AODA – Employers Obligations

In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act ("AODA") came into force. The purpose of the AODA is to make Ontario more accessible to people with disabilities. The goal is to prevent and remove barriers so that all people in Ontario can enjoy the benefits of accessible services, programs, spaces and employment.

In order to accomplish this goal, the AODA establishes accessibility standards that employers of all sizes must comply with. However, the standards and the deadlines for compliance differ depending on the nature and size of the employer. For example, a public organization with 200 employees will have different obligations that a small private business, with 5 employees. The focus of this blog post is the application of the AODA to private and non-for-profit organizations with 50 or more employees ("large organizations").

With a number of AODA deadlines approaching, it is very important that large organizations understand their obligations under the AODA.

General Accessibility Requirements:

There are 5 key accessibility standards under the AODA. Large organizations have obligations in respect of each standard.

1.Foundation Requirements

Accessibility Policies

Organizations must prepare a policy describing its policies to achieve accessibility. These policies must be publicly available, accessible, and include a commitment to meet accessibility needs in a timely manner.

Training Plans

Training on accessibility standards and the Ontario Human Rights Code must be provided to all employees and persons involved with the organization.

Multi-Year Accessibility Plan

Large organizations must have a multi-year accessibility plan. It must be posted on the organization’s website and reviewed every five years.

2.Information and Communications

Feedback Process

Organizations must have a feedback process regarding how its goods and/or services are provided to persons with disabilities. The feedback process should be publicly available. It must state how the organization will respond to a complaint.

Accessible Formats and Communication Support

Every organization must arrange for accessible formats and communications support for persons with disabilities. Organizations must notify the public about the availability of accessible formats.

Emergency and Safety Information

Organizations must have emergency and public safety information available in an accessible format. If necessary, the organization must provide workers with individualized emergency evacuation plans.

Websites and the Internet

Large organizations’ internet and intranet must conform to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.0 Level AA. More information on the WCAG requirements, and how to comply, can be found here.

3.Customer Service

All organizations must provide accessible customer service, including welcoming service animals and support persons. Staff must be trained on serving customers with disabilities. A written record must be kept of staff who have received the training.

4.Employment

All employment practices, such as hiring and training, must be accessible. Large organizations must have written plans on how they will accommodate workers with disabilities.

5.Design of Public Spaces

All new or significantly renovated public spaces must be accessible, including:

  • Recreational trails and breach access routes
  • Parking
  • Service elements, such as service counters, lines and waiting areas
  • Outdoor public eating areas
  • Outdoor play spaces

Upcoming Deadlines

There are a couple key AODA deadlines approaching for large organizations:

1.December 31, 2020

All large organizations must file an Accessibility Compliance Report by December 31, 2020. The Accessibility Compliance Report form can be found here.

2.January 1, 2021

Large organizations must have all new internet websites and web content conform with WCAG 2.0 level AA as of January 1, 2021. Live captioning and audio description are excluded.

3.December 31, 2023

Large organizations are required to file another Accessibility Compliance Report by December 31, 2023.

Failure to comply with the AODA and its deadlines can result in hefty fines, including fines up to $100,000/day for corporations.

Conclusion:

With two rapidly approaching deadlines, Lee Workplace Law encourages employers to review their practices, facilities, and websites, and ensure they comply with the AODA requirements. Employers should begin to complete the Accessibility Compliance Report well in advance of the deadline.

If employers have any further questions with respect to their obligations under the AODA they are encouraged to seek professional legal assistance. Lee Workplace Law would be happy to help your organization.