The next phase of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “AODA”) compliance comes into effect on January 1, 2016. Private and not-for-profit organizations, and small and large public organizations will have to comply requirements under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (the “Regulation”) beginning in the New Year as follows:

  1. Small organizations (with fewer than 50 employees in Ontario) must ensure training is provided on the requirements of the standards set out in the Regulation and the Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities. Training must be provided to all employees, volunteers, all persons who participate in developing the organization's policies, and all other persons who provide goods and services on behalf of the organization. Training must be appropriate to each individual's duties, and it must be provided as soon as practicable, and on an ongoing basis as changes are made to the organization' s accessibility policies.
  2. Small organizations must ensure processes for receiving and responding to feedback are accessible to persons with disabilities by providing or arranging for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports, upon request. Notice must be given to the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.
  3. Small designated public sector organizations and large organizations (with 50 or more employees in Ontario) must provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities, upon request, in a timely manner that takes into account the person's needs, and at a cost that is no more than the regular cost to other persons. Organizations must consult with the person making the request in determining the suitability of an accessible format or communication support. Notice must be given to the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.
  4. Large organizations must comply with various Employment Standards set out in the Regulation. There are a number of detailed requirements in this section of the Regulation, including with respect to recruitment; providing information to employees about accommodation; providing accessible formats and communication supports in relation to information needed for an employee's job, or information generally available in the workplace; documenting individual accommodation plans; developing return to work processes; and considering accessibility needs in performance management, career development and advancement, and redeployment processes/practices.
  5. Large designated public organizations must comply with requirements related to the design of public spaces that are newly constructed or redeveloped.

The Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure has been very active in monitoring compliance with the AODA over the last few months. We are seeing more enforcement efforts in respect of organizations that are not compliant to date, particularly in the form of spot audits, including a “retail blitz”, targeting large retailers over the last month.

In order to get ahead of any enforcement efforts and to ensure timely compliance, Ontario employers should already be thinking about these requirements and they should be taking steps to meet their obligations before the deadline rolls around.