January 1 has long since come and gone. And with that date firmly in mind, did you meet the deadline for the next set of requirements under Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA)? 

Not sure? Let’s start from the beginning. 

The AODA has been in place for a number of years. It’s a series of standards that are being phased in to bring accessibility for people with disabilities in everything from goods, services, information, accommodation, facilities, buildings and employment. It is to be fully implemented by 2025. 

Many customer service standards have already been phased in and implemented. In terms of the employment-related standards, public sector organizations have already fallen into line. January 1, 2016 marked the day that large private and not-for-profit organizations had to be in compliance. 

Large is defined as companies with 50 or more employees. If your business doesn’t fall into this ‘large’ category, don’t tune out just yet – your turn is quickly approaching. 

By January 1, employers (of large companies) had to establish a number of internal practices with respect to recruitment, accommodation and advancement of employees. These included:

  • providing external and internal notification of the accommodation of people with disabilities during the recruitment process and subsequent employment
  • consulting with job applicants who request accommodations
  • informing employees of the organization’s policies in support of people with disabilities
  • developing and implementing a process for creating individual accommodation plans and a documented return to work process for employees that have missed work because of a disability
  • taking into account the accessibility needs of employees with disabilities when implementing performance management, career development and advancement or redeployment processes 

Businesses that aren’t in compliance could face penalties up to $2,000 for individuals or non-incorporated businesses, and up to $15,000 for incorporated organizations. 

All of the above will apply to small businesses and not-for-profit organizations of less than 50 employees on January 1, 2017. Now is not too soon to be thinking about the changes you will need to make to be in compliance. It’s up to you, as an employer, to be aware of all of the necessary changes to ensure that you are not unwittingly exposing yourself to liabilities and penalties. 

But don’t worry, if you don’t fully understand your requirements under the act, we do and we can help.

 

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