAS.

overview of obligations

The CSS imposes the following principal obligations upon Providers as of January 1, 2012:

  • Policies and Procedure – Establish policies and procedures regarding the provision of goods and services to people with disabilities, including in respect of:

o use of assistive devices and services available to the public; and
o support persons' and service animals' access to business premises.

  • Communication – Develop alternative modes of communication with disabled individuals.
  • Notice of Disruption – Develop a procedure to notify of a disruption to a facility or service and identify alternative facilities or services.
  • Training – Provide training on the following issues to all individuals who may interact with the public or influence the development of policies, practices and procedures related to customer service:

o the purpose of the AODA and the requirements of the CSS;
o policies and procedures;
o interacting and communicating with disabled people who have different restrictions, use assistive devices or have a service animal or support person;
o use of assistive devices available on the organization's premises; and
o what to do if a disabled person is having difficulty accessing the Provider's services, including advising of potential accommodations.

  • Feedback – Develop a process for receiving and responding to feedback on the provision of goods and services to people with disabilities.
  • Documentation/Accessibility Report – If the Provider is a private sector organization with 20 or more employees or a designated public sector organization, it must disclose additional documentation and file an annual accessibility report with the Ontario Government.

The IAS imposes the following principal obligation upon Providers as of January 1, 2012 (with other obligations to follow in succeeding years):

  • Workplace Emergency Response Information - Provide individualized workplace emergency response information to all employees with a visible or non-visible disability, if and as required.

What's the risk if your company does not meet these obligations as of January 1, 2012? While the AODA is premised on a system of self-certification, Ontario employers are at risk of being inspected and fined if they fail to meet their obligations. Offences carry significant fines of up to $50,000 for a director or officer of a corporation and $100,000 for a corporation, for every day or part day that the offence occurs.

implications for employers

There is no single way to provide accessibility for all disabled persons and, as a result, compliance with the AODA, and accessibility more generally, will be an ongoing process.

All Providers will have to comply with the CSS and certain provisions of the IAS in one month. Considering the significant obligations prescribed in these standards, Ontario employers are well-advised to contact their legal counsel now to assist with developing and implementing all required policies, procedures and training.

by Darryl Hiscocks and Jennifer Bond


a cautionary note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2011