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1. Review your multi-year accessibility plans by January 1, 2020
On January 1, 2014, section 4(1) of the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Ontario Regulation 191/11 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) required the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations and large organizations (50 plus employees) to have multi-year accessibility plans in place and posted on their websites (if any), and to provide the plan in an accessible format upon request.
The multi-year accessibility plan must inform and outline the organization’s strategy for preventing and removing barriers faced by persons with disabilities and also for meeting all of the requirements under the AODA and the Integrated Regulation.
The Regulation also states that the multi-year accessibility plans must be reviewed at least once every five years. In addition, the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations must establish, review and update their accessibility plans in consultation with persons with disabilities. If they have established an accessibility advisory committee, they must consult that committee.
This means that as of January 1, 2019, five years after the requirement was put in place, the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations and large organizations (with 50 or more employees) were due to undertake a review of their multi-year accessibility plans and this must be completed by January 1, 2020.
2. Filing your accessibility report in 2020
All organizations will also have to file accessibility compliance reports by December 31, 2020, so it is important that the requirements under the AODA and the Integrated Regulation have all been met before December 31, 2020, including the review and update of your multi-year plans (if applicable).
Organizations that have between 20-49 employees are required to answer a short compliance questionnaire relating only to compliance with the Customer Service Standard requirements of the AODA. Organizations that have 50 or more employees are required to answer a more substantial questionnaire that addresses most of the accessibility standards were obligated including the organization’s information and communication practices, employment practices, transportation practices and the accessibility of new or redeveloped public spaces.
The guideline for reporting states that organizations must submit an accessibility report:
- every three years for a not-for-profit organization or business; and
- every two years for a public-sector organization.
The compliance report confirms that your organization has met its current accessibility requirements under the AODA. Every organization is required to develop, implement and maintain policies governing how the organization will achieve accessibility as required under the AODA. All “large” organizations are required to formulate a policy document describing these policies and to make this document available to the public. When requested, the organization must provide this policy document in an accessible format.
All organizations (except small private sector organizations) are required to establish, implement and maintain a document referred to as a “Multi-Year Accessibility Plan” which outlines the organization’s strategies for complying with the requirements of the AODA. This document must be posted on the organization’s website (if one exists) and must be provided in an accessible format upon request. This plan should be reviewed and updated as necessary at least once every five years.
If you don’t complete your accessibility compliance report, you could face enforcement which can include financial penalties.
The AODA gives the government of Ontario authority to set monetary penalties to enforce compliance with accessibility standards. The maximum penalties under the AODA include:
- A corporation/organization that is guilty can be fined up to $100,000 per day
- Directors and officers of a corporation/organization that is guilty can be fined up to $50,000 per day
Therefore, after December 31, 2020, the next reporting schedule for private sector and non-profit organizations is December 31, 2023.
Information on how to file an accessibility report can be found here.
3. Are there any deadlines left to meet?
By January 1, 2021, large private sector and public sector organizations, as well as non-profit organizations must make all websites and web content accessible. Content means any information that may be found on a web page or web application, including text, images, forms and sounds.
Moreover, beginning on January 1, 2021, all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012, must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA, other than criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and 1.2.5 (pre-recorded audio descriptions) as outlined in the Accessibility Standard for Information and Communications.
You don’t have to make your internal website (intranet) accessible. Also, you don’t have to modify content posted before 2012.
4. What should obligated organizations do?
If not yet started, obligated organizations listed above should start and complete the review of their multi-year plan by the completion deadline of January 1, 2020. In addition, obligated organizations should conduct a compliance audit to ensure all preventive measures, practices, policies and procedures to meet the requirements under the AODA including those found in the general requirements under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, the Customer Service Standard, the Information and Communication Standard, the Employment Standard, the Transportation Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Standard. This audit will ensure your organization is fully compliant before the reporting deadline ends on December 31, 2020.