As of January 1st, 2012, there are new accessibility standards that various Ontario businesses will have to meet pursuant to Ontario Regulation 429/07. Although these standards have applied to various public organizations since January 1, 2010, the effective date for other customer service businesses is this upcoming January. Consequently, any Ontario business that provides goods or services to members of the public (or to other third parties) and has at least one employee needs to take the appropriate steps to comply with these standards designed to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
What does my business need to do to comply with accessibility customer service standards?
In general terms, the Regulation mandates that Ontario businesses that provide goods or services to members of the public must take the following steps:
- Establish policies, practices and procedures (“the 3 P’s”) regarding the provision of its goods and services to persons with disabilities
- Provide access to service animals and support persons
- Provide training to particular employees regarding the accessibility standards
- Establish a process for feedback regarding the provision of its goods and services to persons with disabilities
Additionally, businesses with at least 20 employees or more, must prepare written documentation with respect to each of these requirements and upon request, provide a copy to any person. Although not mandated, this is likely a good practice for all customer service businesses, regardless of their size, to assist with implementation and consistency.
How does a business set the 3 P’s?
The Regulation outlines the specific principles that a business must adhere to when establishing its policies, practices and procedures:
- “The goods or services must be provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities.
- The provision of goods or services to persons with disabilities and others must be integrated unless an alternate measure is necessary, whether temporarily or on a permanent basis, to enable a person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the goods or services.
- Persons with disabilities must be given an opportunity equal to that given to others to obtain, use and benefit from the goods or services.”
Essentially, your business and employees need to make reasonable efforts to ensure persons with disabilities are treated in a manner which is consistent with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality.
What special training will my staff require?
The legislation is very clear about the training required. Anyone who deals with members of the public or who is involved in the process of developing policies and procedures regarding providing goods and services to members of the public, will require training that 1) reviews the purposes of the The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, 2) reviews the requirements of Ontario Regulation 429/07 and 3) provides instruction on the following matters, as outlined in section 6(2) of Ontario Regulation 429/07:
- “How to interact and communicate with persons with various types of disability.
- How to interact with persons with disabilities who use an assistive device or require the assistance of a guide dog or other service animal or the assistance of a support person.
- How to use equipment or devices available on the provider’s premises or otherwise provided by the provider that may help with the provision of goods or services to a person with a disability.
- What to do if a person with a particular type of disability is having difficulty accessing the provider’s goods or services.”
By meeting these requirements, Ontario businesses are taking important steps towards providing and ensuring ongoing accessibility to persons with disabilities in Ontario.