This article provides an overview of key requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Standards. Learn what you are required to do for each of the three Standards under this Legislation (Information and Communication Standard, Employment Standard, and the Transportation Standard) and if or why they are relevant to your organization.
Integrated Accessibility Standards – The Next Step in AODA Compliance
With the compliance deadline for the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service – the first of five Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) – now past, organizations across Ontario need to begin planning how they are going to meet the next set of requirements under Ontario’s Accessibility legislation – The Integrated Accessibility Standards (IAS).
The Integrated Accessibility Standards came into effect on July 1, 2011 and significantly impacts most organizations in Ontario with respect to their human resources practices and the way they do business.
The Integrated Accessibility Standards address accessibility in three areas: Information and Communications; Employment; and Transportation. Similar to the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service, organizations across public, private and non-profit sectors must comply with accessibility in these three areas. The IAS is somewhat complex in its application as compliance with each section is not consistent for all. The majority of compliance deadlines are phased in between January 1, 2012 and January 1, 2017 (some extend beyond 2017), but the deadlines within each standard vary – so it’s incumbent on businesses and organizations to know which elements of which standards apply to them and by when.
Who do the Integrated Accessibility Standards Apply to?
The IAS applies to the Ontario Government and Legislative Assembly, every designated public sector organization and every person or organization that provides goods, services or facilities to the public or to third parties and has at least one employee in Ontario.
There are 5 classifications of organization under the IAS with targeted compliance in the following order.
- The Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly
- Large designated public sector organizations (50+ employees)
- Small designated public sector organizations (between 1–50 employees)
- Large private and not-for-profit organizations (50+ employees)
- Small private and not-for-profit organizations (between 1–50 employees)
* All organizations with the exception of small private and not-for-profit organizations (less than 50 employees) are required to report compliance to the government.
What is involved in each Standard?
Below is a summary of categories and the primary requirements associated with each. As the requirements under the IAS are fairly extensive, please note is not a complete list but instead, a high level overview only. Look out for additional information on the Integrated Accessibility Standards over the coming months.
The IAS Regulation opens with a set of General Requirements that cover:
Accessibility Policies and Plans
- Obligated organizations are required to develop, implement and maintain policies on how they will achieve accessibility requirements and commit to removing barriers to inclusion. Obligated organizations will be required to establish, implement, maintain and document a multi-year accessibility plan which outlines the organization’s accessibility strategy to meet the requirements of the Integrated Standard. The plan must be posted on the organization’s website, provided in an accessible format and be reviewed at least once every five years
- Obligated Organizations must train employees on the IAS requirements. The requirements are numerous and training should be specific to the duties/nature of one’s job, meaning employee training needs will differ.
Employees must also be trained on the Ontario Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities. Other groups which must also be trained include volunteers, persons who develop policies (i.e. board members) and anyone who provide goods, services or facilities on behalf of the organization
Other General Requirements include the procurement of goods, services or facilities and self-service kiosks.
Information and Communications Standard
The Information and Communications standard covers:
Accessible Formats and Communication Supports
- Obligated organizations must, upon request, provide accessible formats and communication supports. Examples include but are not limited to enlarged print, braille, accessible electronic formats, captioning, sign language interpreters and reading aloud. Accessible formats and communication supports must be provided or arranged for in a timely manner and at a cost not exceeding the regular cost charged to other persons.
- Organizations with more than 50 employees will be required to make their internet websites and web content conform to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.0. Adherence to these guidelines will increase readability and allow persons with disabilities to use assistive devices such as screen readers, to navigate web content without frustration.
- Any organization that has processes for receiving and responding to feedback are required to ensure they are accessible to persons with disabilities by providing accessible formats and communication supports, upon request.
Other Information and Communications requirements include emergency procedures; educational and training resources and materials; requirements for public libraries and libraries of educational and training institutions.
The Employment standard establishes obligations for employers regarding recruitment, accessible information, employee accommodation, return to work, performance management, career development and re-deployment. In almost all cases, this will entail training managers on their responsibilities and training employees on their rights under the AODA.
Individualized Workplace Emergency Response Information
- Obligated organizations must provide and document individualized workplace emergency plans for employees with a disability. While employees are not required to disclose a disability, organizations must request that staff inform them if the existing emergency response plan does not meet their needs.
*This requirement must have been met by January 1, 2012.
- Employers must ensure that all aspects of the recruitment process are accessible to persons with disabilities. This includes jobs being posted in accessible formats and locations; consulting with applicants to provide or arrange suitable accommodation in a manner that takes into account the applicant’s disability; and providing communication supports and information in an accessible format.
- Upon request, employers must meet an employee’s need for accessible formats and communication supports for information that is needed in order to perform the employee’s job and to access information that is generally available to employees in the workplace.
The Transportation standard primarily applies to organizations that provide public or specialized transportation services. Examples include but are not exclusive to municipalities, taxis, school boards, hospitals, colleges and universities. This standard addresses accessibility with respect to equipment, announcements and wait times, to name a few. The details of the Transportation standard are numerous and technical in nature. Organizations should carefully review this standard to determine whether or not it applies to them.
Enforcement and Penalties
Failure to comply with the AODA requirements can lead to monetary penalties and prosecutions. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has the power to conduct inspections, assign monetary penalties and prosecute through the courts. In the case of an offense under the AODA, penalties can reach a daily maximum of $50,000 for individuals or unincorporated organizations and $100,000 daily for corporations.
This article was written by proLearning innovations (www.prolearningonline.com), a full service Human Resources organization that assists small and large businesses across all sectors comply with AODA requirements and other HR related needs. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 647-847-1853