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 January 1, 2014). Well, those obligated private sector organizations (50+ employees) must also develop and implement relevant policies, practices and procedures under their general obligation and under each accessibility standard (Information and Communication, Employment, Transportation and Built Environment for public spaces) under the Integrated Accessibility Regulation by January 1, 2014 as well, and that’s going to arrive sooner than you think. Small private sector organizations (1–49 employees) have until 2015 to prepare policies, practices and procedures.
Section 3 of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation says:
- Every obligated organization shall develop, implement and maintain policies governing how the organization achieves or will achieve accessibility through meeting its requirements referred to in this Regulation.
- Obligated organizations, other than small organizations, shall include a statement of organizational commitment to meet the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in a timely manner in their policies.
- The Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly, every designated public sector organization and large organizations shall:
- Prepare one or more written documents describing its policies; and
- Make the documents publicly available, and shall provide them in an accessible format upon request.
As you can see, subsection 3(1) requires all obligated organizations to prepare policies, but subsection 3(3) excludes small organizations from the requirements to have them in writing and to provide them upon request.
Of course, organizations cannot simply have policies in place; they must inform employees of their policies to support persons with disabilities, “including, but not limited to, policies that deal with their duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship under the Human Rights Code; and, they must also train employees on the contents of the policies “on an ongoing basis.” .
The regulation does not define what the policies, practices and procedures should look like or include, only the general parameters. For example, here is the City of Ottawa’s accessibility policy, which includes sections on information and communication and employment. This particular policy is worth looking at because it shows that the policies need not be complicated or long to achieve their intended effect.
Let us know how your preparations are going! Have you started to develop your accessibility policies yet?
Don’t forget, First Reference provides a policy-building resource and tool to help organizations prepare their accessibility policies under the general obligation of the Integrated Regulation and under each accessibility standard (i.e. Information and Communication, Employment, Transportation, Built Environment for public spaces, and Customer Service). Accessibility Standards PolicyPro provides you with commentaries on your legal obligations and best practice guidelines to help you understand your compliance requirements. The tool also allows you to use customizable templates to help you:
- identify accessibility problems in existing facilities and understand some of the solutions that may be required to meet your obligations under the AODA (self-audit/assessment checklist);
- write your policies modelled on the needs of small or large organizations, which includes a statement of organizational commitment; and,
- remain up-to-date.
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor