persons with disabilities
Integrating the psychological health and safety standard into existing organizational policies and processes
On January 16, 2013, the Standards Council of Canada (CSA) published a new national standard dealing with psychological health and safety in the workplace. Although not a mandatory standard at this time, it is foreseeable that legislators, health and safety officers and inspectors, adjudicators and tribunals will be influenced by the standard when dealing with psychological and mental health issues in the workplace. In addition, such standards may be absorbed into the employer’s general duty to protect workers from harm in the workplace, which exists in all jurisdictions in Canada. Employers should also scrutinize their workplace operations, policies, procedures and processes under the auspices of the psychological health and safety system recommended in the standard.
In January, I wrote about how large organizations in Ontario must prepare multi-year accessibility plans to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (by 2014). Well, those organizations (50+ employees) have also got to develop and implement relevant policies by 2014 as well, and that’s going to arrive sooner than you think. Small organizations (1–49 employees) have until 2015 to prepare policies.
The Accessibility Standard for Employment will help Ontario businesses and organizations make accessibility a regular part of finding, hiring and supporting employees with disabilities.
Ontario’s Accessibility Standard for Customer Service came into effect on January 1, 2012 for all businesses and not-for-profits in the province with more than one employee. If an organization has more than 20 employees, an online report must be filed by December 31, 2012 to demonstrate to the government that accessibility has been achieved under the Customer Service Standard. Many organizations are now asking “what comes next?”
MasterChef Contestant Christine Ha is legally blind. She navigates the kitchen with the help of a cane and a support person. According to the judges, the dishes she prepares for each challenge are amazing and she is a great cook. It goes to show, despite her disability, Ha is able to compete with contestants with no disabilities, and perform the challenges with above average results.
January 1, 2012, is the date to complete all actions required under the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service and emergency preparedness requirements in the Integrated Accessibility Standards. The good news is, if your organization is obligated to report, you do not have to file with the government until December 31, 2012.
The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service require employers to provide accessible customer service to persons with disabilities. In order to comply with the legislation, all businesses and organizations providing goods or services to the public with at least one employee in Ontario must meet several requirements by January 1, 2012. What we gathered at our most recent AODA seminar is that employers are very concerned about the training aspect of the customer service obligations.
Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), effective January 1, 2012, organizations in Ontario must provide and make available in an accessible format or with appropriate communication supports, information about emergency response plans or public safety to customers and employees with disabilities.
December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. On this December 3, the global celebration has an appropriate theme, “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development”. Some people are unaware of a global mandate to achieve accessibility, and may feel isolated when their specific jurisdiction introduces new laws benefitting people with disabilities. Understanding we are all moving in the same direction, albeit using varying methods and timelines, is important when making decisions in your organization.
The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service require employers with 20 or more employees to document policies. The Integrated Accessibility Standards require employers to document policies and multi-year accessibility plans if they have 50 or more employees. So smaller organizations might breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they don’t have to document and keep track of their accessibility policies and plans under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) allows for severe maximum monetary penalties for any violation to the Act. Details on how these administrative penalties work are found in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, which came into force July 1, 2011.
While learning about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), organizations should be aware of the legal limitations of the Act in relation to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Many people are unaware that the Code takes precedent.
For years I have followed the work of advocacy groups in order to understand the needs of people with disabilities. One issue stands out among the research: the removal and prevention of barriers is vital to provide equal access to daily living. Two recognizable advocacy groups are asking the federal government to get on with a plan of action.