As described in previous Blakes Bulletins, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) requires public and private organizations in Ontario to take proactive steps to eliminate barriers to the participation of individuals with disabilities in Ontario society. The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) enacted under AODA creates obligations in various areas, including information and communications, employment, transportation and the design of public spaces. The IASR also requires organizations to implement various accessibility policies and plans and to conduct staff training.
The IASR applies to all organizations that provide goods, services or facilities to the public or other third parties and have at least one employee in Ontario. The deadlines for private sector compliance with the IASR requirements are staggered and, in many instances, depend on whether a company is a small organization (an organization with at least one but fewer than 50 employees in Ontario) or a large organization (an organization with 50 or more employees in Ontario).
Set out below is a reminder of the main IASR requirements coming into effect for large organizations on January 1, 2015. Organizations with 20 or more employees must also remember to submit an online report advising the government that current AODA requirements have been met by the end of 2014.
The IASR requires large organizations to ensure that all employees, volunteers and other persons who provide goods, services or facilities on behalf of the organization (e.g., contractors) and those who participate in the development of the organization’s policies receive training on the IASR and the Ontario Human Rights Code as it relates to individuals with disabilities. Template training materials can be accessed at www.accessforward.ca/ andwww.ohrc.on.ca/en/learning/working-together-code-and-aoda. This training is distinct from the training required under the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service regulation (Customer Service Standard) also enacted under AODA.
The required training should make reference to the organization’s accessibility policies and multi-year accessibility plan (IASR Plan), which were to be completed by large organizations by January 1, 2014. The IASR Plan outlines the organization’s strategy to prevent and remove barriers to individuals with disabilities and to meet the requirements of the IASR over time. Organizations must post the IASR Plan on their websites and provide the plan in accessible formats upon request. A template IASR Plan can be accessed here.
As of January 1, 2015, large organizations that have processes for receiving and responding to feedback must ensure that the processes are accessible to persons with disabilities by providing or arranging for the provision of accessible formats and communications supports, upon request. This requirement is distinct from the requirement to create a feedback process under the Customer Service Standard. As a result, it is recommended that organizations review their existing feedback processes to assess whether they are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
To the extent a large organization is considering the development of a new website or the significant refresh of an existing website in 2015 or thereafter, such website will generally be required to comply with the technical requirements of the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level A. In determining whether an existing website is significantly refreshed, the organization should consider any significant changes to the look and feel of the website, how users navigate the website, and any major updates or changes to the content of the website. These website requirements under IASR came into effect for large organizations on January 1, 2014.