An overview of the AODA for employers
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (“AODA”) mandates organizations to develop and implement accessibility standards in Ontario. The purpose of its enactment is to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by removing barriers with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025. The AODA and its regulation applies to all levels of government, the Legislative Assembly, not-for-profits and private sector organizations in Ontario. Failure to comply with this legislation can result in significant fines.
Ontario Regulation 191/11, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (“IASR”) under the AODA, establishes accessibility standards for information and communications, employment, transportation, design of public spaces and customer service.
The IASR requires every obligated organization to establish accessibility policies governing how the organization will achieve accessibility. Obligated organizations, other than “small organizations” (private organizations with at least one but fewer than 50 employees in Ontario), are required to include a statement of organizational commitment to meet the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in a timely manner within their policies. In addition, this subset of organizations must prepare one or more documents which describe its accessibility policies, while also making the documents publicly available and, on request, in an accessible format. Further, this subset must prepare and implement a multi-year accessibility plan, which outlines the organization’s strategy to prevent and remove barriers and meet its requirements under IASR.
Employers should pay particular attention to the “Employment Standards” as set out in Part 3 of the IASR to ensure that their workplaces are accessible to current and potential employees with disabilities. The “Employment Standards” address recruitment, assessment or selection, hiring, performance management, career advancement and redeployment. It is crucial for employers to consider the accessibility needs of employees with disabilities, including individualized accommodation plans and workplace emergency response information throughout all stages of employment.
In brief, employers are required to inform employees and potential employees of the availability for accommodation for applicants with disabilities during the recruitment and assessment or selection processes. When applicants are hired, they must be notified of the employer’s accommodation policies. Employers must inform their existing employees of supports for employees with disabilities, including accommodation policies. Where an employee with a disability makes the request, employers must provide all employment-related information and information needed for the employee to perform their job in accessible formats (such as accessible digital versions of documents) or with communication supports (such as Sign language interpretation).
Employers should also be aware of their requirements with respect to their websites and web content. Designated public sector organizations and large organizations were required to meet these internet requirements by January 1, 2021.
Accessibility Compliance Report
Private sector organizations and not-for-profits with 20 or more employees and public sector organizations must file an Accessibility Compliance Report every three years. This Report confirms that the organization has met the requirements as set out in AODA.
For private sector organizations and not-for-profits with 20 or more employees, the deadline to file a Report is June 30, 2021.