The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the AODA) came into force in 2005. The legislation allows the government to develop and enforce mandatory standards for accessibility for persons with disabilities. The first of those standards, the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service Regulation (the Customer Service Standard) sets out various requirements for ensuring that providers of goods and services in Ontario have policies in place that accommodate the needs of customers with disabilities and make the provision of goods and services accessible to those customers.
The Customer Service Standard is not limited to organizations that provide goods or services to end-consumers. It also applies to businesses that provide goods or services to third parties in Ontario (i.e., other businesses or organizations), such as manufacturers, wholesalers and providers of professional services and that have one or more employees.
Service Ontario has indicated that the government is taking the position that the Customer Service Standard applies to all Ontario businesses even if they do not fall squarely within the parameters set out above. Since the compliance obligations are not that onerous, we recommend that all employers comply.
In order to comply with this legislation, employers must create and put in place an accessibility plan that:
• Considers a person’s disability when communicating with them
• Allows assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen tanks
• Allows service animals
• Welcomes support persons
• Lets customers know when accessible services are not available
• Invites customers to provide feedback.
In addition, employers must train staff on accessible customer service.