AODA Compliance: Are You Ready to File Your Report?
Date: November 29, 2017
All organizations in Ontario employing at least one employee are required to comply with a series of requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) standards and regulations. For organizations with 20 or more employees, the next mandatory reporting deadline is December 31, 2017. Learn more about your pending and future AODA compliance obligations and our AODA Compliance Checklist for employers in this FTR Now.
AODA Compliance: A Refresher
Under the AODA, organizations are regularly required to provide an update on their progress in becoming compliant with the legislation and its regulations. This year, all organizations in Ontario who have more than 20 employees are required to file an Accessibility Compliance Report by December 31, 2017. Compliance reports must be completed online through the Government of Ontario’s website.
Organizations who have between 20 and 49 employees are required to answer a short compliance questionnaire relating only to compliance with the Customer Service Standard requirements of the AODA, while organizations who have 50 or more employees are required to answer a more substantial questionnaire that addresses the organization’s employment practices and the accessibility of new or redeveloped public spaces.
Overview of the Online Reporting Process
In order to gain access to and complete your organization’s Compliance Report, you will need your organization’s legal name, your organization’s business number, the number of people your organization employs, and the contact information for a “certifier” within the organization who has the authority to comment on the completeness and accuracy of the report. Be sure to provide an accurate assessment of your organization’s employee total, as this will affect both the report you are required to file and the government’s expectations of your organization.
As noted above, Compliance Reports for all obligated organizations are due by December 31, 2017. Organizations who are required to file a compliance report and who fail to do so by the deadline may be subjected to an administrative order or financial penalties under the regulations.
Key Questions for Establishing Compliance
The specific questions being asked on the two questionnaires are as follows:
Questionnaire for Organizations with 20-49 Employees
Provide accessible customer service
- Does your organization permit people with disabilities who are accompanied by a guide dog or service animal to keep the animal with them, unless otherwise excluded by law?
- If a person with a disability is accompanied by a support person, does your organization ensure that the persons are permitted to enter the premises together, and that the person with a disability is not prevented from having access to the support person while on your premises?
- Does your organization ensure that the required persons receive training on the accessible standards for customer service?
- Has your organization established a process for receiving and responding to feedback on the accessibility of its customer service and does it make information about the feedback process readily available to the public?
- Other than the requirements cited in the above questions, is your organization complying with all other requirements in effect under the Customer Service Standard?
Questionnaire for Organizations with 50+ Employees
Make your employment practices accessible
- Does your organization notify its employees and the public about the availability of accommodations during the recruitment process?
- Does your organization provide employees with updated information about its policies to support employees with disabilities?
- When requested, does your organization provide employees with disabilities information in an accessible format or with communication supports?
- Does your organization prepare individualized workplace emergency response information for employees with disabilities?
Make new or redeveloped public spaces accessible
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed any new or redeveloped existing recreational trails that you intend to maintain?
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed any new or redeveloped existing beach access routes that you intend to maintain?
- Do your new or redeveloped recreational trails and/or beach access routes include boardwalks?
- Do your new or redeveloped recreational trails and/or beach access routes include ramps?
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed any new or redeveloped existing outdoor public use eating areas that you intend to maintain?
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed any new or redeveloped existing outdoor play spaces that you intend to maintain?
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed any new or redeveloped existing paths of travel that you intend to maintain?
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed any new or redeveloped existing off-street parking that you intend to maintain?
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed a new or redeveloped an existing service counter?
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed new fixed queuing guides?
- Since January 1, 2017, has your organization constructed any new or redeveloped existing waiting areas?
- Does your organization’s public spaces have accessible elements in place as required under the Design of Public Spaces Standard of the IASR?
- Other than the requirements cited in the above questions, is your organization complying with all other requirements in effect under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation?
Note that, depending on your organization’s answer to any of these questions, you may be required to answer further questions. You are also provided the opportunity to explain your answers using a text box provided under each question.
Top 10 Key AODA Compliance Issues to Address
For most employers in Ontario – large and small – the following issues are key to achieving compliance with the AODA’s standard and regulations, and answering the questions outlined above.
Accessibility Policies and Accessibility Plans
Every organization is required to develop, implement, and maintain policies governing how the organization will achieve accessibility as required under the AODA. All “large” organizations are required to formulate a policy document describing these policies, and to make this document available to the public. Where requested, the organization must provide this policy document in an accessible format.
All organizations (except small private sector organizations) are required to establish, implement, and maintain a document called a “Multi-Year Accessibility Plan,” which outlines the organization’s strategies for complying with the requirements of the AODA. This document must be posted on the organization’s website (if one exists) and must be provided in an accessible format on request. This plan should be reviewed and updated as necessary at least once every five years.
Customer Service Policies
Every organization is required to develop, implement, and maintain policies governing its provision of goods, services, and facilities (as the case may be) to persons with disabilities. This applies to all organizations, regardless of whether the organization’s facilities are open to the public. Only large organizations are required to reduce their policies to writing. The policy should cover a variety of specific topics where relevant to the particular organization, such as use of assistive devices, service animals and support persons, training and feedback process.
All organizations are required to provide training to prescribed persons on the AODA and Human Rights Code, as it pertains to persons with disabilities, and a variety of key issues including the provision of goods, services and/or facilities to persons with disabilities. Specific instruction must be provided on matters such as interaction and communications with persons with different types of disabilities and use of equipment or devices available to assist such persons, among others.
Every organization, other than a small organization, is required to keep records of the training that it provides, and training should be provided on an ongoing basis to new employees to ensure continued compliance with the AODA.
Every organization is required to establish processes for receiving and responding to feedback. The organization’s feedback process must specify the actions that the provider will take if a complaint is received about the manner in which it provides goods, services, or facilities to persons with disabilities, and must be made readily available to the public.
Accessible Documentation for the General Public
Where a person with a disability requests that documentation be provided in an accessible manner, the organization shall provide or arrange for the provision of the documentation in an accessible format or with communication supports in a timely manner that takes into account the individual’s accessibility needs and at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons who request this same documentation.
The organization is also required to consult with the individual requesting the information in order to determine the suitability of an accessible format or communication support.
Recruitment and General Accommodation of Employees
During a recruitment process, an organization is required to notify its employees and the general public of the availability of accommodation for job applicants in its recruitment processes.
Once job applicants are individually selected to participate in an assessment or selection process, an organization is required to inform them that accommodations are available upon request in relation to the materials or processes that will be used. Further, if a selected applicant request an accommodation, the organization is required to consult with the applicant and arrange for the provision of suitable accommodation in a manner that takes into account the nature of the person’s disability.
When making offers of employment, the organization must notify the successful applicant(s) of its policies for accommodating employees with disabilities. Further, all employees should be informed of the organization’s policies used to support employees with disabilities, including but not limited to policies on job accommodation. Information regarding these policies should be provided to new employees as soon as practicable once they begin their employment, and updates regarding changes to existing policies should be made as soon as practicable.
The AODA also requires that, where an employee with a disability requests to have information provided to him or her in an accessible format or with communication supports, the organization shall consult with the employee and will arrange for such. Information that should be provided with accommodation includes (a) information that is needed to perform the job and (b) all information that is generally available to employees in the workplace.
Workplace Emergency Response
Under the AODA, employers are required to provide individualized emergency response information to employees who have a disability, if their disability is such that it requires individualized information. Further, if the employee’s disability is such that they require assistance in the event of an emergency, and with their consent, the employer is obligated to provide their emergency response information to another person who will be designated to assist the employee in the event of an emergency.
Personalized emergency response information is to be reviewed whenever the employee moves to a new work location, whenever the employee’s overall accommodation information is reviewed or altered, or whenever the organization reviews its general emergency response policies.
Documented Individual Accommodation Plans and Return to Work Plans
Individualized Accommodation Plans. All employers, except for small organizations, are required to develop written processes regarding the development of individual accommodation plans for employees who have disabilities. Accommodation plans shall, if requested, include information about accessing communication supports and receiving information in accessible formats, as well as any individualized emergency response information for the employee.
Return to Work Processes. All employers, except for small organizations, shall develop, document, and implement a return to work process for employees who have been absent from work due to a disability and who may require disability-related accommodation in order to return to work. The return to work process shall outline the steps that the employer will take to facilitate the return to work process and shall use the employee’s documented individual accommodation plan (as described above) to facilitate the employee’s return to work and subsequent accommodation.
Performance Management, Career Development, and Redeployment
If your organization uses performance management programs, you are required to taken into account the accessibility needs of employees (as well as their individual accommodation plan) when using the performance management process in respect of the employee. This may involve reviewing the employee’s individual accommodation plan to determine whether adjustments to the plan may improve employee performance, providing coaching and feedback sessions in a manner that takes into account the employee’s disability, or providing performance management documents and policies to employees in accessible formats or with communication supports.
Where opportunities exist for employee advancement within an organization, the organization is required to take into account the accommodation needs of an employee so that the employee may be able to succeed elsewhere within the organization or take on additional responsibilities within their current role.
Where an organization is in the process of redeploying employees (e.g. due to downsizing, restructuring, or merger), the organization must take into account the accessibility needs of employees with disabilities, and, where required, adjust the employee’s existing supports to adapt to their new roles.
While these requirements do not demand that organizations develop new performance management, career development, and redeployment procedures, they require organizations to take accessibility and accommodation needs of employees (and their individualized plans) into account when applying existing organizational policies and programs.
All organizations, except for small organizations, are required to file an on-line accessibility report in accordance with the established schedule set out under the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation.
Next Steps for Employers: AODA Compliance Checklist
To assist small and large organizations in addressing the issues outlined above and assessing their level of AODA compliance, Hicks Morley has prepared a complimentary Compliance Checklist.
Please contact Andrew Zabrovsky, Paul Broad, Sunny Khaira or your regular Hicks Morley lawyer to receive your complimentary copy of Hicks Morley’s AODA Compliance Checklist or should you have any questions about your organization’s obligations under the AODA.
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