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New AODA requirements are in effect now. Here's what you need to know

Under regulatory amendments that took effect July 1, all of an organization's employees and volunteers must now be trained on accessible customer service and how to interact with people with disabilities. "This is a significant shift," says Jennifer Threndyle, a WSPS consultant and AODA compliance expert. "Previously, only members of your organization who work with customers or create policies and procedures on how to interact with people with different disabilities required the training."

This training must include:

  • an overview of AODA (the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act)
  • understanding the requirements of the regulation
  • how to interact and communicate with people who have disabilities
  • how to interact with people with disabilities who use an assistive device or require the assistance of a service animal or support person
  • how to use equipment or devices available on your premises or otherwise provided to people with disabilities so that they can access goods or services
  • what to do if a person with a particular type of disability is having difficulty accessing your goods or services

Training on accessible customer service is available as a Ministry of Community and Social Services e-course, Serve-ability: Transforming Ontario's Customer Service. An updated training course reflecting the most recent requirements will likely be available in August.

Three other key changes also took effect July 1:

  • organizations with fewer than 50 employees are no longer required to put their accessible customer service policy in writing. This does not remove the requirement to have a policy or affect any reporting requirements. Organizations with 50 or more employees must still put their accessible customer service policy in writing and make it available in an accessible format (e.g., publicly posting it on organization websites)
  • if your organization deems that a person with a disability requires a support person for health and safety reasons, the organization must consult with the person to understand their needs, consider health or safety reasons based on available evidence, and determine if there is no other reasonable way to protect the health or safety of the person or others on the premises
  • a regulated health professional can provide documentation verifying an animal is required as a service animal. Regulated health professionals included doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, etc.

AODA aims to eliminate barriers for Ontarians with disabilities by setting a series of compliance requirements and deadlines. The requirements effective July 1 are just one example.

Suggested next steps

  • Learn more about AODA
  • Talk to a WSPS consultant with AODA expertise, like Jennifer Threndyle, about conducting an accessibility audit of your workplace or an on-site AODA awareness session. Call WSPS Customer Care: 1-877-494-WSPS (9777).

Watch for more on how to comply with AODA requirements in upcoming issues.