Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Accessibility Laws in Ontario

On June 13, 2005, the Ontario government passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. The act makes Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to develop, implement and enforce mandatory accessibility standards, and
applies to both the private and public sectors.

Several "prongs" to the legislation are in the works, planned to be implemented over the next few years, however the first phase, dealing with customer services standards is now in place and all businesses with at least one employee must have certain policies and procedures in place by January 1, 2012. The law requires you to:

(1) develop policies and procedures for serving customers/clients with disabilities. These policies must be consistent with the principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity;
(2) have a policy on allowing people to use their own assistive devices to access your goods and services;
(3) communicate with a person with a disability in a manner that takes into account his or her disability;
(4) allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide dog or service animal in areas of your business that are open to the public;
(5) permit people with disabilities who rely on a support person to bring that person with them while accessing your goods or services;
(6) where admission fees are charged, post information about what your policy is regarding what fee, if any, would be charged for a support person of a person with a disability;
(7) if you offer facilities or services for people with disabilities (such as an elevator or accessible washroom), let people know when they are out of order;
(8) train your staff, volunteers and contractors to serve customers with disabilities; and
(9) let customers with disabilities provide feedback on how you met their needs and establish a process to respond and take action on any complaints.

If you employ more than 20 employees, you will have the following additional requirements:
(10) complete an online report on your compliance by the reporting deadline;
(11) document in writing all of your policies and procedures on how you provide accessible customer service;
(12) notify customers that all of the documents required by the standard are available upon request; and
(13) when providing documents required under the standard, make sure the information is in a format that takes into account the person’s disability.

Additional information, bulletins, sample policies and videos are available on the Ministry web site at http://bit.ly/gKyIJC

About one in seven Ontarians are currently considered disabled and, with the aging population, that number will soon be more like one in five. Complying with the law, and serving this large segment of society, makes good business sense.

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