Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Accessibility Customer Service Standard – it’s the law

Originally printed in the Guelph Business Venture Magazine - February 2010

Does your company provide goods or services to the public or other third parties within Ontario? Does your company have one or more employees? If you answered yes to both these questions, then the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) - Accessibility Customer Service Standard applies to you and you are legally required to comply with the requirements. The Accessibility Standard became law on January 1, 2008, with public sector companies required to comply by January 1, 2010 and private and non-profit organizations required to comply by January 1, 2012.

What does this mean to you and your organization? There are set requirements set out to ensure you are providing accessible customer service to people with various kinds of disabilities, in summary all companies must:

  • Establish policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities and with reasonable effort ensure they are aligned with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality.
  • Allow people to use their own personal assistive devices to access your goods and use your services.
  • Take into account a person’s disability when communicating with them
  • Allow the use of guide dogs or services animals in the areas that are open to the public.
  • Permit the use of a support person, while accessing a good or service. Where admission fees are charged, provide advanced notice on what admission is charged for a support person of a person with a disability.
  • Provide notice when facilities or services that people with disabilities rely on to access or use your goods or services are temporarily disrupted.
  • Train staff, volunteers, contracts and any other people who interact with the public on your companies behalf on how to assist people with disabilities
  • Establish and make available a process for providing and responding to feedback on your companies’ accessibility.
There are additional requirements for public sector organizations with 20 or more employees. I encourage all Human Resource Professionals, business managers and company owners to keep up to date on the developments of the AODA and the next set of standards coming into force over the next few years. Take advantage of free lunch and learns, training and other local information sessions as well as information provided by the government on-line.

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