The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 was enacted with the objective of making Ontario completely accessible to people with disabilities by the year 2025. In order to work towards this goal, various Accessibility Standards have been developed.
The Customer Service Accessibility Standard
The Customer Service Accessibility Standard requires businesses to ensure that the goods and services they provide are accessible to all members of the public. This standard has been in effect for public sector organizations since January 2010. For private-sector organizations, this Standard came into effect on January 1st, 2012.
This standard applies to all organizations that have one or more employees, and provide goods or services directly or indirectly to the public, or to other organizations. It contains several specific requirements, including:
- establishing policies, practices and procedures to govern the provision of goods and services to persons with disabilities;
- establishing policies, practices and procedures to ensure that service animals and support persons are permitted to enter the premises, or alternative assistive measures are available;
- giving notice when there are temporary disruptions to facilities or services usually used by persons with disabilities;
- providing and keeping records of training for employees, contractors and volunteers about the provision of goods and services to people with disabilities; and
- establishing a feedback and complaints process.
The requirements apply immediately, to large and small businesses alike (although they do vary slightly if a business has less than 20 employees).
The Integrated Accessibility Standard
The Integrated Accessibility Standard addresses accessibility in the areas of transportation, employment, and information and communication. Both public and private sector organizations were expected to be in compliance with two requirements of this standard as of January 1st, 2012 (the other requirements have later dates of compliance, which are set out in the standard). The particular provisions that require immediate attention are:
- if your organization has emergency procedures, plans, or public safety information that are available to the public, they must be available in an accessible format; and
- you must establish, and review when necessary, individualized workplace emergency response information for employees whose disabilities necessitate such individualized emergency plans.
A failure to comply with any accessibility standard that applies to your organization can result in a fine of up to $100,000 for a business and $50,000 for an individual, for each day the offence continues.