INFocus: Giving access: AODA improves the quality of life for Ontario’s disabled

Date: February, 2013 Crowe staff members having fun

Originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of Comments.

Adults in Ontario cannot recall a time when their local shopping malls did not have parking spots reserved for persons with disabilities, accessible entrance doors, and closed-caption television shows. Innovations such as these have improved the quality of life of the hundreds of thousands of Ontarians with disabilities over the last 30 years. However, there remain significant impediments, both visible and invisible, to quality of life for some Ontarians.

Implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) seeks to create widespread change and removes existing barriers that hinder those with disabilities from fully participating in society. This legislation is far reaching and requires that most providers of goods and services in Ontario develop standards in five areas: Customer Service, Transportation, Information and Communications, Employment and the Built Environment. The requirements in each area will be phased in over a number of years.

The first standard, Customer Service, is now in effect, and impacts Ontario businesses with 20 or more employees. AODA requires that employers review their policies, practices and procedures to ensure individuals with disabilities of any kinds can access those businesses in such a way that the core principles of independence and dignity are upheld in all interactions. Multiple websites exist that set out the requirements associated with this legislation, and there are legal and other advisors who can assist with what businesses must do.

Business owners should regard the AODA as more than simply a set of legislative requirements, however. Within the next ten years, seniors (who inherently often have certain challenges) and persons with disabilities will comprise 20 – 25% of the Ontario economy. A Royal Bank of Canada survey, released a decade ago, found that this segment of the province’s population represents purchasing power of up to $25 billion per year. It makes smart business sense to ensure that these individuals can remain active consumers of any business.

There are also significant penalties for non-compliance. Fines of up to $50,000 per day for Directors and Officers, and up to $100,000 per day may be assessed for corporations not in compliance with the AODA.

The most persuasive reason for ensuring your business is welcoming to persons with disabilities may be one of a more personal nature for some. Life can change on a dime, and individuals who were otherwise fully able bodied can find themselves struggling with previously familiar tasks.

Many of us have family members, friends or colleagues who, as a result of accident, illness, or aging, have seen the progression of disability and the challenges that it brings. The AODA legislation stresses the importance of the provision of a life of dignity for persons with disabilities, and none of us would want less for a loved one.

Connect with the Author

Susan Hodkinson, BA, Chief Operating Officer

Susan is the Leader of the HR Consulting Group and COO of Crowe Soberman LLP. You can contact Susan at 416.963.7172 or susan.hodkinson@crowesoberman.com.

Specific professional advice should be obtained prior to the implementation of any suggestion contained in this article.

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