By Leanne E. Standryk
The AODA requires organizations, including employers and trade unions, to comply with certain Accessibility Standards in such areas as employment, delivery of goods and services, transportation and communications with an aim to removing barriers to accessibility.
The Accessibility Standards impose significant obligations on public and private sector employers which reach well beyond and are in addition to, the existing accommodation requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
As previously reported in our Corporate Bulletin of March 2010 the AODA provides for staggered compliance dates. Phase one required the implementation of a Customer Service Accessibility Standard: Public sector employers must be in full compliance with these requirements by January 1, 2010. Private sector organizations (including unions) must be in full compliance by January 1, 2012.
The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) establishes several new deadlines for compliance pursuant to the AODA.
With some minor exceptions the IASR applies to private and not-for-profit organizations that provide goods, services or facilities to the public or a third party business or organization that has at least one employee in Ontario. Further, when an organization contracts with a third party to provide goods, services or facilities on its behalf, the organization must ensure that the third party is IASR compliant.
Private sector employers with 50+ employees (Large Organizations) must develop, implement and maintain policies governing how it achieves or will achieve accessibility through meeting its requirements under the IASR by January 1, 2014. Small Organizations with 1 to 49 employees will have until January 1, 2015.
Statement of Organizational Commitment:
By January 1, 2014, Large Organizations must develop and include in their accessibility policies a “Statement of organizational commitment” to meet the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in a timely manner; prepare one or more documents describing their policies; make their documents publicly available; and provide their documents in an accessible format.
Multi-Year Accessibility Plan:
By January 1, 2014 Large Organizations are required to establish, implement, maintain and document a multi-year accessibility plan outlining a strategy to prevent and remove barriers and to meet obligations under the IASR. Small Organizations with 49 or fewer employees are not required to prepare multi-year accessibility plans. Accessibility Plans must be updated as required and at least every 5 years.
Organizations are required to train employees, volunteers, those who participate in developing the organization’s policies and those who provide goods and services on behalf of the organization about the requirements of the IASR and the Human Rights Code as it relates to people with disabilities. Large Organizations must complete by January 1, 2015 and Small Organizations by January 1, 2016.
Information and Communication:
Organizations are required to create, provide and receive information and communications together with a feedback process, in ways that are accessible for people with disabilities. Large Organizations are required to make their websites accessible for persons with disabilities. Except where it is not practicable, the deadlines for web compliance are as follows:
- By January 1, 2014, new internet websites and web content on those sites must conform to WCAG 2.0 Level A.
- By January 1, 2021, all internet websites and web content must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, other than,
i. success criteria 1.2.4 Captions (Live), and
ii. success criteria 1.2.5 Audio Descriptions (Pre-recorded).
Large (January 2015) and Small Organizations (January 2017) are required to provide for accessibility across all stages of the employment cycle including recruitment, selection, performance management, emergency response, career development and advancement and redeployment. Large Organizations are required to develop written individual accommodation plans and return to work plans/processes for employees with disabilities and/or on disability leave.
Transportation service providers have additional accessibilities standards to assist people with disabilities in being able to live, work and participate in their communities.
The obligations under the IASR are significant and will require considerable planning and ongoing maintenance. Employers should review their obligations as a starting point. A manual is available through the Ministry of Community and Social Services to educate Ontarians at www.mcss.gov.on.ca We would recommend that all employers seek appropriate assistance through their Human Resource professional or Employment Counsel to ensure compliance.