By Charlie Voelker, Esq. SkillSoft Legal Compliance Solution
The government of Ontario estimates that one in seven people in the province has a disability. In 2005, the Ontario Legislative Assembly passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”) with the goal of achieving better accessibility for all individuals with disabilities by 2025. The AODA includes several standards intended to remove barriers in the areas of transportation, employment, and communications. The Customer Service Standard applies to all organizations with 20 or more employees that offer goods or services to the public. It requires employers to meet four general obligations on or before January 1, 2012:
- create a plan for providing accessible customer service, including the accommodation of service animals
- train all customer-facing employees—including contractors and volunteers—on the plan, and document their completion
- make the accessibility plan available to customers upon request; and
- report ongoing progress to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.
While many employers view the Customer Service Standard as formalizing their accessibility efforts that are already in place, it’s worth noting that the requirements are enforced through workplace inspections and administrative compliance orders. Fines for violations can be as high as $100,000 per day at the organization level, while officers and directors can face individual penalties of up to $50,000.
Effective employee training should include instruction on how to interact with people with various types of disabilities, how to communicate with people who utilize assistive devices, and what to do if someone has difficulty accessing the organization’s goods or services. SkillSoft has partnered with Toronto-based Sherrard Kuzz, LLP, one of Canada’s leading employment and labor law firms, to develop a new e-learning course focused on educating employees about their obligations under the AODA. The course, which can be customized to include the employer’s accessibility plan and other resources, is specifically designed to address the Customer Service Standard’s training mandate.
Is your organization ready for the new Customer Service Standard in Ontario?