What you need to know about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Understanding your responsibilities under any new legislation can be overwhelming. We’re going to try to make all of this a bit easier for you.
What you need to know now
The legislation focuses on 5 standards that all organizations – public, private or not-for-profit – need to address to ensure accessibility for all Ontarians:
- Customer Service
- Information and Communications
- Built Environment
The Customer Service standard is already in effect and compliance is required by public sector organizations no later than January 1, 2010. Private sector and not-for-profit organizations have until January 1, 2012 to comply. Compliance includes developing policies and procedures for providing service for persons with disabilities and ensuring that all staff are trained to adhere to your policies. You’ll also need to provide notice when your facilities or services are unavailable to people who rely on them e.g. when a wheelchair accessible ramp is undergoing repair. More details on the Customer Service Standard can be found at the Ministry’s website.
What’s coming down the road
Details of the other 4 standards are still being developed but it’s anticipated that the Information and Communications Standard will be finalized soon. This Standard will impact how organziations provide information in formats that are accessible to everyone. It is expected that compliance with this standard will follow the same timelines as the Customer Service Standard.
The other 3 standards are at various stages of completion. Details of the standards and compliance dates have not been finalized. It is the goal of the Act that all standards will be in place by 2025.
What does all this mean for your organization?
The Customer Service and Information and Communications Standards are closely related. Many of the ways you provide customer service is covered by your information and communication tools. Your website is going to be a critical piece in providing accessible service to all your clients. Consider how your website could be used to:
- advise of service disruptions that may impact persons with disabilities
- provide product service manuals in an accesssible digital format available for download
- make transcripts available of audio or video presentations
A unified approach to the these standards will save time and resources down the road and turn your website in to a more functional tool for all your customers.