This is Part 2 of my three part series on the Accessibility for Ontarians with a Disability Act, 2005.  In my first post, I discussed the Customer Service Standard, which was passed this summer and requires the private sector to comply by January 1, 2012.

In this post, I outline the AODA Integrated Accessibility Standards, which set out further detail on the requirements of businesses and workplaces to become accessible for individuals with a disability.

The Integrated Accessibility Standards is divided into 5 parts:

  1. Part I – General: addresses the general purpose of the Standards, and general requirements regarding accessibility policies, plans and training.
  2. Part II – Information and Communication Standards: addresses requirements around accessible formats of documents such as training material and websites, as well as laying out requirements regarding service animals and communication supports.
  3. Part III – Employment Standards:  lays out accessibility requirements during specific stages of the employment relationship such as recruitment, return to work processes, performance management and career development.  This part also lays out requirements regarding emergency response information.
  4. Part IV – Transportation Standards: lays out accessibility requirements for transportation providers such as bus and taxi businesses.
  5. Part V – Compliance: lays out the compliance requirements for both this standard, as well as for the Customer Service Standard.

What to do by January 1, 2012

By January 1, 2012, all employers with at least one employee must provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees who have a disability, if:

  1. the disability is such that the individualized information is necessary; and
  2. the employer is aware of the need for accommodation due to the employee’s disability.

As with other situations requiring accommodation, employers need not be clairvoyant and detect undetectable disabilities in the workplace.  While employers must be observant of reasonably obvious disabilities in the workplace, employees are similarly required to voice their needs and to actively and meaningfully participate in dialogs concerning their own workplace accommodation.

Take-Away for Employers

For most employers, Part II and III will require the most effort to become compliant.  The deadline to comply is staggered over the next several years, primarily between 2013-2021.  While that sounds like a lot of lead time, some items will require significant effort. 

For example, as I discussed in a post this past summer, the website accessibility standard will require "large organizations" (employers with 50 or more employees) to ensure all website content conforms with the WCAG 2.0 Level A.  If you don’t know what that means, you probably want to simply outsource through your IT department.

Another area requiring some lead time to prepare are workplace policies.  As with most aspects of Canadian employment law, much will turn on your organization’s policies.  AODA lays out general requirements for workplace policies.  While many workplaces already have policies that address anti-discrimination or disability, few will have the layer of detail required by AODA, let alone written accessibility programs to implement and train on the policies.

Finally, the Employment Standards (Part III) will have an impact on your organization’s recruitment process.  Application forms, selection processes, and communications with successful applicants will all require certain steps to ensure accessibility.  Additionally, if you are part of the growing world of online recruitment, you’ll need to ensure your content on Facebook, LinkedIn, your website and any other social media platform "notify" the public, applicants, and employees of the availability of accommodation.

Stay tuned for my next AODA post, which will look at the enforcement and compliance issues associated with the standards.