Ontario Accessibility Standards: What Comes After the December 31, 2012 Reporting Deadline?

Ontario’s Accessibility Standard for Customer Service came into effect on January 1, 2012 for all businesses and not-for-profits in the province with more than one employee. If an organization has more than 20 employees, an online report must be filed by December 31, 2012 to demonstrate to the government that accessibility has been achieved under the Customer Service Standard.

The government requirements include using the Accessibility Compliance Reporting tool to file the report online. The reporting tool is on ServiceOntario’s ONe-Source for Business website. More information on how to report can be found here.

Many organizations are now asking “what comes next?”

The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (O. Reg. 191/11, hereafter the Integrated Regulation) —came into force in 2011, provides details of what your organization must do to ensure accessibility in the areas of information and communication, employment, and transportation.

General and specific requirements under the three standards will be phased in between 2012 and 2025. Deadlines vary widely depending on the specific duty in question, as well as the type and size of employer.

Briefly stated,

  • Information and communications: to help people with disabilities access more sources of information that many people rely on every day. This includes websites, public libraries, learning materials, and public safety information. Moreover, the Information and Communication Standards require that websites and web content comply with web accessibility guidelines. The compliance deadline for large organizations to meet Level A for new websites and web content is January 1, 2014 and to meet Level AA for all websites and web content, with some exceptions is January 1, 2021; accessible formats and communication supports are provided, with the compliance deadline being January 1, 2016 for large organizations and January 1, 2017 for small organizations); emergency procedure, plans and public safety information be provided in an accessible format as of January 1, 2012; and educational and training material providers and libraries address accessibility of information.
  • Employment: to help employers provide support and accommodation for employees with disabilities, and to make accessibility a normal part of finding, hiring, and communicating with employees, whether they have disabilities or not. Moreover, the Employment Standards require that organizations provide equal opportunity throughout the employment lifecycle. Recruitment, assessment, selection, information sharing, accessible formats, communication supports and workplace emergency response information, accommodation plans, return to work process, performance management, career development and advancement and redeployment are addressed. Generally, large organizations must come into compliance with the Employment Standard by January 1, 2016 and small organizations must come into compliance by January 1, 2017. The compliance deadline for workplace emergency response information requirement is January 1, 2012.
  • Transportation: focuses on making transportation services accessible. This includes buses (including public school buses), trains, subways, streetcars, taxis and ferries. The Transportation Standards affect conventional and specialized transportation providers from fares to seating to transit announcements. It also affects other transportation services, such as school transportation and ferries, and outlines duties of municipalities and taxicabs..

However, Part I of the Integrated Regulation includes common requirements obligated organizations must meet across all three standards before implementing the specific requirements under each of the three standards. The general obligations are in addition to the specific standards relating to information and communications, employment or transportation, rather than included in the specific standards

The Integrated Regulation requires that all of the factors under discussion are addressed through policies, procedures and practices, multi-year plans and training. Also, organizations must incorporate accessibility when they procure goods, services and facilities, but this requirement does not apply to the private sector. Public sector organizations must also incorporate accessibility features, and private sector organizations must consider accessibility when designing or buying self-service kiosks.

For most organizations, the next AODA obligations to be addressed following the Customer Service Standard reporting obligation will be the Integrated Standard accessibility policy and plan requirements to be completed by January 1, 2014.

1. Establish accessibility policies

To meet obligations under the law, organizations must develop, implement, and maintain policies that provide direction on how the organization accomplishes or will realize accessibility by meeting the requirements in the Integrated Regulation.

Organizations must develop a statement of organizational commitment, meaning they will develop, adopt, and maintain policies that support implementation of the organizational commitment in the policy statement. A priority statement in your policy is your organizational commitment to meeting the accessibility needs of people with disabilities in a timely manner. Other than small organizations, all obligated organizations must document a statement of organizational commitment.

Organizations will prepare and document descriptive policy statements and make the information publicly available. With the exception of small organizations, all organizations must prepare documents describing the policies for each mandated accessibility standard. This information must also be publicly available.

Organizations must provide these documents in an accessible format upon request. The information and communications standard requires that this accommodation be made in a timely manner, in consultation with the person who has made the request and at no additional cost.

Your organization is obligated to have a policy and the statement of organizational commitment, if applicable, under the Integrated Regulation as of the due dates specified in the regulation, which are as follows:

  • Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly – January 1, 2012
  • Large designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2013
  • Small designated public sector organizations with 1–49 employees – January 1, 2014
  • Large organizations (50 or more employees) – January 1, 2014
  • Small organizations (1–49 employees) – January 1, 2015

Small obligated organizations (1–49 employees) are exempt from documentation but otherwise must comply with the law.

2. Establish accessibility plans

With an exception for small organizations, all obligated organizations must create, put into practice, maintain and document a multi-year accessibility plan. The plan must state the organization’s approach for the prevention and removal of barriers. The plan must be publicly posted on a website if the organization has one, and the organization must provide the plan in accessible formats upon request. Your organization must review and update the plan a minimum of once every five years.

There are additional requirements for public sector organizations. The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations must establish, review and update their accessibility plans in consultation with people with disabilities. If they have an accessibility advisory committee, that committee must also be consulted. These public organizations must prepare an annual status report on the progress of actions taken to implement the multi-year accessibility plan. The status report must be posted on their website, if any, and the report must be provided in an accessible format upon request.

Obligated organizations must meet these requirements by the dates set out below. In this step, small private sector organizations are exempt.

  • Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly – January 1, 2012
  • Large designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2013
  • Small designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2014
  • Large organizations (50 or more employees) – January 1, 2014

Private and not-for-profit organizations with 49 or fewer employees are not required to prepare multi-year accessibility plans.

3. Procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities

This step requires the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and public sector organizations to include accessibility requirements and features when purchasing or acquiring goods, services or facilities except where it is not practicable. Upon request, these organizations must explain why meeting the accessibility requirements is not possible.

Dates for government and public sector organization compliance:

  • Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly – January 1, 2012
  • Large designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2013
  • Small designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2014

4. Self-service kiosks

The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations must include accessibility features when designing, purchasing or obtaining self-service kiosks.

Large and small organizations must take into account accessibility for people with disabilities when designing, purchasing and or obtaining a self-service kiosk.

Obligated organizations must meet these requirements by the dates set out below:

  • Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly – January 1, 2012
  • Large designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2013
  • Small designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2014
  • Large organizations (50 or more employees) – January 1, 2014
  • Small organizations (1–49 employees) – January 1, 2015

5. Training

Obligated organizations must ensure that training is provided on the requirements under the Integrated Regulation as well as the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code that are relevant to persons with disabilities (including, for example, the duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship). Obligated organizations must:

  • Ensure that training is provided on the requirements of the accessibility standards in the Integrated Regulation. Training must be provided to all employees, volunteers, all policy-makers, and all other people who provide goods or services to your organization.
  • Ensure that the type and intensity of training on the requirements of accessibility standards and the Ontario Human Rights Code vary according to the duties of the employee, volunteers or others.
  • Ensure that every person is trained as soon as practicable.
  • Ensure that training re-occurs when there are changes to the accessibility policies.
  • Ensure that, under the employment standards section for new hires, when an offer of employment is made, the new hire is notified of the organization’s policies for accommodating people with disabilities.
  • Ensure training records are maintained, including the dates on which the training occurred and the number of people who received training. This pertains to the Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly, every designated public sector organization and large organizations.

Obligated organizations must meet these requirements by the dates set out below:

  • Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly – January 1, 2013
  • Large designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2014
  • Small designated public sector organizations – January 1, 2015
  • Large organizations (50 or more employees) – January 1, 2015
  • Small organizations (1-49 employees) – January 1, 2016

Last words

Small organizations are exempt from filing accessibility reports and documentation under all three standards in the Integrated Regulation.

Note that words like “practicable” are open for legal interpretation. When deciding best practices, implementation of accessibility standards is the primary goal. Simply avoiding an inspection, a tribunal, a penalty or legal proceedings is secondary.

Organizations need to know exactly what the standards mean for their business, how they apply to their business practices and how to implement these obligations into their regular business processes.

Given the breadth of the requirements and the possible need to invest in technology, other resources and tools, advance planning is a must and should be started in my opinion as soon as you return from the holidays, as of January 2013. By working on a multi-year plan, policies, practices and procedures, an organization can manage and budget to ensure compliance is achieved by the various deadlines.

How has your experience acclimatizing to the AODA standards within your organization been so far? Has the creation of new policies posed any particular challenges, and how have you dealt with them? How has your organization benefited from the new standards? As always, we want to hear from you.

While I usually do not use SLAW posts to advertise, there is a product that can be very useful for meeting the compliance regulations. Companies and law firms seeking help to meet the above requirements should take a look at the comprehensive guide published by First Reference, to which I am the managing editor, called Accessibility Standards PolicyPro. The service outlines compliance requirements, provides helpful policy-writing techniques by offering customizable templates, and helps organizations to stay up to date on changes to the standards and regulations. More information can be found here.

Just in: On December 17, 2012, the Ontario government filed two regulations amending the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service and the Integrated Accessibility Standards regulations enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

  1. O. Reg. 413/12 implements the new Built Environment Standard pertaining to the design of public spaces to the Integrated Accessibility Standards regulation (O. Reg. 191/11). These new standards cover a variety of public spaces such as exterior sidewalks and walkways, entrance to a building, outdoor public eating areas and play spaces, accessible parking, waiting areas, and service counters; it also establishes a compliance reporting schedule effective January 1, 2013.
  2. O. Reg. 415/12 modifies the compliance reporting schedule set out in the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (O. Reg. 429/07).

Both regulations come into force on January 1, 2013.

In addition, on December 17, 2012, the government filed O. Reg. 419/12, which amends Regulation 581, the Accessible Parking for Persons with Disabilities made under the Highway Traffic Act. This new regulation adds the requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Standards (O. Reg. 191/11) to the specifications for parking spaces designated on Crown land or under municipal by-law for use of persons with disabilities. This regulation also comes into force on January 1, 2013.

This is my last post before the holidays.

I am wishing you a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year!

Je vous souhaite un Joyeux Noël et une bonne et heureuse année!

See you in 2013!

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Comments

  1. As one who helped to create a lot of the above legislation, I must say you have contributed a cogent, well-reasoned and well-written summary. Thank you very much Josie, for your usual, helpful submission. You add a lot to the corporate comprehension of this convoluted and difficult law. Best wishes for the new year!

  2. Thank you Lauri Sue… Happy Holidays and Much Success and a Beautiful New Years!