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The 2017 Ontario Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement Report is now available online and outlines the activities undertaken by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in 2017 to oversee compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its accessibility standards.
The report explains the results of the December 31st compliance reporting obligations of obligated organizations, and the various audits and inspections conducted by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in 2017. Overall, the report clearly indicates that there is a lot of enforcement work still needing to be done for Ontario to reach the goal of becoming an accessible province by 2025. In addition, the lack of issuance of penalties and fines and a more robust enforcement process seem to contribute to non-compliance with AODA and the accessibility standards. As you will see in the report, there is a high rate of non-compliance but only three orders contained a requirement to pay an administrative monetary penalty.
1. Compliance reporting
Ontario’s accessibility laws require organizations to file accessibility compliance reports to confirm that they have met their requirements. Organizations in all sectors (i.e., businesses/non-profits with 20 or more employees, all designated public sector organizations, as well as the Ontario Public Service/Ontario Legislative Assembly) were required to submit an accessibility compliance report by December 31, 2017.
The report indicates that out of 56,000 organizations (private sector/non-profit) obligated to report, about 24,000 Ontario businesses and non-profit organizations reported by December 31, 2017, an increase of 4,000 from the last reporting year (2014).
According to the government, their outreach and awareness activities accounted for the increased reporting.
The report adds, that 94 percent of the organizations that submitted an accessibility compliance report in 2017 indicated that they are in full compliance with the Act and its associated accessibility standards.
Among those that filed, the sectors that had the highest submission rates were:
- manufacturing (e.g., chemical, mechanical, electrical, food and beverage)
- retail trade
- accommodation and food services (e.g., hotels, restaurants)
The sectors that had the lowest submission rates were:
- management of companies and enterprises
- mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction
- utilities (e.g., electric, gas and water)
The Directorate stated in the report that they will undertake compliance activities targeting business/non-profit organizations that missed the 2017 reporting deadline in 2018.
Eighty-six percent (692) of the designated public sector organizations submitted their accessibility compliance report. Reports have been received from 100 percent of the
Government and Legislative Assembly offices required to file, including the Ontario Public Service. The Directorate said they will continue to work with the remaining designated public sector organizations until all have met their reporting requirement.
2. Enforcing compliance
According to the report, in 2017, 1,746 compliance activities were conducted. These activities included Phase 1 and Phase 2 audits, as well as enforcement activities conducted by an inspector.
Phase 1 audits
Phase 1 audits focus on an organization’s requirement to submit a self-certified accessibility compliance report. In 2017, 1,254 audits were closed at the P1 level without needing to be escalated.
In conducting the P1 activities, a number of compliance trends were observed in the accessibility compliance reports, including:
- 100% of organizations answered “yes” to providing emergency procedure or safety information to the public in an accessible format, when asked
- 99% indicated they provide tailored emergency response information for their employees who had disabilities, when asked
- 99% responded that they were compliant with all requirements of the customer service standards
These compliance trends suggest that organizations are not only incorporating accessibility requirements into their general customer service, but into their health and safety practices as well.
When organizations selected for audit are found to be non-compliant, the Directorate negotiates a compliance plan that outlines the steps the organizations must take and the timelines for completion. In 2017, nine percent (115) of the 1,254 P1 audits that were closed involved a negotiated compliance plan.
Phase 2 audits
Phase 2 audits focus on verifying compliance with other requirements beyond reporting. In 2017, 476 audits were closed at the P2 level. In 2017, organizations were audited on a variety of requirements across the accessibility standards. Not all organizations were audited on the same set of requirements.
In 2017, P2 audits focused on the accessible employment standards listed under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, targeting many of the new requirements that came into force in 2016 for large businesses and non-profit organizations, and in 2017 for small ones.
Among P2 audits conducted in 2017, compliance trends identified included:
- 93% of organizations audited demonstrated that they notify their employees and the public about the availability of accommodation for applicants with disabilities in their recruitment process
- 85% demonstrated that they provide individualized workplace emergency response information for employees with disabilities
- 84% demonstrated that they notify successful applicants when making offers of employment of their policies for accommodating employees with disabilities
In 2017, a selection of large organizations from the business/non-profit sector were also audited on three foundational requirements. Their rates of compliance were:
- Provide accessibility training: 63%
- Establish a method to receive and respond to public feedback on accessibility: 87%
- Develop a multi-year accessibility plan: 67%
In many cases, organizations audited on this requirement had policies in place that needed to be updated to include the requirements of standards that had only recently taken effect, which resulted in a 40 percent compliance rate overall.
Twenty-six percent (125) of 476 P2 audits that were closed included a negotiated compliance plan. However, organizations selected for a P2 audit that are found to be non-compliant and that fail to implement the steps outlined in their compliance plan are referred to an inspector. An inspector gathers information from the organization for the purposes of recommending enforcement measures to a director. Enforcement measures established under the Act include executing search warrants, issuing Director’s Orders to comply, levying administrative monetary penalties and prosecution.
Of the 1,746 overall compliance activities that took place in 2017, 16 were closed by an inspector. Of those organizations:
- 10 were closed without requiring enforcement measures
- six Director’s Orders were issued
- three of these orders contained a requirement to pay an administrative monetary penalty
- none of these orders were appealed
3. Targeted audit blitzes
Targeted audit blitzes are conducted each year to verify compliance with specific requirements in a particular sector.
In 2017, the directorate met its goal of conducting two targeted audit blitzes. These included 149 organizations from the tourism sectors (arts/entertainment/food services) and 142 organizations from the manufacturing sector.
1. Tourism blitz: This blitz focused on three customer-service-related Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulations.
Out of 149 organizations audited as part of this blitz:
- 91% indicated compliance with the requirement to establish a process for reviewing and responding to feedback and ensuring that the process was accessible to people with disabilities
- 70% indicated compliance with the requirement to provide staff with training on the accessibility standards and the Human Rights Code as it pertains to people with disabilities
- 92% indicated compliance with the requirements
2. Manufacturing sector blitz: This blitz focused on three of the requirements of the accessible employment standards, in order to help support a foundation of accessibility being established in the manufacturing sector’s employment practices.
Out of 142 organizations audited as part of this blitz:
• 95% were found compliant with the requirement to notify their employees and the public about the availability of accommodation for applicants with disabilities in the staff recruitment process
• 87% were found compliant with the requirement to inform employees of their policies to support employees with disabilities
• 91% were found compliant with the requirement to provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees who have a disability
4. Compliance and enforcement going forward
The report indicates that the government has identified a service provider that will provide support services in 2018 to help expand the Directorate’s compliance activities.
In 2018, compliance and enforcement activities will be conducted for the purposes of:
- increasing the rate of accessibility compliance report filing among organizations with 20 or more employees;
- raising awareness among obligated organizations of their requirements under the Act; and
- verifying compliance and conducting enforcement activities among a greater number of organizations.
To achieve these goals, the Directorate will:
- continue to promote the availability of free compliance resources;
- increase its compliance efforts across public and private sectors;
- work with a third-party service provider to expand compliance activities; and
- continue to audit the four foundational accessibility requirements in order to identify trends in compliance across all types of organizations.