We all love Maple syrup, don’t we? It is easily available in most stores that we usually visit in Canada. Imagine that you are visiting a European country and as you go to some store near your hotel to buy the Maple syrup, surprisingly, it’s not there and it’s difficult to buy it as most stores don’t sell it. The worst part is that people living there won’t even understand your need for maple syrup as they don’t use it at all. This is what happens to people with disabilities, usually, most people don’t understand their difficulties.
Coming back to the Maple syrup issue, as the product is not easily found in every store, you might try to order it online or find stores that sell them. Getting back home, you will inform people visiting that country about this problem and tell them how to procure it. Similarly, the Ontario government understood the problems faced by disabled people and formed the AODA law to help them.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is AODA?
- 2 How many Ontarians have a disability AODA?
- 3 Who Must Comply with the AODA?
- 4 What Is an AODA Compliance Report?
- 5 What Are The Penalties For Being Non-compliant Or Inaccessible?
- 6 Key Deadlines for filing the compliance reports
- 7 WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance
- 8 Continued Accessibility
What is AODA?
AODA stands for Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This law helps to remove barriers for persons with disabilities (PWD). It mandates that organizations in Ontario must meet the standards set by the law to make themselves more accessibility friendly. Formed in 2005, AODA is one of the first laws that explored accessibility into legislation.
There are 5 standards under the law that help remove barriers for people with disabilities.
- Customer Service – to remove barriers for people to access services
- Information and Communication – to make information more accessible
- Transportation – to make travel accessible for people with disabilities
- Employment – that revolves around the best hiring and employment practices
- Design of Public Spaces – facilitates the use of accessible outdoor spaces
How many Ontarians have a disability AODA?
According to a 2012 Canadian survey for ages 15+
- 15.4% of Ontarians have some disability that hinders them from doing normal day to day tasks
- Out of 15.4%, more than 4% have an addiction or mental health disability
In another report, a whopping 40% of people aged 65+ have a disability and will only increase in the coming years.
Who Must Comply with the AODA?
Any organization or entity that provides services and products to the public, and has one or more employees in the province of Ontario needs to adhere to AODA. The following types of organizations need to comply-
- All private organizations( business and non-profit)
- Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly
- Public Sector organizations such as municipalities, educational institutions
Any business or non-profit organization with 20 or more employees, and public sector organizations must file a Compliance Report with the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility.
What Is an AODA Compliance Report?
An AODA compliance report is a self-declaration form that is filled out by your organization whether you have complied with the AODA requirements or not.
The form contains Yes or No answers with links to corresponding resources to help understand the law.
Before filing a report it is important for you to know what requirements apply to your organization.
- Organization’s legal name and business number
- Category of your organization( non-profit/business or public sector)
- Total count of your employees
- Certifier’s name and contact details
You can simultaneously fill reports up to 20 organizations if they all have the same requirements as mentioned above.
What Are The Penalties For Being Non-compliant Or Inaccessible?
Being non-compliant or inaccessible not only restricts disabled users from accessing your businesses’ services but also attracts certain monetary penalties. The penalties are as follows
- Organizations that are found to be non-compliant can be fined up to $100,000 per day
- Also, the directors or officers responsible for maintaining compliance can be fined up to $50,000 per day
Remember we mentioned that the compliance report is a series of Yes or No questions?
Don’t worry if you selected “No” to any of the questions.
You will not be penalized, and the Directorate, which enforces the compliance will help you structure a timeline to become compliant if you do not have a plan of progression towards accessibility.
If after this step, an organization is still found to be non-compliant based on the recommendations by the directorate, it will then attract a monetary penalty.
Read here for more information on understanding the AODA compliance report.
The takeaway – if you employ 20 or more employees in Ontario, make sure you file a report by June 30th, even if you are non-compliant.
Key Deadlines for filing the compliance reports
The AODA had required private and non-profit organizations with 20 or more employees to report their compliance status by December 31, 2020.
This deadline has passed and effective January 1, 2021, under the Information and Communications standard of AODA, large organizations (with 50 or more employees) and public sector organizations in Ontario are required to ensure that all web content posted after January 1, 2012, must also conform to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines Level AA. The exception to this is live captions and pre-recorded audio descriptions.
However, the reporting deadline for organizations with 20 or more employees was extended till June 30, 2021.
December 31, 2020 – deadline for the public sector and large organizations with over 50 employees to file their compliance report
January 1, 2021– public sector and large organizations have to have their websites and web content conformant to WCAG 2.0 AA
June 30, 2021– organizations with 20 or more employees have to file their compliance report
WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance
WCAG is the acronym for “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines”. WCAG is the technical standard for web accessibility. It was developed by the (World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) through the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to make web content accessible for people with disabilities.
The WCAG guidelines have three levels of conformance-
- Level A has 25 success criteria to be met
- Level AA has the 25 checkpoints from Level A + 13 additional criteria
- Level AAA includes Level A and AA and its own 23 criteria to make it a total of 61 success criteria
Public sector organizations must file an audit report every two years, whereas private organizations (large, small and non-profits) are required to file an audit report every three years.
Apart from periodic audits, organizations are required to create multi-year accessibility plans to ensure compliance in the future.
Organizations must also have accessibility policies that are available to employees, and clients either on the physical premises or the company’s website.
An Accessibility status report must also be prepared every year which describes the current state of accessibility in your organization and be uploaded to the website.
Procurement for the public sector must consider accessibility for purchasing goods and services.
Organizations must train their employees and volunteers on Ontario Human Rights Code and AODA.
Accessibility compliance doesn’t end with filing the report. Accessibility should be built into the business practices to make Ontario inclusive by 2025.
While this can seem daunting if your organization doesn’t have an in-house accessibility team or legal counsel, the government of Ontario provides assistance to help file your reports. There are also multiple resources available on the government of Ontario’s website to help you take your first step into building an inclusive workplace.
Apart from the above-mentioned resources, you have this detailed post to help you make sense of what your duties as an Ontarian are. You can also contact one of our experts to help guide you with your web and mobile accessibility needs.