Less then two years after Bill 168 – what seemed like the biggest employment law undertaking in recent history – Ontario employers are once again faced with an even more broad sweeping law that is coming in force in just a few months, The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “AODA”).
If you haven’t heard of the AODA yet, be prepared to hear about it soon, the buzz is growing. Being the HR Manager for a small manufacturer I am starting to see several e-mail blasts, newsletters and training advertisements hit my inbox daily. With 3 months until compliance is required, it is time to get onto the bandwagon and better understand what new changes to AODA are all about.
Passed in 2005 by the McGuinty government, the AODA’s goal is an ‘Accessible Ontario’ for people with disabilities by 2025. This will be achieved through the identification and removal of barriers that exist in society that prevent accessibility to people with disabilities.
The legislation involves the gradual roll out of 5 accessibility standards, each addressing various areas in society and with varying requirements and timelines for compliance:
The Customer Service Standard (for the public sector, the compliance was required by January 1, 2010, all other organizations are required to comply by January 1, 2012)
The Integrated Accessibility Regulation (streamlines the next three standards)
The Transportation Standard
The Information and Communication Standard
The Built Environment Standard (this one is not expected to become law in the near future).
The Customer Service Standard does not only apply to businesses that deal directly with the public, it applies to any organization that:
(1) Provides goods or services either directly to the public or to other businesses or organizations in Ontario; and
(2) has at least one (1) employee in Ontario.
Compliance involves implementation of 11 requirements that will involve a thorough assessment of your business, policies, practices and any barriers that may exist for people with both visible and non-visible disabilities in accessing your goods or services.
Once these are identified, employers will need to determine how to remove such barriers in order to keep within the spirit of the law: independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services will be enforcing the AODA. Those that fail to comply may face daily fines of up to $50,000 per day for individuals and $100,000 per day for corporations, along with potential Human Rights Claims.
With this 3 months remaining, there is no doubt this all seems like a daunting task!
With the demographics in Ontario aging and the current 15% of society with disabilities expect to grow to 25, the premise of the law is definitely positive. We will all at one point in our lives be faced with some sort of disability. Whether it is temporary and permanent or visible or non-visible, we will want to be able to participate in society the same way we did otherwise. However, employers in Ontario have a lot of work to do. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to this. Implementation will look very differently from business to business and industry to industry.
Want to know more? Learn how the AODA’s Next Phase affects your business and what you can do to prepare by downloading our free white paper.Download: AODA – White Paper