The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service came into effect on January 1, 2008 and is the first standard developed under the AODA. It sets out the obligations for businesses and organizations to provide goods and services in a way that is accessible to people with disabilities.

Compliance Dates and Reporting Requirements

All nonprofits and businesses in Ontario that have one or more employee must comply with all the above requirements by January 1, 2012. Those with 20+ staff have additional reporting requirements.

The AODA give government authority to set monetary penalties to enforce compliance with accessibility standards. The proposed amounts range from $200 to $15,000 depending on the size and type of organization, their compliance history and the impact of the violation. The License Appeal Tribunal will hear appeals from organizations that have been issued an order to comply or a monetary penalty that they wish to dispute.

The Accessibility Compliance Reporting tool is on ServiceOntario’s ONe-Source for Business website and you must first create your account (if you don’t already have one) and then follow the menu tab “ACR” in order to complete your accessibility compliance report. You have until December 31. 2012 to complete your report.

It’s a bit of a complicated process so if you need help, can contact the Government of Ontario for help: 1-866-515-2025. Alternatively, Accessibility Ontario is able to assist you with completing this reporting requirement. Contact Constance Exley: director@accessontario.com

How to Comply

All staff, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, contract employees, volunteers, agents contractors and others who may interact with the public on the organization’s behalf, must be trained on all of the requirements of the standard and fully understand the policies, practices and procedures on serving customers with disabilities. Those who participate in the development of the organizations customer service policies, practices and procedures must also be trained.

Specifically, you must do the following:

Integrating people with disabilities

  1. Establish policies, practices and procedures on how the organization will provide goods or services to people with disabilities.
  2. Create guiding principles to ensure the policies, practices and procedures on how the organization provides goods or services to people with disabilities are consistent with the principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity.
  3. Develop a process that allows people to provide feedback on the customer service to a person with disabilities and clearly explain how the organization will take action on any complaints.

Understanding and addressing what people with disabilities may bring with them

  1. Allow people to use their own personal assistive devices or provide them access to other measures at the organization that help them access services.
  2. Allow guide dogs or service animals in areas open to the public, unless the animal is excluded by another law. If the service animal is not permitted, find other means to accommodate the person with a disability.
  3. Allow a support person to accommodate the person with a disability while accessing goods or services in premises that are open to the public or third parties.

Communicating effectively with people with disabilities

  1. Communicate in a manner that takes into account a person’s disability.
  2. Clearly state if admission fees are charged for a support person.
  3. Provide notice if facilities or services are temporarily unavailable.

Preparing your staff to deliver exceptional customer service

  1. Train all staff, volunteers, contractors and other third parties on the customer service standard.
  2. Train people who develop the internal policies, practices and procedures.