An Accessible Ontario – What it means to Organizations and HR Functions 

By: Holly Ormsbee

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law June 13, 2005 with an aim to provide Ontarians with disabilities equal opportunity to work, travel, play and participate in all aspects of life. The critical goal of this piece of legislation is to ensure Ontario is completely accessible by January 1, 2025. AODA establishes different compliance dates and accessibility standards for workplaces depending upon the size and whether they are public or private. The accessibility standards fall into five categories:

  • Information and Communication 
  • Transportation 
  • Built Environment 
  • Employment 
  • Customer Service

The first of these standards to come into force is the Customer Service Standard. As of January 1, 2010 all designated public sector organizations were required to meet the regulations outlined in AODA. All other organizations that provide either goods or services must meet the regulations outlined in AODA for customer service effective as of  January 1, 2012. There are a total of 11 basic requirements which can be broken down into 4 essential themes:

  • Integration
  • Understanding
  • Communication
  • Training

This standard requires companies to establish policies, practices and procedures that stipulate how their goods and services will be available/delivered to any individual with a disability. Disability is defined not only by physical limitations, or visible disabilities but it includes invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities. When a company is establishing policies, practices and procedures they must be mindful that dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunities are all considered. Policies must address how the use of personal assistive devices will aid an individual with a disability to access the goods or service but at the same time allowing them to do it while maintaining their dignity and independence. 

All organizations need to keep in mind that individuals with disabilities may have a service animal or support person with them. Both need to be permitted to assist the individual to access goods & services.

Procedures need to include notifying the public any time that the facilities or services are temporarily unavailable for individuals with disabilities, i.e. if the elevator is broken, notice must be provided to clients, staff and any individuals that may need to use the elevator to access the facility. The notice needs to include why the services are temporarily unavailable, how long they will be unavailable for and what alternative services may be available.

The customer service standard further requires organizations to provide training to their staff on how to:

  • serve and communicate with people that have disabilities
  • recognize a service animal/support person
  • what assistive devices are and when they are needed.

AODA for the most part has operational implications and should be managed by an organizations operations team. However, this legislation does have Human Resources implications. The employment standard obligates organizations to:

  • deliver accessible awareness training to employees (as outlined above) 
  • accommodate persons with disabilities in the recruitment process 
  • develop individual accommodation plans for employees with disabilities, upon request 
  • deliver individualized workplace emergency information to employees with disabilities 
  • take into account the accommodation needs of employees with disabilities in existing performance management, career development and redeployment processes 
  • develop procedures for return-to-work of employees who are absent from work due to a non-workplace injury or illness that uses individual accommodation plans, where appropriate

Every organization in Ontario will need to look at AODA and ensure that all its regulations are met. The consequences of not being compliant could result in:    

  • A maximum of $50,000 fine per day per person
  • A maximum of $100,000 fine per day for a corporation 

The following links are excellent resources for further information and research:

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