As noted in our October 2012 Blakes Bulletin on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) required most companies and organizations to file compliance reports in relation to the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the Customer Service Standard) on or before December 31, 2012.
As most companies and organizations have completed the implementation of the Customer Service Standard, they must now turn to implementing the Integrated Accessibility Standards (the Integrated Standards) within the various compliance deadlines. The Integrated Standards include standards relating to employment, information and communications, and transportation, along with standards with respect to the design of public spaces and the built environment, which were recently finalized. The Integrated Standards also contain certain general obligations regarding accessibility policies and plans and further employee training.
Since our October 2012 AODA Blakes Bulletin, MCSS has published on its website various policies and implementation resources relating to the Integrated Standards. Companies and organizations can also use the "AODA Compliance Wizard" on the MCSS website to obtain a snapshot of their specific Integrated Standards obligations. The AODA Compliance Wizard can be accessed here.
Set out below is a summary of the key upcoming compliance requirements and deadlines for most "large organizations", being those private-sector companies and organizations with 50 or more employees in Ontario. Private-sector companies and organizations with less than 50 employees in Ontario often have more time to come into compliance with the Integrated Standards or, in some cases, have less stringent obligations.
Accessibility Policies/Multi-Year Accessibility Plan. By January 1, 2014, large organizations must have developed and implemented accessibility policies and a multi-year accessibility plan describing how the organization will achieve accessibility and compliance with the Integrated Standards. The document must include a statement of commitment, and be posted on the organization's website.
Self-Service Kiosks. By January 1, 2014, large organizations must have regard to accessibility issues when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks.
Training. By January 1, 2015, all employees and others providing services on behalf of a large organization must receive training on the Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities and the Integrated Standards.
Feedback. By January 1, 2015, large organizations must ensure that their feedback processes can be administered in accessible formats and with communication supports, upon request.
Accessible Format and Communication Supports. By January 1, 2016, large organizations must provide information and communications in accessible formats and with communication supports to individuals with disabilities (in a timely manner and at a cost equal to the regular cost charged to others), upon request.
Accessible Websites. By January 1, 2014, large organizations' Internet websites must generally meet the specifications of WCAG 2.0 Level A, but only if the website was created or underwent a significant refresh after January 1, 2012. By January 1, 2021, all Internet websites must meet the specifications of WCAG 2.0 Level AA (with certain limited exceptions).
Employment. By January 1, 2016, companies must come into compliance with the AODA employment standards, which will involve various document and process changes relating to, for example, recruitment, accommodation and return-to-work processes. For further information on the employment standards, see our June 2011 Blakes Bulletin: AODA – New Employment Standards for Access.
Companies and organizations should consider accessibility issues in respect of all areas covered by the Integrated Standards well in advance in order to ensure compliance is achieved by the various deadlines.