The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “AODA”) came into force on June 13, 2005. The purpose of the AODA is to develop, implement and enforce accessibility standards for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, building, structures, premises, and importantly, employment. In order to achieve this objective, the AODA and associated regulations set out specific standards employers and providers of goods and services are required to comply with, and the dates by which compliance must be achieved.
Employers need to be aware of their obligations under the AODA, and should be taking steps to bring their operations into compliance with the requirements, particularly in light of the upcoming January 1, 2014 compliance deadline.
Which organizations must satisfy compliance requirements by January 1, 2014?
- The Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly;
- Large designated public sector organizations;
- Small designated public sector organizations; and
- Large private organizations, with 50 or more employees in Ontario
It should be noted that many of the compliance deadlines related to the requirements discussed below have already passed for the Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly and large designated public sector organizations.
With respect to transportation services, there are a number of January 1, 2014 deadlines specific to this industry. If your organization provides specialized transportation services, please feel free to contact us if you have inquiries about your obligations.
Which compliance requirements must be satisfied by January 1, 2014?
- Establishment of Accessibility Policies: Small public sector and large private organizations must develop, implement and maintain accessibility policies which govern how each organization plans to achieve accessibility. These policies should include a statement of commitment to meeting the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities. They must be in writing, and they must be made available in an accessible format upon request. Small organizations are also required to comply with this requirement, but not until January 1, 2015.
- Accessibility Plans: Small public sector and large private organizations must establish, implement, maintain and document a multi-year accessibility plan which outlines strategies to prevent and remove barriers and strategies for meeting AODA obligations. The plan must be posted on every organization’s website, if there is one, and must be provided in an accessible format upon request. The plan must be updated and reviewed at least once every five years. Designated public sector organizations and the Government must also prepare annual status reports.
- Procuring or Acquiring Goods, Services or Facilities: Small designated public sector organizations must incorporate accessibility designs, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, where it is practicable to do so. An explanation may be required upon request where a determination is made that it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility designs, criteria and features.
- Self-Service Kiosks: Small designated public sector organizations must incorporate accessibility features when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks. Large organizations and small organizations must have regard to the accessibility of persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks. Small organizations do not have to comply with this requirement until January 1, 2015.
- Training: Large designated public sector organizations must provide training on the requirements of the AODA’s accessibility standards and on the Human Rights Codeas it pertains to persons with disabilities. Employees, volunteers, persons participating in the development of an organization’s policies, and all other persons who provide goods, services or facilities on behalf of an organization must receive this training in a manner that is appropriate given their duties. Training must be provided on an ongoing basis whenever changes to accessibility policies are made. Affected organizations must keep records of training which include the dates on which training is provided and the number of individuals trained. Small designated public sector organizations and large organizations must comply with this requirement by January 1, 2015, and small organizations must comply by January 1, 2016.
- Feedback: Large public sector organizations that have processes for receiving and responding to feedback must ensure their processes are accessible to persons with disabilities by providing accessible formats and communication supports upon request. The public must be notified about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports. Small public organizations and large private organizations must comply with this requirement by January 1, 2015, and small organizations must comply by January 1, 2016.
- Accessible Formats and Communication Supports: The Government must provide or arrange for accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities upon request. Provision must be made in a timely manner and at no extra cost. The person making the request must be consulted before they are provided with an accessible format or communication support in order to determine its suitability. The public must be notified of the availability of accessible formats and communication supports. Large public organizations must comply with this requirement by January 1, 2015, small public organizations and large private organizations are required to comply by January 1, 2016, and small private organizations must comply by January 1, 2017.
- Websites: Public sector organizations and large private organizations must ensure that any new websites and web content conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A. It should be noted that all internet websites and web content of public sector and large organizations must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, with minor exceptions, by January 1, 2012.
- Employment Standards: Large public sector organizations are required to satisfy the AODA employment standards by January 1, 2014. Small public sector organizations must comply by January 1, 2015, large private organizations are required to comply by January 1, 2016, and small organizations must comply by January 1, 2017. The employment standards create a number of obligations on employers including, notifying employees and applicants about available accommodation, providing suitable accommodation upon request, and providing individualized workplace emergency response information to employees who have a disability.
While not all organizations are up against a fast- approaching deadline, it is advisable for every organization to think about developing policies and practices for implementing the AODA requirements now as compliance may take time and may require more than a modification to existing policies.