We have been following the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the AODA) and watching for related developments in other provinces. The filing deadline of December 31, 2012, for the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the Customer Service Standards) in Ontario is fast approaching.
Recently, the Ministry has provided some guidance on the Integrated Accessibility Standards (the Integrated Standards) and has published a “Guide to the Integrated Accessibility Standards”. The Ministry has also released a draft version of the Accessibility Standards for the Design of Public Spaces in the Built Environment (the Built Environment Standards).
Outside Ontario, we are seeing significant developments in this area in Manitoba. The Manitoba government is in the process of adopting accessibility legislation. The government has appointed an Accessibility Advisory Council, which has released a report with recommendations for proposed accessibility legislation.
ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS IN ONTARIO RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
ACCESSIBLITY STANDARDS FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE
As of January 1, 2012, most private sector employers with one or more employees in Ontario who are providing goods or services to Ontario customers should be complying with the Customer Service Standards, which require organizations to provide goods and services to customers and third parties in an accessible manner. The Customer Service Standards include requirements to create policies, provide training, notify customers and create a feedback process (For more information, see the Osler AODA resource page.)
Please note: Most organizations with 20 or more employees in Ontario must file a Customer Service Accessibility Report with the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services (the Ministry) on or before December 31, 2012.
Some organizations in Ontario may not be covered by the legislation, as they are subject exclusively to the federal Canadian Human Rights Act and Employment Equity Act.
INTEGRATED ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS
The Integrated Standards outline new standards in the areas of information and communication, employment and transportation that started to be phased in as of 2011. We have summarized the more immediate compliance requirements below. We will continue to monitor the Integrated Standards and will provide further updates as requirement deadlines approach.
Workplace Emergency Response Information
Employers must provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees who have a disability if the disability is such that individualized information is necessary and the employer is aware of the need for accommodation.
Emergency Information Accessible to the Public
If an organization prepares emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and makes the information available to the public, the organization must provide information in an accessible format or with appropriate communication supports, as soon as practicable, upon request. For example, information that is given to the public about how emergency alarms work must be provided in accessible formats.
ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS FOR THE DESIGN OF PUBLIC SPACES IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
The draft Built Environment Standards which will only apply to new construction and planned development are now available on the Ministry’s website (click here for the Standards). The Built Environment Standards include requirements such as installing accessible service counters, accessible seating in waiting areas and accessible parking. The Ministry has stated that enhancements to accessibility in buildings will happen at a later date through Ontario’s Building Code.
PROPOSED ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS IN MANITOBA
As we noted above, Manitoba’s Accessibility Advisory Council has published a report outlining recommendations for accessibility legislation. The Ministry of Family Services and Labour is inviting public comments on the report until October 21, 2012. The report is calling for legislation very similar to the AODA in Ontario. Please advise us if you would like to send comments on the report.
If you have any questions regarding AODA compliance or whether the requirements apply to your industry, please contact Jim Hassell (416.862.6623) or Golbon Mehrabkhani (416.862.5664) or any other member of the Osler Employment and Labour Department. If there are other individuals in your organization who would like to receive these updates, please contact Golbon Mehrabkhani.