Integrated Accessibility Regulation under AODA Imposes More Onerous Accommodation Obligations
By Jackie VanDerMeulen
The Ontario government released the Integrated Accessibility Regulation – its second set of standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act on June 3, 2011. The Regulation aims to promote access for people with disabilities in three broad areas:
- information and communications;
- employment; and
The Regulation was released following two rounds of public consultation and addresses several of the broader concerns that were raised by the private sector. For example, the definition of “small organization” was expanded to include organizations with 1 to 49 employees (as compared to only 1-19 employees under the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service). This came in response to concerns raised by mid-sized employers that the obligations were too onerous given the size of their operations. Similarly, many of the requirements under the information and communications standard are relaxed as compared to their first incarnation. The deadlines for compliance are also extended to take into consideration the fact that many organizations will need to invest in new software.
Still, the Regulation includes a broad array of obligations for both the public and private sector. For example, among other things, most organizations will be required to:
- Establish, implement, maintain, document and post on their website a multi-year accessibility plan (to be reviewed and updated every five years);
- Make Internet websites and web content conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA;
- Provide training to staff on the Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities;
- Notify employees and the public of the accommodations available to applicants with disabilities during recruitment and hiring processes; and
- Develop individual accommodation plans when conducting performance reviews, considering employees for career development and advancement, and during any employee redeployment process.
Conventional, specialized and other transportation service providers that offer their services to the public – such as taxicabs, buses, school buses, ferries and trains – will be required adopt numerous accessibility standards. For example, organizations will be required to provide: equal fares for all customers, audible pre-boarding and on-board announcements, and courtesy seating for person with disabilities. For further details on the obligations facing Ontario employers see our recent eBlast.
The Regulation also comes just as Ontario businesses struggle to meet their January 1, 2012 deadline for compliance with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service. (See our February eBlast or our recent blog posting for more information on the customer service standards.)
Employers should act early to determine the requirements applicable to their organization, given the breadth of the requirements and the need to invest in technology and other infrastructure. We will continue to keep you informed as the remaining standard – the built environment – is finalized.