In 2005, the Ontario Government took a step toward building a more accessible province when it passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
(AODA) calling for the development of standards for accessibility in five key areas of daily living: Customer Service, Information and Communications, Employment, Transportation, and Built Environment.
As of January 1st 2012, the AODA Act legally requires all organizations, both public and private, that provide goods or services either directly to the public or to other organizations in Ontario (third parties) and that have one
or more employees to provide accessible customer service to persons of all ability levels.
Summary of Requirements of the Standard
All providers that are covered by the AODA customer service standard must comply with the 11 requirements summarized below. Providers with 20
or more employees and all
designated public sector organizations have three additional requirements to meet. These additional requirements are listed separately (Please note that this list is a plain language summary of the requirements. In several cases, it does not include the full details of the requirement).
Why It’s Important
People with disabilities dine out, work, travel, shop and do business. People with disabilities have spending power! A Royal Bank study released in the year 2000 estimated the spending power of people with disabilities to be $25 billion dollars a year in Canada. Businesses that are accessible attract more customers and improve services for everyone.
We all benefit when everyone has access to places, people, and experiences. Ontario benefits daily from the many contributions made by people with disabilities. Greater accessibility will also help prepare Ontario for the future. As our population ages, the number of people with disabilities will increase. Seniors and people with disabilities will represent 20-25 percent of the Canadian recreation, retail, entertainment, workplace and housing marketplaces in the next ten years and beyond.
If we make our businesses more accessible to people with disabilities, we commit to making Ontario a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. As employees, you have an important role to play in helping people with disabilities gain greater access to our products and services.
This AODA compliance training is also important because the AODA is a law, and the Customer Service Standards are a part of that law. Harassment and discrimination on the basis of disability are against the law, and they are infractions of your employer’s Harassment Policy. The legislation prohibiting discrimination against people who are disabled is the Ontario Human Rights Code
(OHRC), which gives each of us an equal opportunity to work and live without being hindered by discriminatory practices.
The OHRC also ensures that people who require accommodation will receive it up to the point of undue hardship.
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What Requirements Apply to All Providers?
The following requirements of the customer service standard apply to all providers that are covered by the standard. If you are a provider, you must:
- Establish policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities.
- Set a policy on allowing people to use their own personal assistive devices to access your goods and use your services and about any other measures your organization offers (assistive devices, services, or methods) to enable them to access your goods and use your services.
- Use reasonable efforts to ensure that your policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.
- Communicate with a person with a disability in a manner that takes into account his or her disability.
- Train staff, volunteers, contractors and any other people who interact with the public or other third parties on your behalf on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard. You are not required to train third-party providers, such as contracted cleaners who work for you, but you must obtain proof from the contractor that the workers have received the appropriate training.
- Train staff, volunteers, contractors and any other people who are involved in developing your policies, practices and procedures on the provision of goods or services on a number of topics as outlined in the Customer Service Standard.
- Allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide dog or service animal in those areas of the premises you own or operate that are open to the public, unless the animal is excluded by another law. If a service animal is excluded by law, use other measures to provide services to the person with a disability.
- Permit people with disabilities who use a support person to bring that person with them while accessing goods or services in premises open to the public or third parties.
- Where admission fees are charged, provide notice ahead of time on what admission, if any, would be charged for a support person of a person with a disability.
- Provide notice when facilities or services that people with disabilities rely on to access or use your goods or services are temporarily disrupted.
- Establish a process for people to provide feedback on how you provide goods or services to people with disabilities and how you will respond to any feedback and take action on any complaints. Make the information about your feedback process readily available to the public in alternative formats upon request.
What Additional Requirements Apply to Designated Public Sector Organizations and Providers with 20 or more Employees?
Each of these requirements and the terms used are described in greater detail in HR Proactive’s AODA Compliance Train-the-Trainer Kit
which can be purchased online by visiting us at: www.accessiblecustomerservicetraining.com
If you are a designated public sector organization or other provider with 20 or more employees, you must:
- Document in writing all your policies, practices and procedures for providing accessible customer service and meet other document requirements set out in the standard.
- Notify customers that documents required under the customer service standard are available upon request.
- When giving documents required under the customer service standard to a person with a disability, provide the information in a format that takes into account the person’s disability.