By now many of you will have heard or read about the AODA – Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Customer Service Standard was the first of five standards that, by 2025, will form the entire AODA. The AODA dovetails with the Human Rights Act to provide structure to how we, as Ontarians, will build our communities now and in the years ahead. That said complying with this legislation is a bit different than complying with other more familiar employment legislation.
Other employment legislation requires adherence in a silent way. The expectation is that employers will comply with each requirement, and only when deficiencies are identified as a result of an inspection, accident or complaint, does government action take place. Compliance with the AODA requires that employers file regular reports with the Province.
Depending on the size of your company, your obligations differ. Basically private sector organizations with 1 or more employees were required to meet certain AODA requirements by January 1, 2012. Companies with 20 or more employees have an additional requirement to report annually to the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS). Word on the street is that companies who haven’t filed have received a phone call reminding them of their obligations. MCSS is proactively following up to ensure your compliance related to accessibility planning, training of employees, web content, and accessible information, among other elements of the standards.
So if you haven’t filed your report for 2012, you may wish to set aside some time to take care of it. The Province has created an online tool to help you file your report. An introductory link to more information can be found in the Accessibility Wizard at www.appacats.mcss.gov.on.ca/eadvisor.
The online report is located at www.Ontario.ca/AccessON. Navigating the site can be a little challenging, so here are some tips to save you time and frustration:
- Be sure to have your business number and official business name handy, you can find your business number on your federal or provincial tax payment or refund.
- You’ll be setting up an account with Service Ontario’s ONe-Source for Business, where you’ll create a user name and password and answer a few questions in case you forget your password. Next, you will set up your business profile before clicking on the AODA reporting tab to answer the questions.
- The 15 questions you will be required to answer for the report can be viewed at: www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/customerService and click on ‘questions’ at the bottom of the page
- Any staff member or volunteer can complete the accessibility compliance report. However, it must be certified by an individual who can bind the organization.
- Set aside one to two hours to complete the report for the first time, from setting up your account with AccessON to completing the report.
2025 sounds like a long time away, but with multiple standards coming into force between then and now, complying with this legislation may be more complex than you may expect. The AODA is far-reaching because it covers customer service, information and communication, employment, transportation and the built environment, and applies to virtually every organization in the province.