TORONTO ON – 02-25-2019 (PRDistribution.com) —
In 2005, the province of Ontario rolled out the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act(AODA), kicking off a 20-year plan to make the province fully accessible by 2025. In 2015, the province released the Path to 2025: Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan to help keep these goals on track. Within the Path are laid out the rules and guidelines businesses, non-profits, public sector organizations, educational institutions and more must abide by in accordance with the AODA.
The first thing to keep in mind is that not all businesses must comply with the same accessibility standards. Depending on the business’ size and how many staff members they employ, those guidelines can vary. The AODA breaks down these guidelines by businesses of 1 to 19 employees, 20 to 49 employees, and 50 or more employees.
The regulations do, however, have many overlapping similarities, regardless of business size. Laid out with specific deadlines, a business has to provide accessible customer service, which includes training all of their staff and any volunteers to serve customers of all abilities, welcoming support and service animals or persons, ensuring there are accessible means for everyone to provide service feedback, and putting an accessibility policy in place so that both customers and staff are aware of what to expect. They must also provide accessible emergency and public safety information for all patrons and employees. This has to be readily accessible and provided when requested, either by a patron with disabilities or a staff member.
All companies must create accessibility policies and ensure that employees and patrons are either made aware of them or can be made aware should they request information. Accessibility must also be considered when using self-serve kiosks of any kind, whether these are options to pay for parking or self-serve checkouts at a grocery store. All staff and volunteers must be trained on all of Ontario’s accessibility laws that apply to their jobs and duties, and they must provide easy and accessible means for persons of all abilities to provide feedback. Lastly, all new and redeveloped public spaces must be made accessible such as parking lots, service counters, recreational areas and trails and more. The larger your business and the more staff you employ, you must file regular Accessibility Compliance Reports to ensure that all standards are being met.
“It’s imperative that we work towards Ontario being a fully accessible province,” said Wendy Share, Executive Director at Share Lawyers, of the Path, and its ultimate goal. “We see clients struggling on a daily basis in public due to simple oversights. It takes a small shift in thinking to start including others in how we see the functionality of seemingly mundane things.”
With the guidelines and steps laid out in the Path to 2025, Ontario is on its way to a more inclusive future.