This is the second installment in a three-part series of articles focused on employers’ duties under Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. Part one addressed the scope and applicability of the law to various businesses. Part two addresses what a business must do to comply with the customer service standards under Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.
While the exact answer to this question depends on the size and type of business involved, there is a laundry list of requirements that apply to all providers of goods and services with at least one employee in Ontario. According to the Guide to the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07, the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service require all providers to do the following:
- Establish policies, practices, and procedures on providing goods or services to individuals with disabilities.
- Use reasonable efforts to ensure that your policies, practices, and procedures are consistent with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration, and equality of opportunity.
- Set a policy on allowing individuals with disabilities to use their own personal assistive devices to access your goods and use your services, and about any other measures your organization offers (e.g., assistive devices, services, or other methods) to enable them to access your goods and use your services.
- Communicate with an individual with a disability in a manner that takes into account his or her disability.
- Allow individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide dogs or service animals in those areas of the premises you own or operate that are open to the public, unless the animal is excluded by another law. If a service animal is excluded by law, use other measures to provide services to an individual with a disability.
- Permit individuals with disabilities who use support persons to bring those persons with them while accessing goods or services in premises open to the public or third parties.
- Where admission fees are charged, provide notice ahead of time on what admission, if any, would be charged for a support person of an individual with a disability.
- Provide notice when facilities or services that individuals with disabilities rely on to access or use your goods or services are temporarily disrupted.
- Train staff, volunteers, contractors, and any others who interact with the public or other third parties on your behalf on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standards.
- Train staff, volunteers, contractors, and any others who are involved in developing your policies, practices, and procedures on the provision of goods or services on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standards.
- Establish a process to gather feedback on how you provide goods or services to individuals with disabilities and how you will respond to any feedback and take action on any complaints. Make the information about your feedback process readily available to the public.
If your organization has 20 or more employees, you must also do the following:
- Document in writing all your policies, practices, and procedures for providing accessible customer service and meet other document requirements set out in the customer service standards.
- Notify customers that documents required under the customer service standards are available upon request.
- When giving documents required under the customer service standards to an individual with a disability, provide the information in a format that takes into account the nature of the disability.
Businesses with 20 or more employees were required to file customer service standard compliance reports on December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2014.
Many Ontario businesses remain noncompliant with the customer service standards despite the threat of enforcement action by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, including potential fines.