Changes to the Customer Service Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act , 2005, S.O. 2005, c. 11 (“AODA”) will come into force on July 1, 2016 and will apply to all organizations providing goods, services or facilities in the province.

All accessibility standards — including the accessible customer service standard — are now part of one regulation: the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (O. Reg. 191/11). Consequently this change revokes the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Reg. 429/07) and Exemption from Reporting Requirements (O. Reg. 430/07).

The New Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation

Definition Changes:

The definition of “large organization” in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation has been changed to state that a large organization is an organization of 50 or more employees in Ontario, other than the Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization. Previously the definition was 20 or more people.

There have been numerous term and definition updates that will not likely substantially affect existing requirements for organizations. However, definitions for guide dog, service animal and support person have been added.

Training Requirements (Section 80.49):

The previous requirement was for organizations to train the members of their organization who work with customers or create policies and procedures on how to interact with people with different disabilities.

As of July 1, 2016, the requirement is that all members of an organization must be trained on accessible customer service and how to interact with people with different disabilities.

Service Animals (Section 80.47):

The previous requirement allowed an organization to ask a person with a disability to provide a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that a service animal is required because of his or her disability.

As of July 1, 2016, a person with a disability can provide documentation from a regulated health professional.

Support Persons (Section 80.47):

The previous requirement was that organizations may require a person with a disability to be accompanied by a support person for health or safety reasons.

As of July 1, 2016, before making a decision to require a support person, an organization must:

  • consult with the person with a disability to understand their needs
  • consider health or safety reasons based on the available evidence
  • determine if there is any other reasonable way to protect the health or safety of the person or others on the premises. In such a situation, you must waive the admission fee or fare for the support person, if one exists.

Feedback (Section 80.50):

The previous requirement was for organizations to provide a way for their customers who have disabilities to comment on how they may provide accessible customer service.

As of July 1, 2016, the feedback process must be accessible and organizations must provide or arrange accessible formats and communication supports, on request.

Documenting policies, practices and procedures (Section 80.46):

The previous requirement was that businesses or not for profit organizations with 20 or more employees had to put their accessible customer service policy in writing and make it available to people who request it. They were required to provide it in a format that takes into account the person’s disability.

As of July 1, 2016, a business or not for profit organization with 50 or more employees must put their accessible customer service policy in writing and make it available to people who request it. They may post it publicly or on a website. It must be provided in accessible format or with communication support, on request.

Policy Summary and Notice Requirements

Organizations with 50 or more employees should, if they have not already done so, create a document describing the policies under the Customer Service Standards section of the new Integrated Accessibility Standards.

Under the new regulation, organizations will also need to draft a notice informing the public of the availability of the document describing Customer Service Standards policies.

Employers are advised to retain consul in the drafting of these documents in order to ensure compliance with the new regulation.

Recommended Steps for Employers:

  • Update you accessible customer service policy
  • Train all members of your organization on accessible customer service.(You do not need to retrain, but merely inform those members already changed about the changes)
  • Update Training records
  • If you are a business or non-profit with 20-49 employees, you no longer have to put your accessible customer service policy in writing or make it public. You may still have reporting requirements under AODA.
  • If you are an organization of 50 employees or more, you will need to have a document summarizing policy compliance. You will also need to have a publically accessible notice of this document.