December 13, 2012
Private businesses with more than 20 employees must have written Customer Service policies compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), conduct staff training, and submit annual compliance reports to the government before December 31, 2012. Time is running out to comply. If you have not taken the necessary steps, now is the time.
Public bodies have been complying with these customer service regulations for some time, and now, all Ontario businesses, except self-employed solos, must establish policies to ensure that you interact with disabled customers in a positive manner. You must support this with staff training and solicit feedback from customers. The training requirements include not only employees, but contractors, volunteers and others who interact with your customers. Some of the requirements depend upon the size of your business.
This step of the evolution of the accessibility process does not affect your employment practices, or require changes to your premises. It does require that you:
- Show respect for persons with disability
- Provide, as much as possible, equal opportunities to obtain, use or benefit from services
- Accommodate alternative methods of communication
- Allow service animals and support persons access
- Plan for how disabled people will be helped in an emergency, such as a fire or power outage.
- If written policies are required for your business, make them available to customers.
There is no “one size fits all” solution required by law. You may create accessibility in the way that best suits your business.
This may sound onerous, but the regulation provides considerable guidance, and many trade groups, accountants, and consultants, and, of course, lawyers are geared up to help. The government has indicated that, although there are significant potential fines for non-compliance, the emphasis initially will be on education and ensuring compliance rather than laying charges. In spite of this, this standard is now the law, so if you have not complied, you should do so as soon as possible.
Weilers has over 65 years of service to our “customers”, and we welcome the opportunity to help businesses comply with this change, as with any other law.