When the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Customer Service Standard was introduced prior to the compliance deadline of January 2013, I remember discussing with my colleagues how we, as HR professionals, would ensure that our clients would meet the requirements.
Unlike other legislation that we had been dealing with, this law, on its face, seemed more geared towards access for the general public insofar as that public was comprised of customers. Also remember that the AODA, at that time, fell under the Ministry of Community and Social Services which was new to most HR professionals.
However, the requirements include having policies and processes in place and training staff to ensure increased access to disabled customers, and this brought the Customer Service Standard under AODA into the HR realm.
We have learned a lot in the past year; one of the biggest trends has been the number of organizations who are knowingly non-compliant with the legislation. Despite e-bulletins, webinars, toolkits and good HR advice, many small to medium organizations have de-prioritized the Customer Service Standard and viewed it more as a “nice to have”. Some, mistakenly, continue to believe that the Standard only applies to B2C organizations and not B2B. As the legislation was new, our experience was limited in terms of Ministry enforcement. We were sometimes perceived as practicing “alarmist HR tactics” when we proactively sought compliance.
While data pertaining to the consequences of non compliance has been lacking, communication on this has not. The message continues to be clear: there are steep fines for those that fail to comply with the requirements under this law.
Non compliant organization could be fined up to $50,000 per day for individuals and $100,000 per day for Corporations.
Yes, that’s per day.
We can only assume that any organization that does not ensure compliance is either unaware of the potential risk or simply does not believe the hype. This is despite the fact that organizations with more than 20 employees are required to register their compliance with the Ministry (another first for most of us in HR).
Now that new requirements for AODA are being introduced for 2014 and 2015, we can confirm that there has been spot audits and follow up on the Customer Service Standard. Unhappy and panicked clients have contacted us after receiving their letter from the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment (where AODA now falls) informing them that they have a specified number of days to demonstrate and register compliance.
In fact Pivotal Integrated HR Solutions received a letter which, after thanking us for filing our 2012 Customer Service Accessibility Report, informed us that we had been randomly selected for a file review. We were given 15 days to send in all documentation pertaining to the policies, processes, and training related to the requirements of the Customer Service Standard.
It was great to be able to respond to the Ministry fully, and right away.
We know some organizations will continue to ignore the AODA. But we have heard the alarm when an auditor (or even worse, a complaint from a disabled individual) has forced a Company to drop everything else and focus all priority on complying in a rushed situation.
It’s about what side of compliance you want to be on.
Our experience: forcing it on yourself is much preferred.