AODA compliance: Benefits of Being Ahead of the Game

Recently, some of our clients received a notice from the government reminding them to file an Accessibility Report. This was an eye opener to employers who have let the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Customer Service compliance deadlines slip through the cracks. Some simply forgot to file. However, others were reminded they have not yet implemented all the Customer Service Standard requirements.

As many of you already know, the AODA Customer Service Standard was the first of five accessibility standards to be enacted by the Ontario government in order to increase and promote accessibility in Ontario. The Customer Service Standard applies to the provision of goods or services to “customers”, which includes the public or other third parties.

Many organizations that do not deal directly with the public have wrongly concluded that this standard does not apply to them. Despite its somewhat confusing name, the Customer Service standard applies not only to organizations that deal with the public but also those that provide goods and services to other businesses and organizations. In other words, the standard applies to virtually every employer in Ontario.

What are the requirements under the Customer Service Standard?

  • To create policies, practices and procedures for the provision of goods and services to people with disabilities;
  • To know how to communicate with persons with disabilities;
  • To allow the use of the use of service animals and support persons on parts of your organization’s premises open to customers;
  • To allow use of assistive devices by persons with disabilities;
  • To provide notification of temporary disruption in facilities or services;
  • To provide a feedback process;
  • To train all employees and other third parties that interact with customers on your organization’s behalf.

The deadline for compliance with these obligations for organizations in the private sector was January 1, 2012. The deadline for filing an Accessibility Report was December 31, 2012. If your organization has not yet met its obligations under the Customer Service Standard, this should be made a priority. Organizations can face financial penalties for non-compliance.

What is next for AODA?

There are a number of AODA obligations under the Integrated Accessibility Standard that will need to be complied with in the next couple of years. More specifically, these include obligations under the Information and Communication Standard as well as the Employment Standard. Some of these deadlines are rapidly approaching, and will likely require significant modifications to current policies, practices and procedures.

In order to avoid the last minute scramble or being caught non-compliant, we recommend that organizations start thinking about these upcoming obligations now.

Under the Employment Standard, for instance, organizations may need to make changes to policies and practices throughout the whole lifecycle of employment commencing with the hiring process. The Employment Standard includes requirements in the following areas:

  • The recruitment process
  • Accessible formats and communication supports
  • Workplace emergency response information
  • Individualized accommodation plans
  • The return to work process
  • Performance management
  • Career development and advancement
  • Redeployment

Current policies related to hiring, job posting, accommodation, and performance evaluation will need to be reviewed and modified as necessary and new policies may need to be created in order to be compliant.

This blog was originally posted on First Reference Talks on April 10.

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