AODA has been active in Ontario since 2005, however, people might still be wondering: what is the AODA? The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is an Ontario law mandating that organizations must follow standards to become more accessible to people with disabilities. The goal for the province is to be fully accessible by 2025. All levels of government, private sectors, and non-profits must comply with this legislation.

What is the AODA?

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act text in white is shown below the Canadian clover symbol.

Based off the 2001 Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario government decided to further elaborate on this Act. In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) came into effect, making Ontario the first province to enact such ground-breaking legislation. This new Act’s purpose is to create accessibility standards that organizations from public, private, and non-profit sectors must follow and to make an accessible province for all Ontarians.

What is a Disability?

The term “disability” covers a range of visible and invisible conditions that may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or developed over time. For instance, disabilities include:

  • Blindness or visual impairment
  • Deafness or hearing disabilities
  • Speech impairment
  • Physical or mobility disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities; and
  • Learning disabilities

The purpose of the AODA is to develop, implement, and enforce accessibility standards or rules so that all Ontarians will benefit from accessible services, programs, spaces, and employment. The standards help organizations to prevent or remove barriers that limit the things people with disabilities can do, the places they can go, and the attitudes of service providers toward them.

Accessibility Policies and Plans

One of the requirements of AODA is that all organizations develop an accessibility policy. An accessibility policy helps organizations set goals to make themselves more accessible. Members identify accessibility barriers and determine a plan to remove those barriers.

Private and non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees and all public-sector organizations must also make accessibility plans. The plan outlines the steps the organization will follow to prevent or remove the barriers. These organizations must also have their accessibility policies in writing and available to the public in accessible formats upon request. In addition, organizations must train their workers on best practices when serving people with various disabilities.

In 2013, public sector organizations employing more than 50 people developed and implemented the first accessibility policies and plans, and became the leading sector to comply with AODA.

The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR)

In 2016, the five standards of the AODA combines under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR). The five standards are:

  • Information and communications
  • Employment
  • Transportation
  • Design of public spaces
  • Customer service

Why do we need the AODA?

Accessibility is good for both the economy and the community. The population of Ontarians with disabilities is steadily growing. Accessible information and employment make it possible for this growing group of people to contribute to the economy and society.

Likewise, accessible transportation and public spaces ensure that people can move around their communities. Similarly, accessible customer service allows people to exercise their spending power. Finally, the standards of the AODA give all people an equal footing as they work, play, learn, teach, buy, sell, and use their diverse talents to benefit their communities and their province.

What is the purpose of AODA?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (or “the Act”) is a provincial law. Its goal is to make Ontario accessible for people with disabilities by 2025 by developing and enforcing accessibility standards.

Accessibility standards

The accessibility standards are the legal requirements that organizations in Ontario must follow to become more accessible to people with disabilities. They address key areas of daily life, including:

  • Customer service
  • Information and communications
  • Employment
  • Transportation
  • Design of public spaces

The standards is in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, under the Act. The following organizations must comply with the Act:

  • The Ontario Government and Legislative Assembly
  • All designated public sector organizations, which include municipalities, universities, colleges, hospitals, school boards and public transportation organizations
  • Private businesses and not-for-profit organizations that have one or more employees in Ontario

Things to know about the AODA

Ontario is the “high water mark” for accessibility laws in Canada. Governments, businesses, non-profits and public sector organizations must follow the AODA in five areas:

Customer Service Standards

How to provide accessible customer service, including communicating with customers with disabilities, allowing assistive devices, service animals, and support persons, and providing accessible documents and feedback processes.

Information and Communication Standards

How to make information accessible to people with disabilities, including providing accessible formats and communication, websites and feedback processes.

Transportation Standards

Requirements for transportation service providers.

Employment Standards

Requirements for making hiring and employee support practices more accessible, including in recruitment, offering employment, providing accessible formats and communication supports, creating documented individual accommodation plans and return to work processes, and accessible performance management and career development.

Design of Public Spaces Standards

Requirements for making new and redeveloped outdoor public spaces accessible, including ramps, stairs, sidewalks, parking lots, and waiting areas.

These requirements operate in addition to the duty to accommodate under applicable human rights legislation. There are significant potential penalties for non-compliance, including fines and potential director and officer liability.

Things to do to Comply with AODA

  • Determine which requirements apply to your organization, based on your size and operations.
  • Ensure that you have processes and procedures in place to address accessibility and accommodation obligations. This includes a multi-year accessibility plan, accessibility policy, and accessible customer service policy.
  • Provide training to your staff, and others as required by the AODA. As per requirements of the accessibility standards, human rights legislation, and providing accessible customer service.
  • If you have 20 or more employees, file accessibility reports with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario every three years.

How to meet AODA compliance requirement?

You need to know the fact that the Ontarian government is very clear in its information and the goal of implementing AODA law is to integrate accessibility considerations and policies into the day-to-day process and operation of public and private organizations operating in Ontario. If your company is subject to AODA web and digital accessibility requirements, you have to follow these steps:

  • You can talk to the organization’s legal counsel to make certain that you understand the scope of requirements.
  • Figure out the fact that how your company is meeting requirements to provide materials in an accessible format. Make sure that such materials available in a web-based or digital format.
  • There is a need to understand the web properties your team is working on. Research how you can plan it more effectively to make sure that such properties are accessible.
  • Make sure to offer digital accessibility training to the working team that is responsible to generate web content and digital materials.

AODA Accessibility initiatives

The five standards of AODA offer concrete direction for making the province’s services and resources accessible to all users. The accessibility initiatives support the 4 principles as follows:

  • Dignity
  • Independence
  • Equal opportunity
  • Integration

Benefits of creating an accessible website

Creating an accessible website will help to build a user-friendly space for individuals with disabilities. The benefits of making your website or online content more accessible to all users are:

  • By creating a website more accessible, you will be able to build a positive relationship with the community. You will remain competitive in the marketplace by gaining an edge over the different market players.
  • Making an accessible site indicates that your company site gets more web traffic and large likelihood of capturing new leads.

What happens if my site can’t comply with WCAG 2.0?

It is quite possible that your site design uses tools and software that predate WCAG 2.0. Here are a few things you can do in such cases:

  • If you do not have options to repair or update your website, make sure to choose new software.
  • Sometimes it is not possible to embed accessible videos or post complex graphics. In such cases you can still post content as long you provide it in an accessible format upon request.

If you avoid creating accessible digital content, you may face an accessibility lawsuit. AODA violations are of three types 1) minor 2) moderate, and 3) major. The classification is according to the impact of the lack of accessibility. In most severe cases, an organization will face fines up to $100,000 per day.

Final Thoughts

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is an important piece of legislation that aims to make Ontario a fully accessible province for people with disabilities.

The act was created with the goal of removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in society. It applies to all businesses, organizations, and public sector bodies operating in Ontario.

The AODA requires these entities to comply with accessibility standards and to make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to people with disabilities.

By implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Ontario is making progress towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

codemantra’s Digital Accessibility Solutions and Services

We are a Intelligent Document Processing company (IDP), offering website and document accessibility solutions. If you need help with AODA compliance reach out to us. It is simple! Fill out the form below and our experienced accessibility professional will help with an accessibility roadmap.

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