The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
After recognizing the conscious and unconscious barriers and discriminations against people with disabilities, the Province of Ontario passed a legal action known as the AODA.
We’ll explain the ins and outs of the act, what it entails, and how Compliant can help your website or business become entirely accessible for all users, regardless of their disabilities.
The Ontario Government introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in 2005. The AODA was originally passed to improve the accessibility policies of Ontario’s public areas (physical and virtual) by 2025.
The AODA standards require that individuals with a disability are able to use and benefit from all goods and services. This means businesses must grant access to service animals and support persons in publicly accessible areas, and provide accessible customer service. They must also implement a feedback system with an accessible format and accessible devices.
Setting a target date twenty years from the date of the creation of the AODA allowed plenty of time for businesses to develop accessibility plans for revisions to ensure they could become compliant. However, if businesses and their premises are not AODA compliant by that date, they will face financial penalties.
The stated purpose of the AODA is to create guidelines, implement them, and enforce general requirements within essential services that make life equally accessible for people living with disabilities.
The AODA laws were designed to facilitate the disability community, to represent them better, and understand their needs and wants.
The AODA was created with four core principles to help people with disabilities take advantage of what businesses have to offer without discrimination. These principles apply to physical locations as well as website accessibility.
The Dignity principle addresses how organizations and businesses treat people with disabilities. Ontario’s government found that people living with disabilities were frequently discriminated against by organizations to discourage them from participating or purchasing from them. Through the Dignity principle, people with disabilities must be catered to and treated as valuable customers equally to how abled people are treated.
Treating all citizens with dignity means making accessibility a priority for businesses and human services. It also means businesses cannot provide lower-quality services or accommodations to people with disabilities.
People must remember not to become overbearing when interacting with someone with a disability. Therefore, the principle of independence is important to remember. For example, it is important to allow those who stutter or speak slowly to finish what they are saying rather than finishing their sentences for them.
Alternatively, as a favor, some may perform a task for someone with limited mobility. But, you might be ignoring disabled citizen’s independence by being unintentionally offensive. In this case, you should wait until they explicitly ask you to assist them.
The integration principle allows people with disabilities to receive the same services or benefits from your organization as non-disabled people. For example, you should install a ramp alongside your staircase. In this way, people with limited mobility can enter your front door similar to others.
Some facilities cannot be fully integrated due to the nature of a disability or the service or goods you provide.
Equal opportunity guarantees that those with a disability are equally eligible for the same benefits from your organization without contributing additional money, time, or energy.
Charging extra to accommodate a disability or forcing disabled Ontarians to go through inconvenient actions penalizes them because of their disability and is against the AODA regulations.
An AODA standard is based on the type of company that it was created for. Each standard has rules and best practices based on the individual characteristics associated with its type. Depending on the business, multiple standards might apply, and all of them should be a priority.
Any organization that employs Ontario citizens, houses Ontarians, operates a business within Ontario, owns a building within the district, or offers products, facilities, or services to Ontarians are bound by the AODA.
Customer service is an essential part of all businesses, and the AODA stipulates that businesses must take various disabilities into account to ensure that everyone has equal access. Ensuring equal access could mean enabling multiple ways to communicate with agents to accommodate hard-of-hearing and deaf people, adding subtitles to pictures or videos, or giving agents additional training to be more comfortable working with people with disabilities.
The Information and Communication Standard reflects the need for various methods of communication to ensure that everyone is capable of accessing your company’s information. Accounting for disabilities like blindness may mean providing a braille format or including someone fluent in sign language for your deaf customers.
For websites, this means allowing for magnification of the screen or text and providing text identifications under pictures so that people using screen reading software will understand your content.
As the name implies, the Employment Standard involves making the recruitment and hiring process fair and equal for people with disabilities. Accommodations for people who have been hired on such as having ramps available or communicating information through preferred channels, are essential to building an open and welcoming environment.
This standard works to help accommodate skilled people with disabilities in the workplace. These accommodations include missing time for disability-related issues in accordance with the Workplace Safety Insurance Act of 1997.
For many people living with disabilities, public transportation can be challenging. Finding mobility ramps or hoping paths are wheelchair accessible or allowing service animals takes a small amount of effort.
The Transportation Standard stipulates that passengers must be given the time, space, and equipment they need to utilize public transportation equally.
Public spaces should be open to everyone. That means creating accessible spaces that anyone can enjoy. Creating access to parks and other open spaces through ramps and limited-mobility parking spots or allowing for rest stops and trail markers that everyone can understand is the best way to ensure that everyone can use recreational areas.
The Design of Public Spaces Standard applies to outdoor spaces while a building code provides for indoor spaces. This standard also applies to public sector organizations and private-sector organizations.
All government organizations in Ontario, Canada, profit and nonprofit, must comply with the AODA standards. Compliance means any business that offers goods, services, and facilities and has at least one employee in Ontario (regardless of where the headquarters are located) must meet the AODA requirements.
Large businesses that employ 50 or more individuals must comply; however, it is not obligatory for companies with fewer than 50 employees.
Being AODA compliant means that your organization has made all of the reasonable accommodations for Ontarians with disabilities. Depending on the specifics of your business, different standards may apply to you.
Implementing the AODA and suggestions from your community will make it easier for people with disabilities to become customers. Businesses can also strive to make their online assets AODA compliant by providing audio descriptions for visually impaired users, live captions for those who are hard of hearing, or other accommodations outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The AODA Alliance has set up a toll-free number to call to make complaints or disclosures of violations. You can speak to someone in English or French to provide the details of the violation, who committed it, and where and when you witnessed it. The number will help you contact someone who works at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario who will conduct an investigation of AODA accessibility requirements for the business in question. They will also help to ensure those businesses comply within a timely manner.
To report AODA violations or issues with web access to the Ontario Government, call 1-866-515-2025.
A website has been set up to document accessibility issues in Public Records until legal authority is provided for enforcement.
The AODA will take full effect beginning on January 1st, 2025. By that date, all business must complete their AODA compliance report, also known as the Accessibility Compliance Report. Those who do not make their accessibility report will face a penalty.
For businesses who find compliance with AODA challenging, they can consult the AODA alliance, a disability consumer advocacy group. This group works with the Ontario government and the disability community to promote the interests of persons with disabilities.
There are two future standards currently in development for the AODA: Health care standards and education standards. Although they are still in development, the government and accessibility experts are currently working to create an amendment that will extend the time for businesses to comply with these standards when they go into effect.
The Ontario Government enacted the AODA in 2005. The AODA protects Ontarians with disabilities by requiring conformance by businesses, public spaces, and public transportation to provide accommodation for all. All businesses and public spaces must meet AODA compliance requirements by the January 1, 2025 deadline.
For online compliance, all websites must meet Level A, Level AA, or Level AAA of the WCAG. Most websites will be expected to meet Level AA success criteria. These levels of compliance were set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure those with disabilities had equal access to the internet.
Contact us today to see how we can provide the resources to help your website stay Compliant with changing laws.