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Accessibility compliance: is accommodation enough?

I am going to tell you a story that will test your knowledge of your current legal responsibilities under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC). For those readers who pass the test, congratulations, you are providing all your customers with the respect they deserve and have sufficient knowledge to insulate your organization from legal liability. For those of you who don’t pass, well, we’ll give you another chance and point you in the direction of some helpful resources to help you get on track!

I live and work in a really great part of town with lots of great shops, restaurants and parks. Right across from the park at the end of my street is a coffee shop that I frequent. Recently, I noticed that almost every time I went in for my caffeine fix there was a guy sitting in his electric wheelchair outside the shop. I would occasionally say “hi” to him and sometimes we exchanged small talk about the weather or about the traffic. The guy was usually enjoying a coffee or a cookie or some other delight that I assumed he bought in the shop. Even with my keen eye for such barriers, I never really noticed that there was a step leading up into this shop, which made it virtually impossible for wheelchair users to navigate on their own.

One day, I was in the shop paying for my coffee when the barista excused herself and ran to the door. From where I was standing, I could see she was talking to my friend in the wheelchair; she was taking his order! I asked her how she knew he was there and she told me that he knocks on the door and the staff respond. He comes several times a day, she said.

I was amazed to see that the people running this small business are so in tune with the customers needs and were willing to “go the extra mile” to accommodate a customer in this way. Then I started thinking—they are being very nice, but are they actually complying with the current law?

Ok, that’s the story. This is the test:

  1. Is this business complying with both the AODA and the OHRC?
  2. Are the staff just being nice or is their behaviour a result of their employer having met certain legal responsibilities?
  3. What responsibilities do you think they are complying with?
  4. Which ones are they failing to comply with?
  5. If you ran this coffee shop, what would you do to ensure you were complying with the law with respect to access for people with disabilities?

If you are absolutely sure about your answers, good for you! If not, see if you can find the answers in the First Reference Talks AODA archive, check out Accessibility Standards PolicyPro (you can take a free trial!) or join First Reference at the upcoming accessibility seminar in Toronto.

I will discuss this topic in my next post two weeks from today.

Learn don’t litigate.

Andrew Lawson
www.learndl.ca

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Andrew Lawson

Trainer and advisor at Learn Don't Litigate
Andrew Lawson is a human rights and health and safety trainer and advisor, currently consulting to both the federal and Ontario governments. Since 1996, he has conducted extensive legal research in the areas of human rights and occupational health and safety law. He has worked in the people management business for over 25 years. Read more
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