Expert opinion: accessibility for ontarians with disabilities act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Accessibility for people with disabilities is slowly pleting accessibility audits which are useful for future improving across Canada, and Ontario is the first prov- planning. Accessibility improvements can be incorpo- ince to put the onus on businesses to make their places rated into ongoing maintenance at little or no additional of work barrier-free for customers and employees. Other cost and, over time, facilities are transformed into highly accessible space. One in seven people in Ontario has a The Ontario Government is introducing five sets disability and, with the aging population, that ratio will of mandatory standards under the Accessibility for rise to one in five by 2025. Accessibility will necessarily Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). These stan- dards require public and private sector organizations to By Frances Jewett,
remove and prevent barriers to accessibility for custom- AODA Standards
B.A.Sc., P.Eng.
ers and employees with disabilities. The legislation is part Customer Service Standards: The first set of standards of the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ (MCSS) to come into effect relates to customer service and affects plan to ensure that, by 2025, people with disabilities are organizations that provide goods and services to the pub- able to participate in and enjoy opportunities available lic. Public sector organizations must have complied by January 1, 2010; private sector firms by January 1, 2012. The next three standards will be harmonized and put Defining Disability
The AODA employs the Ontario Human Rights Code’s Information and Communications Standards: The pro- definition of disability, which includes physical, mental posed standard outlines how businesses and organiza- health, developmental and learning disabilities that can tions may be required to create, provide and receive be either visible or unseen. A barrier is anything that information and communications in ways that are acces- keeps someone with a disability from participating fully in society because of his or her disability. These can be Employment Standards: The goal of the proposed organizations physical obstacles, such as stairs without accompany- standard is to help employers create equal employment ing ramps, although even bigger challenges result from opportunities for people with disabilities.
service related, attitudinal barriers, such as inadequate support and insensitivity to people with different needs.
• Sets out specific requirements for the recruitment, As part of that legislation, every business in Ontario retention and accommodation of people with disabili- that provides goods or services to the public and has at least one employee will have to comply with Accessibility • applies to all organizations in Ontario with at least one Standards for Customer Service by January 1, 2012. Non- compliance could mean missed business opportunities Transportation Standards: This standard is the only and hefty fines. Additional standards to address the built one that is sector-specific; that is, it relates specifically to environment, employment, information and communi- modes of transportation that come under the jurisdiction cation, and transportation will be phased in next. of provincial and municipal governments.
The Customer Service Standard requires that organi- Due to the volume of public responses, it is not zations develop policies, procedures and practices and known when the final standard (Built Environment) will train staff on how to serve and communicate with people with disabilities. This must be achieved through 2011 to Built Environment Standards: The goal of the proposed comply with the deadline of January 1, 2012. standard is to break down barriers in buildings and Do you have to comply? Simply put, if your organiza- other structures for people with disabilities by proposing tion has at least one employee with a phone on their desk, or who interacts with people who don’t work for your organization, you must comply. “Of the 360,000 busi- nesses in Ontario, some are making progress in imple- menting changes, but many don’t even know where to • recreation, such as parks and trails.
Architects Limited. AccessAbility Advantage provides one-stop- begin,” observed Gail Mores, Director and Accessibility We anticipate that only new construction and renova- Specialist with March of Dimes and AccessAbility Advan- tions will be required to comply with this standard in the tage. “We help organizations get started by providing near-term and that it will eventually be integrated with practical advice, recommendations and training.” The biggest concern for most organizations relates to accessible building improvements. The AODA is not yet requiring that existing structures be made accessible; customer service training. She can be reached at fjewett@ the proposed legislation addresses new construction and Source: Ministry of Community and Social Services. For renovation. However, proactive organizations are com-
  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


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