Accessibility in Ontario: Is Your Company Compliant?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Ontario is the first in the world to enact the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) – a law requiring businesses to provide accessibility standards for people living with a disability. This is a multi-year plan that requires all public, private and not-for-profit businesses to make their organizations accessible for everyone by 2025.

The Government of Ontario Legislative Assembly designated that public sector organizations, and large organizations must establish, implement and document a multi-year accessibility plan that outlines their strategy to prevent and remove barriers to meet these standards. Plans are to be maintained every five years, posted on the business’ website, and modified to be specific to each individual upon request. Timelines and details for the following policy implementation will depend on the type and size of business.

Do you know if your business is accessible? Are you complaint to the legislation?  Here is some helpful information and resources to help you find out.

5 Areas of Accessibility Standards

1.  Customer Service – this refers to the services provided to disabled persons, beyond just the specifics of the building itself.  It also includes training of staff to be able to communicate with people who are using assistive devices, service animals, and support personnel.

2.  Employment – this involves including employee accessibility needs in human resource practices.  It covers the need to notify employees and new applicants of work accommodations, and outlines the requirement of developing a written process specific to each individual requiring accommodation.  Lastly, also includes an individualized emergency response plan if deemed necessary, return to work processes, performance management, career development and redeployment parameters. Private or non-profit organizations must comply by 2016.

3.  Information and Communications – this refers to employers providing accessible feedback options, educational and training resources and materials, along with how the employer is making internal communication accessible (i.e. electronic, Braille, audio formats, large print, text transcripts, note taking, captioning, augmentative or alternative communication devices, sign language and repetition or clarification of information).  Refer here for further information.

4.  Transportation – The standard applies to conventional services such as the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) or specialized transportation such as DARTS in Hamilton, certain ferries, public school buses, or hospitals, colleges, universities that provide services such as shuttles. Electronic pre-boarding and on-board announcement requirements must be in place by January 1, 2017.

5.  Design of Public Spaces – The Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment focus on removing barriers in two areas: buildings and public spaces. As of January 1, 2015 new construction and renovations will be required to abide by accessibility requirements. This includes recreation trails and access routes, outdoor public eating areas, outdoor play spaces/parks, outdoor paths of travel (sidewalks, ramps, rest areas, and pedestrian signals), parking, service counters, fixed queuing lines and waiting areas, and the maintenance and restoration of public spaces.  Specific measurements for development are listed in the policy guidelines.

Steps for Compliance

1.  Determine what you have to do with use of this helpful wizard –   This survey provides you with:

  • Accessibility requirements your company has already met
  • Upcoming requirements for January 2016, based on the information you provide.

2.  Assess your level of accessibility –   Does your company have barriers? Barriers are obstacles that make it difficult, even impossible, for people with disabilities to take part in society to do occupations such as working, shopping, attending appointments or taking public transit. Service Ontario provides a great description of barriers to accessibility.

3.  Develop accessibility policies and a plan –  Statement of commitment: All public organizations and private and not-for-profit organizations with 50+ employees are required to develop an available statement of commitment explaining their vision and goals.

4.  Train your staff on accessibility standards –  Training employees and volunteers about this law (Public sector organization of 1-49 employees AND private or non-profit organizations of 50+ employees by 2015, or private and non-profit organizations of 1-49 employees by 2016).

5.  Put it in writing – You can combine your statement of commitment, policies and plan in one document or in a way that best suits your organization. It’s also up to you to determine the level of detail in your accessibility policies and plan. It will likely depend on your accessibility goals and when you hope to achieve them. Check out this useful template with timelines.

6.  Let people know – Report your progress online and let customers know how to find your plan.  Consider using your website or other circulations or media to notify others about your compliance.

Lastly, consider Occupational Therapy.  As the profession that deals exclusively with helping people with disabilities to manage safely and independently at home, work, school or in the community, we have a plethora of knowledge about issues of accessibility.  Consult with an Occupational Therapist for creative and compliant solutions to this legislation, or to assist with staff training.

For more helpful tips on workplace health and wellness please refer to our Healthy Workplace page.



The free accessibility compliance wizard and detailed information:

The succinct schedule of compliancy dates: