People have not been paying much attention to the application of standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA); however, they are coming soon, are complex and require understanding and preparation. In the first part of this post, we discussed the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429/07). Now, will take a look at what’s coming next.
The Information and Communication, Employment and Transportation Standards have all been combined in the Proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation (PIAR). This proposed regulation is currently under public review till March 18, 2011. Proposed compliance timelines are included.
- The Information and Communications Standard focuses on accessible information and communications relating to the provision of goods and services such as websites, brochures, flyers, invoices, order forms etc.
- Requirements for employment prescribe how organizations provide accessibility for people with disabilities across all stages of the employment life cycle; for example, recruitment, retention, performance reviews etc.
- Requirements for transportation will prevent and remove barriers so that people with disabilities can more easily access transportation services across the province.
These integrated standards also apply to the Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly, every designated public sector organization and every person or organization that provides goods, services and facilities to the public or other third parties and that has at least one employee in Ontario.
However, unlike the customer service standard, the PIAR makes a distinction in its application and coming into force between:
- Large organizations: 50 or more employees in Ontario
- Small organizations: at least one but fewer than 50 employees in Ontario
The PIAR requires the following under all three standards: Information and Communication, Employment and Transportation.
- Policies, practices and procedures: Organizations will use these to achieve accessibility and meet the standards in the Regulation. This includes a statement of organizational commitment to meet the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in a timely manner in their policies. Large organizations must put policies in writing and make policies available, and upon request, in an accessible format. Small organizations do not need to have these policies in writing but must comply nonetheless. As stated in the proposed regulations, large organizations may have to comply January 1, 2014, and smaller organizations by January 1, 2015.
- Accessibility plans: This requirement applies only to the public sector and large organizations by January 1, 2014. It consists of establishing, implementing, maintaining and documenting a multi-year accessibility plan. The plan must be posted on the organization’s website (if applicable) and be provided, upon request, in an accessible format. Review and update of the plan must occur at least once every five years.
- Training: Organizations must train all their staff, volunteers, all persons who participate in developing the organizations policies, and all other persons who provide goods and services on behalf of the organization, on the requirements of the accessibility standards outlined in PIAR. This training must be done as soon as practicable and on an ongoing basis. Public sector and large organizations must keep training records. Small organizations are exempted form the requirement to maintain such records.
- Reports: Public sector and large organizations must file annual accessibility reports with respect to the standards found in PIAR. Small organizations are exempted form the requirement to file such reports.
In addition, public sector organizations must incorporate accessibility features when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks. The private sector must only have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks. Public sector and large organizations must comply by January 1, 2014, and smaller ones by January 1, 2015. Note: a kiosk means “an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services or products or both”.
There are specific requirements for each standard covered under PIAR: Information and Communication, Employment and Transportation. We will review the specific proposed requirements for these standards in subsequent posts. The Information and Communication Standard will be discussed in more detail in my next post.
What about compliance?
Two elements of the inspection and enforcement system will be regulated within the Compliance Assurance Framework under the Integrated Accessibility Regulation:
- An administrative monetary penalties scheme is being established under the AODA. The scheme will allow the director or a designate to issue an order against a person, organization or corporation to pay a penalty amount as a result of non-compliance with the AODA or the accessibility standards. The largest lump sum penalty amount that can be issued to an individual or an organization that is not a corporation is $2,000, and the maximum for a corporation is $15,000. The amount of the penalties will be set out in a regulation.
- Under section 26 of the AODA, the Ministry of Community and Social Services must designate a tribunal within a reasonable time after the first accessibility standard is in place. It was determined that the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT) will be designated as the tribunal to hear appeals of director’s orders under the AODA. The LAT is the most suitable existing tribunal as it handles appeals related to businesses meeting prescribed standards or requirements under regulations and statutes. The tribunal will be responsible for hearing appeals from directors’ orders including orders for administrative penalties issued against a person or organization for contravention of the Act or accessibility standard(s) or other regulation.
Penalties and fines will be levied depending on the severity and history of the contravention.
The severity of the impact of the contravention shall be determined by ranking the contravention as minor, moderate or major in the following manner:
- A contravention of an administrative requirement is minor.
- A contravention of a requirement for organizational preparedness is moderate.
- A contravention is major where it involves a priority requirement that includes, but is not limited to, a contravention that may pose a health or safety risk to persons with disabilities.
The contravention history of the person or organization shall be determined by ranking it as minor, moderate or major in the following manner:
- A contravention history is minor where there has been no more than one previous contravention within the current two reporting cycles period.
- A contravention history is moderate where there have been between two and five previous contraventions within the current two reporting cycles period.
- A contravention history is major where there have been six or more previous contraventions within the current two reporting cycles period.
This part of the regulation is slated to be in force July 1, 2011. This way it will also be applicable when the customer service standard comes into force for the private sector on January 1, 2012.
It is important to note that the Integrated Accessibility Regulation is only a proposed regulation and may be very different in its final stage. However, I was told by a source close to the ministry that the final version of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation will not be very different from what is proposed and will become law July 2011.
Don’t wait until the last minute to familiarize yourself with PIAR requirements and try to catch up with what needs to be done. Take a proactive approach to breaking down barriers for clients and staff with disabilities to ensure equal access to both your spaces, services and goods.