CUSTOMER SERVICE ACCESSIBILITY POLICY
(Effective January 1, 2012 – Revised January 1, 2017)
1. This policy is consistent with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Accessibility Standards for Customer Service) made under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), and applies to the provision of services to the public and other third parties, but not to the services themselves.
PURPOSE AND COMMITMENT
2. The Firm is committed to maintaining an accessible environment for persons with disabilities in the delivery of its services.
3. The Firm will use reasonable efforts to ensure that its policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of its services to persons with disabilities are consistent with the following principles:
a. services are to be provided in a way that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities;
b. persons with disabilities should be able to benefit from the same services, in the same place and in a similar way as other clients; and
c. persons with disabilities should have opportunities equal to others to obtain, use and benefit from the Firm’s services.
4. For the purposes of this policy,
“Assistive Device” means a technical aid, communication device or other instrument that is used to maintain or improve the functional abilities of people with disabilities. Personal assistive devices are typically devices persons with disabilities bring with them (such as a wheelchair, a walker or a personal oxygen tank) that might assist in hearing, seeing, communicating, moving, breathing, remembering and/or reading.
a. any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device;
b. a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability;
c. a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language;
d. a mental disorder; or
e. an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.
“Guide dog” means a dog trained as a guide for a person who is blind or visually impaired.
“Service animal” means an animal for a person with disabilities where it is readily apparent that the animal is used by the person for reasons relating to his or her disability, or where the person provides a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that he or she requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability.
“Support person” means, in relation to a person with disabilities, another person who accompanies him or her in order to help with communication, mobility, personal care or medical needs, or with access to goods and services.
APPLICATION OF THIS POLICY
5. This policy applies to Firm services that are provided externally to the public, or to third parties.
6. The policy applies to all lawyers, paralegals and staff, students, agents, volunteers, clients, and visitors to the Firm, and includes the Partners and any other persons that participate in the development of the Firm’s policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of services to members of the public or third parties. All areas of the Firm are accountable for providing accessibility to persons with disabilities.
PROVIDING SERVICES TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
7. The Firm is committed to excellence in serving all clients, including persons with disabilities, and will carry out its functions and responsibilities by:
a. communicating with persons with disabilities in ways that take into account their disability;
b. allowing persons with disabilities to do things in their own way and at their own pace when accessing services, as long as this does not present a health or safety risk; and
c. committing to the obligations set out in the following sections.
8. Persons with disabilities shall be permitted to use any assistive devices they require in order to access the Firm’s services.
9. Persons with disabilities may enter the Firm’s premises with a support person and have access to the support person while on the premises.
10. The Firm may require persons with disabilities to be accompanied by a support person when on the premises, but only if a support person is necessary to protect the health and safety of the person with disabilities or the health and safety of others on the premises. The determination of whether a support person is necessary to protect health and safety remains in the sole discretion of the Firm.
11. Prior to a conversation where confidential information may be discussed with a person who has brought a support person with him or her, consent to have the support person present will be obtained from the person with the disability.
12. A person with a disability may be accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal when on the Firm premises. In the event that the service animal is excluded by law from the premises, the Firm will provide other resources or support to enable the person with a disability to access the services offered by the Firm.
13. If it is not readily apparent that an animal is being used by a person with a disability for reasons relating to his or her disability, the Firm may request verification from the client. Verification may include:
a. a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons related to the disability;
b. a valid identification card signed by the Attorney General of Canada; or,
c. a certificate of training from a recognized guide dog or service animal training school.
14. The person with a disability that is accompanied by a guide dog or service animal is responsible at all times for maintaining care and control of the animal.
15. If a health and safety concern presents itself (for example, a severe allergy to the animal), the Firm will make all reasonable efforts to meet the needs of all individuals.
16. The Firm is committed to providing accessible invoices to all of its clients, and will make every effort to provide alternative formats of invoices in a timely manner upon request.
NOTICE OF TEMPORARY DISRUPTION
17. Service disruptions may occur due to reasons that may or may not be within the control or knowledge of the Firm.
18. The Firm will notify the public in the event of a planned or unexpected disruption to facilities or services usually used by persons with disabilities. This notice will include information about the reason for the disruption, its anticipated duration, and a description of alternative facilities or services, if available.
19. The notice will be posted on the Firm’s website, or communicated by such other method as is reasonable in the circumstances.
TRAINING FOR STAFF AND OTHERS
20. The Firm will train its staff and other individuals who provide services to the public on the Firm’s behalf on the provision of its services to persons with disabilities. This includes the Partners and all persons who participate in the development of the Firm’s policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of services to members of the public or third parties.
21. The training will be provided as soon as practicable after the person commences to provide services to the public or other third parties, and will include the following topics:
a. the purposes of the AODA and the requirements of the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service;
b. how to interact and communicate with persons with various types of disabilities;
c. how to interact with persons with disabilities who use an assistive device or require the assistance of a guide dog, service animal or support person;
d. how to use any equipment or devices that are available on the Firm’s premises or otherwise provided by the Firm, and which may help with the provision of services to a person with a disability;
e. what to do if a person with a particular type of disability is having difficulty accessing the Firm’s services;
f. the Firm’s policies, practices and procedures relating to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
22. The Firm will provide training on an ongoing basis, whenever changes are made to the Firm’s policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of services to persons with disabilities, and in the event of changes to applicable legislation.
23. Bird Richard welcomes and encourages applications from people with disabilities. Accommodations are available on request for candidates taking part in all aspects of the selection process.
24. The Firm welcomes any questions or feedback regarding the methods it uses to provide services to persons with disabilities. Individuals may provide their feedback in person, by telephone, in writing, or by delivering an electronic text by e-mail or on diskette or otherwise to:
130 Albert Street, Suite 508
Phone: (613) 238-3772
Fax: (613) 238-5955
25. Complaints may be made to Reyna Goudreau, who will review and assess every complaint received. Where possible, the Firm will address the issue. If a complaint cannot be addressed, Reyna Goudreau will advise the complainant.
MODIFICATIONS TO THIS OR OTHER POLICIES
26. Changes will not be made to this policy unless the impact of the changes on persons with disabilities has been considered.
Any Firm policy that does not respect and promote the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities will be reviewed, and modified or removed as necessary.
Bird Richard will provide accessible formats and communication supports upon request.