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Several months ago, I blogged briefly about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”), which became law in 2005.  As part of that law, every private-sector and not-for-profit organization that provides goods or services to the public or to third parties and that has at least one employee in Ontario must be in compliance with the AODA’s Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the “Customer Service Standards”) by January 1, 2012.  For a copy of that blog article, click here.

Since that blog, I have sent numerous emails to clients about this fast approaching deadline.  I have also hosted more than a dozen public seminars / workshops to assist organizations to comply with the Customer Service Standards.  There are many on-line resources available, as well as other service providers, accessibility consultants and industry groups, eager to assist with compliance.

Yet, I remain concerned that many organizations will not be ready for January 1st.

In addition to complying with the Customer Service Standards (in full) by January 1st, the Integrated Accessibility Standards – which combines accessibility standards in the areas of information and communication, employment and transportation – requires Ontario employers to plan how to deal with each of their disabled employees, if and when various types of emergency situations arise.  In particular, as of January 1, 2012, such employers will need to:

  • Provide individualized workplace emergency response information (i.e. tailored to each employee’s needs) to disabled employees, if the disability so requires it;
  • Share the individualized workplace emergency response information with a person(s) designated by the employer to assist the disabled employee in the event of an emergency, if the disabled employee so consents; and
  • Review the individualized workplace emergency response information whenever the disabled employee moves to a different work location in the organization, his/her overall accommodation needs or plans are reviewed, or the employer reviews its general emergency response policies.

Keep in mind that penalties for non-compliance under the AODA can be substantial.  They range from a low of $200 (i.e. for an individual where the potential impact, and actual history, of non-compliance is considered minor) to a high of $15,000 per day of non-compliance (i.e. for a corporation where the potential impact, and actual history, of non-compliance is considered major), subject to a maximum penalty of $50,000 for individuals and unincorporated associations or $100,000 for corporations.

Also keep in mind that, if you have 20 or more Ontario employees at your organization, you will need to file an Accessibility Report before a designated date in 2012 (date not yet provided by the Accessibility Directorate), confirming your compliance with the Customer Service Standards.

If you are not yet ready for January 1st, you now have less than 1 left month to do so.   Again, there are a number of on-line resources available to assist with compliance; however, you may wish, at this late stage, to speak with your legal or other advisors to assist you with the compliance process.

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