The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, S.O. 2005, c. 11 (“AODA”) is a provincial law designed to improve accessibility and remove barriers for people with disabilities. The law applies to all levels of government, non-profit organizations, and private businesses in Ontario. It is Ontario’s goal to be fully accessible to persons with physical and mental disabilities by 2025.
The AODA sets out a process for developing and enforcing five accessibility standards which are included in the Integrated Accessibility Standards, O. Reg. 191/11 (“IASR”). These standards include information and communication, employment, transportation, design of public spaces, and customer service. There are important deadlines for private sector businesses and organizations to keep in mind to ensure compliance with the accessibility requirements. The deadlines vary depending on the size of the organization and the number of employees.
The IASR required large businesses (50+ employees) to have multi-year accessibility plans in place by January 1, 2014, outlining the organization’s strategies for removing and preventing barriers faced by persons with disabilities and complying with AODA standards. These businesses were required to post the plan on their website, provide the plan in accessible formats upon request and to review and update the plan at least once every five years. Large businesses were required to review and update their multi-year accessibility plans by January 1, 2019, as it marked five years after the requirement was put in place.
Small businesses (20-49 employees), large businesses (50+ employees) and not-for-profit organizations (20+ employees) must file an Accessibility Compliance Report by December 31, 2020. The Compliance Report confirms that the organization has met its current accessibility requirements under the AODA. Businesses are strongly encouraged to review their existing policies and practices to ensure they meet the AODA requirements by the above deadline.
Large businesses and large non-profit organizations are also required to make their websites and web content accessible by January 1, 2021. To do this, they must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards excluding live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions.
Businesses should be aware that administrative penalties can be imposed if they fail to comply with AODA deadlines and requirements. The penalties will depend on the severity and history of the violation. The administrative penalties under the AODA are as follows:
- $500 – $15,000 per day in the case of a corporation; and
- $200 – $2,000 per day in the case of an individual or unincorporated organization
The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility conducts audits that focus on an organization’s requirement to submit Compliance Reports. Businesses should comply with AODA standards not only to avoid costly violations but to widen their potential customer base by becoming more inclusive.