I had the pleasure of attending the recent Davis LLP Employment Law conference a couple of weeks ago, and heard some great updates on stuff HR in Ontario needs to know. Despite such pressing topics as the fast-approaching Bill 168 changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, almost certainly the biggest topic this year was the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). I mean, you’ve already prepared your organization for Bill 168, right—and it wasn’t too painful, was it? Well, the AODA Customer Service Standard is going to creep up quickly, too, and it will change the way you do business. (July 1, 2010 for the public sector, and January 2012 for private and non-profit organizations.)
You can read all about the Customer Service Standard in Christina’s recent post.
Somehow, hearing about removing barriers for people with all sorts of disabilities put me in a wistful mind, and got me thinking a bit old-fashioned. I thought: it’s easy to be afraid of these changes, because naturally we’re going to imagine that they’ll all require some advanced and expensive technology infrastructure. But do our solutions have to involve technology?
In the not-too-distant past, many buildings that received visitors “removed barriers” with door persons to lend a hand and open doors, concierges to offer direction, porters to carry packages and guide the way, elevator operators to assist, and so on. This was before talking elevators and automatic doors made all these jobs obsolete of course, although certainly some buildings and organizations still employ these useful anachronisms. But I wonder how a blind person is supposed to find the button to activate the automatic door in the first place.
This is where a real live person beats a machine—imagine!
Certainly there will be technological solutions; you don’t have to doubt that for a second. GPS, for example, will be the basis for many helpful applications for blind persons and people with intellectual disabilities. But when it comes to installing technology infrastructure like automatic doors, smart talking elevators and other assistive devices, as well as making other structural modifications, such as adding ramps, might it be easier (maybe even cheaper) to have someone always on hand to assist a customer in need—someone who’s more than just a salesperson? And maybe more importantly, will such “low-tech” human solutions allow organizations to comply with the law?
What do you think? Are you going to have to make big changes to your premises to comply with the AODA? Have you even thought about it?
Read more about the Act in this post from Yosie.
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor