The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a comprehensive document to say the least. It includes a number of standards and even more requirements within those standards and sometimes it’s nice to be given the cliffs notes for these types of documents. When we were first introduced to the AODA it was a lot of information to process. We had to determine not only how it affected us as a company, but how it will affect our customers and what we can do to help them. To get a better understanding of the AODA we got in touch with Jane Sleeth, the Managing Director of Optimal Performance Consultants.
We were first introduced to Jane at an event put on by the Building Owners and Managers Association in Toronto. Jane was there to discuss how the AODA would be affecting property managers and what they needed to do meet the standards set in the act. Since then we have continued working with Jane as she is an expert in the accessibility industry and a great resource for not only ourselves but our customers as well.
We recently sent Jane some common questions regarding the AODA to help everyone gain a basic understanding of the act and all that it entails and as a way to introduce Jane and her company as a resource to our customers.
CD: What is the AODA and why is it so important?
JS: The purpose of the AODA (which is a type of legislation never before used in any jurisdiction in the world) is to ensure the province of Ontario is accessible to both people with disabilities as well as our aging population. The mandate of the Accessibility Directorate & the Ministry responsible for accessibility in Ontario is to develop, implement and enforce standards with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises. The standards are being phased in such a way that our province becomes accessible in each of these ways by 2025. What businesses in Ontario need to know is the disabled and aging demographic represents a growing market segment. Businesses who adopt a framework based on the principles of the AODA will position themselves to both serve and capture the benefits of a growing market segment. Currently 17-20% of the Ontario population has a disability. Add to this the fact that Ontarians aged 65 and older will account for the larger share of the population than children under 14 by 2017, you can see how important the AODA is to our provincial economy and to each businesses individual “economy”.
CD: How do you recommend businesses prepare for upcoming compliancy deadlines?
JS: Businesses need to start to approach the AODA and each of the standards in a strategic way versus just seeing this as a Human Resources Department activity leading to the checking off of compliance boxes for the Ministry. In taking a strategic approach, which includes all departments/managers in your organization, this will result in measurable returns on investments such as enhanced design and usability of products and or services provided; enhancing and streamlining customer interactions with your business through the development of accessible communication methods and feedback about products and services; increased ease in locating, understanding and purchasing your organization’s products and services online and via your built environments; improving ergonomic and human factors design (part of accessible design) of the workplace to ensure all employees regardless of ability and age remain highly productive members of your workforce.
CD: What resources/services do you have/offer to those that require assistance in become AODA compliant?
JS: Optimal Performance Consultants Inc is an ergonomic and accessible design firm who have been providing this expertise since 1991. OPC Inc.’s key areas of expertise are in:
Development of Strategic Policies, Programs and Procedures in the areas of ergonomic and accessible programs – compliance to best practice levels
Built Environment Audits & Design Standards – both Accessible Public Space (AODA requirements) and the Ontario Build Code’s ABES – delivered with our architects and interior designers certified in the Ontario Build Code
Web Based, E Learning and Onsite Training and Education about the Customer Service Standard (CSS), the AODA and the Integrated Accessibility Standard Requirements (IASR) mandatory training
Built Environment, Tools, Equipment and Furniture Design in tandem with architects, industrial engineers, interior designers and facility managers
CD: What are the penalties for not complying with the AODA and each of its phases from CSS to IASR and now the Ontario Build Code?
JS: Employers in Ontario have been made aware that non-compliance with the AODA’s Customer Service Standards and IASR will lead to penalties and fines. As of last review with the Directorate only 30% of employers had complied. As a result recent decisions from the Ontario License Appeal Tribunal dealt with employers who were fined. The levels of penalties and fines that employers will start to face going forward will increase to $15,000.00 per non-compliance in particular for employers who have been provided with notices about not filing their accessibility reports online. Corporations who are not compliant can receive penalties up to $100,000 per day!
For more information on Optimal Performance Consultants Inc. visit their website:http://www.optimalperformance.ca/index.html