About 1.85 million people in Ontario have a disability – the equivalent of one in seven people. Over the next 20 years, as the baby boomers age, the number of people with a disability will increase to approximately one in five Ontarians. Business owners need to be aware of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the requirement to file a compliance report. The AODA became law in 2005 and is designed to make Ontario barrier-free to people with disabilities by 2025. Businesses and organizations that provide goods and services to people in Ontario need to meet accessibility standards in five areas: customer service, employment, information and communications, transportation and built environment.
Businesses with fewer than 20 employees don’t need to file the compliance report, but still have obligations under AODA. Becoming accessible involves developing a plan on how the organization will provide services to customers with disabilities. Obligations include: establishing policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities; providing people with disabilities with a notice of temporary disruption in facilities or services; and providing training to certain persons about the provision of its goods or services to persons with disabilities.
The Customer Service Standard is the first of five standards that will help lead the way to an accessible Ontario. Businesses and organizations that provide goods or services to the public or to other businesses or organizations in Ontario have legal obligations under the standard, regardless of where in the world the business is located. This standard is aimed at making customer service operations accessible to people with disabilities and the deadline to file a Customer Service Accessibility Compliance Report was December 31, 2012.
The Ontario government provides online resources to help business owners fulfill their obligations under the AODA. Business owners are also encouraged to seek advice from their employment lawyer, to ensure they are compliant with AODA.
Impact on Employers
With the various deadlines associated with AODA, some of which have already passed and many to still come, Employers need to be aware of what changes they are required to make to their workplace and when so that they are not operating in contravention. Given the various forms of accessibility that will be required at the workplace, Employers should ensure that they are properly prepared and seek advice from Employment Law counsel in fulfilling their AODA requirements.
Impact on Employees
With the accessibility requirements under AODA, Employees should be aware that new employment duties and responsibilities may be required of them, which may require training and the learning of new skills to adequately assist individuals with disabilities at the workplace. However, this does not necessarily permit an Employer to drastically change an Employee’s duties and responsibilities. Should an Employee believe that their duties and responsibilities are being unreasonably altered, they should seek advice from experienced Employment Law counsel.
Minken Employment Lawyers is your Canadian source for expert Employment Law advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. Whether you are an employer or employee, we can help. Contact us to see how.
See also, “Summary of Key Points from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”)”, and Service Canada resources.