AODA: 2013 Compliance, Happy New Year!

By, Suzanne Cohen Share (also in Accessibility News)
November 21,2012

As of January 1, 2013 obligated organizations in Ontario have compliance requirements to meet in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).

Your obligations depend on whether you are:

  • 1. Ontario Government and Legislative Assembly
  • 2. Public organizations with 50+ employees
  • 3. Public organizations with 1-49 employees
  • 4. Private and non-profit organizations with 50+ employees
  • 5. Private and non-profit organizations with 1-49 employees

By using the AODA Compliance Wizard your organization can isolate exact obligations.

An example is for organizations with 50+ employees, the wizard states your obligations are:

  • General requirements:
    • Accessibility policies
    • Multi-year accessibility plans
    • Procuring or acquiring goods, services
    • Self-service kiosks
  • Information and Communication Standard:
    • Educational and training resources and materials, etc. (if you are an educational or training institution)
    • Training to educators (if you are an educational or training institution)
  • Transportation Standard (if applicable to your organization)
    • Multi-year accessibility plans, conventional transportation services
    • Multi-year accessibility plans, specialized transportation services
    • Alternative accessible method of transportation
    • Fares
    • Service disruptions
    • Conventional transportation service providers, Technical Requirements
    • Accessibility, rail cars
    • Fare parity
    • Visitors
    • Co-ordinated service
    • Hours of service
    • Service delays
    • Duties of municipalities, general
    • Duties of municipalities, accessible taxicabs

Most due dates for compliance are January 1, 2013. If you have not visited the compliance wizard, please do and it will provide you with your own schedule. The wizard also provides a list of past and future obligations. Using the wizard is anonymous, meaning no records are kept about your organization. Just answer basic questions about your operations and the list of obligations appears. The compliance wizard is a useful program!

Suzanne Cohen Share, MA, CEO
Access (SCS) Consulting Services
o/b 623921 Ontario Ltd.

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Customer Service Standards Compliance Report Due by December 31, 2012

Author: Suzanne Cohen Share

If your organization has 20 or more employees, you are obligated to report under the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, by December 31, 2012. If you have one to nineteen employees you are obligated to comply with the standard, but you need not report or maintain documentation.

Some organizations are just learning about their obligations now. If you are late, there are resources—accessibility experts, e-learning courses, the Accessibility Directorate website and webinars—ready to be of service.

Let us quickly recap the obligatory actions to complete. If you need to report, you will want to say yes to these questions:

  • 1. Does your organization have policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities?
  • 2. Does your organization use reasonable efforts to ensure that these policies are consistent with the principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity?
  • 3. Do your organization’s policies address the use of assistive devices by people with disabilities to access your organization’s goods or services, or any available alternative measures that enable them to do so?
  • 4. Do your organization’s policies, practices and procedures require your organization to take a person’s disability into account when communicating with the person?
  • 5. Do members of the public or other third parties have access to premises that your organization owns or operates? If your answer is No, skip to question 9 below. (Do not answer questions 6, 7, and 8.)
  • 6. Does your organization permit people with disabilities to keep their service animals with them on the parts of your premises that are open to the public or other third parties, except where the animal is excluded by law, and is this included in your policies, practices and procedures?
  • 7. If a service animal is excluded by law from your premises, does your organization ensure that alternate measures are available to enable the person to access your goods and services?
  • 8. Does your organization permit people with disabilities to enter the parts of your premises that are open to the public or other third parties with their support person, and provide notice of any fee charged for the support person, and is this included in your policies, practices and procedures?
  • 9. Does your organization post a notice at a conspicuous place on your premises, on your website, or by another reasonable method, of any temporary disruption in facilities or services that people with disabilities usually use to access your organization’s goods or services, including the reason, duration and any alternatives available?
  • 10. Has your organization established and documented a process to receive and respond to feedback on how its goods or services are provided to people with disabilities, including actions that your organization will take when a complaint is received?
  • 11. Does your organization make information about its feedback process readily available to the public, including how feedback may be provided (e.g., in person, by telephone, in writing, by email, on diskette or otherwise)?
  • 12. Does your organization ensure that the following people receive training about providing your goods and services to people with disabilities: every person who deals with the public or other third parties on behalf of your organization, and every person who participates in developing your organization’s policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services?
  • 13. Does this training include your organization’s current policies, practices and procedures under the Customer Service Standard and all the topics listed in section 6(2) of the standard?
  • 14. Does your organization have a written training policy that includes a summary of the contents of the training (per question 11 above) and details of when the training is to be provided, and does your organization keep records of the dates that training was provided and how many people were trained?
  • 15. Does your organization post a notice at a conspicuous place on your premises, on your website, or by another reasonable method, that the documents required by the Customer Service Standard are available upon request, and do you provide those documents in a format that takes a person’s disability into account?

Go to ServiceOntario’s ONe-Source for Business to sign up to complete the report (!ut/p/c4/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP3IgsT01JzMvGyr_OIkvYL8opLEHL2C0qSczGS9jPzcVP2CbEdFANyVxZk!/). You create your own account before clicking on the accessibility compliance tab to answer these questions. If you have to report no, respond with a good explanation and that the situation will be resolved by a reasonable date.

If you have any questions, you know how to find me.
Suzanne Cohen Share, M.A., CEO
Access (SCS) Consulting Services

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An education campaign about courtesy/priority seating signs on transportation vehicles

September 14, 2012 Suzanne Cohen Share



In the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, there is the Standard for Transportation.


Under this standard there is a section about courtesy seating in vehicles, specifically for people with disabilities. The regulation states that conventional transportation service must provide clearly marked courtesy seating for people with disabilities. Recently, the Province of Ontario has proposed amendments to change the word courtesy seating to priority seating. Since this change is not yet law, the rest of this blog will refer to courtesy seating.

Anyone can use courtesy seating until a person with a disability requests the seat. The standard further states that:

The courtesy seating for persons with disabilities shall be signed to indicate that passengers, other than persons with disabilities, must vacate the courtesy seating if its use is required by a person with a disability.


Every conventional transportation service provider shall develop a communication strategy designed to inform the public about the purpose of courtesy seating.

Moreover, transit authorities in Ontario must place a sign about vacating courtesy seating when required by a person with a disability and have a public education campaign.

I would love to see the signs authorities throughout the province have determined as appropriate. My idea for a pictorial is to at least have a nondescript person rising from the seat and place a big smile on the person’s face. Why the smile?

Because people with disabilities have too often expressed receiving hostile glares when people are asked to move. Even if people do not want to smile while moving, everyone should place that smile on their face to provide an accepting environment for people with disabilities. No one blames people who do not qualify as having a disability for being aggravated if they are not pleased to stand for too long.

Unfortunately, an education campaign is necessary. After riding public transit as a young teenager using crutches for a year, I could not believe how during rush hour, people did not offer a seat. In that dark time, there was no courtesy seating. Prior to life with crutches, men were courteous and freely offered their seat. As a teenager I presumed I would be able to continue working, travel with crutches, and that offers from others to vacate a seat when I needed one would be natural. I was wrong.

I was flying all over vehicles, trying to grip a handhold, and only rarely did someone offer his or her seat. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to grip anything, hold a purse and keep crutches in place on a moving jerking vehicle? People must have thought, well, she is young. Well, she had an operation where falling was not on the agenda but she needed to continue working. I am sure many readers have similar stories.

The teenager with crutches was truly surprised that no one cared about her personal plight. She tried to stare with begging eyes at someone who seemed physically fit and still received no response. Eventually, the teenager just picked someone young and asked the person for the seat. She was never refused but it was a startling experience that few people offered their seat.

I fully understand why there needs to be designated seating to clearly designate certain seating for people who really require these seats just to travel.

In a kinder gentler world, people would automatically offer to vacate a seat, at least to a person with a visible disability. It did not happen in my experience with crutches, and people have to be told politely to vacate specific seating. I’d like to add my suggestion “please exit with a smile”. If this symbol does not work, then let us consider using some dark humour to motivate attention to those signs. Believe me when I say, nothing was more disturbing than to see people avert their eyes, pretend I did not exist and hope I would not ask for their seat. Eons later, the memories are still vivid about deciding to ask someone for a seat.

It is nice to see we are moving forward with designating signs, and an education campaign. The teenager in me wants to playfully use dark humour with the signs, but the adult knows asking people to smile when vacating courtesy seating is enough for now. If people still do not get the message, my hidden inner teenager has a few more suggestions.

Suzanne Cohen Share, M.A., CEO
Access (SCS) Consulting Services

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Pretty hazards: the accessible built environment

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Why website accessibility matters

Why website accessibility matters

June 20, 2012 Suzanne Cohen Share Accessibility Standards, Human Resources, Human Rights, Integrated Accessibility Regulation, Standard for Customer Service, Standard for Information and Communications, 0

website accessibility


On May 30, 2012, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a legally blind woman’s 2010 legal victory over the federal government, ordering the government to make its websites accessible to blind persons. It may not be a case under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), but it does show us how website accessibility matters and has an impact on promoting accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruling reaffirmed that the inaccessible federal government websites violated Donna Jodhan’s constitutional equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. More specifically, with its inaccessible websites, the federal government denied Jodhan equal access to, and benefit from, government information and services provided online to the public on the Internet, and this constituted discrimination against her on the basis of her blindness. Therefore, she has not received the equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on her physical disability and that constitutes a violation of subsection 15(1) of the Charter.

During the appeal, the government argued that:

…effective access to government information and services is attained when the information is accessed by a person irrespective of the means used to obtain the information.… In other words, if one person can access information online within a matter of minutes and another person can access the same information by traveling to a government office, waiting for his or her turn and then meeting with a government employee to obtain the same information, there has been effective access in both cases and thus both persons have received the same benefit of the law.

The government was saying it does not matter how or how long it takes to get the information, as long as a person gets the information in the end.

The Federal Court of Appeal could not agree with the government’s argument. In its view:

…one of the above two persons has not received the same benefit. They have not been treated equally.… I am therefore of the view that the benefit of the law is access to government information and services. However, access thereto necessarily includes the benefit of online access, which is not just an ancillary component of the multi-channel delivery mechanism, but an integral part thereof. In other words, one cannot speak of access to government information and services without including access thereto by way of the Internet.

Although the Appeal Court upheld the ruling of discrimination, it struck down the lower court’s ongoing supervisory role to ensure the government was complying with the decision.

A spokesperson for Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement said the government is reviewing the decision and added, “Our government is continuing to implement the Federal Court decision from 2010, … We are committed to web accessibility and to date over 100 government institutions are converting their content in line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.”

Will the government take this case to the Supreme Court of Canada?

Everyone in the business of making the world accessible understands the voluminous work the federal government was expected to complete in 15 months. Finding web developers with knowledge in web accessibility was the first challenge. Undertaking the volume of work to convert the government’s multitude of websites was next. By taking this case back to court, the government won extra time before being ordered again to meet compliance.

Despite buying time to extend its deadline, it would behoove the government to continue using taxpayers’ money to meet compliance as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, all government agencies and representatives have been scrambling to find accessibility specialists, with the understanding that this ruling will stand the test of time and a Supreme Court decision is not likely to be different.

What does this ruling mean for promoting web accessibility?

This case has major implications, highlighting the importance of access to the Internet for all persons with disabilities. It also indicates that information provided in alternative formats is not necessarily sufficient, particularly if a user can’t access it in a similar time frame. If Canadians who are blind or have low vision (regardless of their ability to use a screen reader) are not offered accessible Internet content like those without a disability, they are at a disadvantage.

Chances are disability advocates and people with disabilities will continue to demand accessible information. For organizations that do not comply, expect a challenge.

In Ontario, the Information and Communication Standard under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation states that websites and content will conform to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 at Level A and AA, with the exclusion of live captions and descriptive audio interpretation.

Courts may consider this decision a precedent beyond the federal government. Organizations in Ontario (under the AODA)—and across the country—should think about these factors:

  • Alternative formats to provide important information, with or without aid from a representative, cannot match equal rights to receive information as quickly and privately as another person when the information is readily available to the public
  • The standards are not finished, and they clearly will not make Ontario accessible by the year 2025 if new standards are not developed and released soon
  • People with disabilities do not have to wait for the AODA and standards to make equality rights a reality; that is, they may already challenge an organization or individual that they believe has discriminated against them
  • This case affects how information and communications on the Internet are delivered nationally, and is not limited to the province of Ontario

Your organization should:

  1. Train staff to produce accessible information and communications now.
  2. Beat the goal in the Integrated Accessibility Regulation and use 15 months as the time to deliver accessible Internet content.
  3. Grab the accessibility Internet consultants that are available because supply is not as high as demand. If you wait, you may pay more to educate staff and to make your Internet communications accessible. The earlier everyone involved produces accessible information and communications, there will be less to fix later. It costs less to do something right the first time than to fix a problem.
  4. Take note, in the Integrated Accessibility Regulation,only the government is obliged to make intranet sites accessible. If your intranet sites are not accessible you may:
    • See a standard released in the next few years to correct this issue
    • Be taken to court because a person who is blind or has low vision or low mobility is not provided equal opportunity for employment and advancement at the workplace
  5. Focus on any information vital for the well-being of persons with a disability, or for providing equal opportunity. An example is your organization’s capacity to advertise work positions and receive responses in an accessible manner. If you use an advertising agency to promote your open job positions, ensure they are taking the steps now to become accessible.
  6. Focus on alternative formats that protect privacy and allow users to access information in a timely manner. In the present case, Jodhan required outside assistance to obtain information verbally or on paper. Braille is considered as the appropriate alternative format if she received information on paper. However, Braille is not the only format because there are many people who are Blind or have low vision who do not know how to read Braille. Ask the customer for the preferred method to communicate, do your best to comply and avoid a reliance on staff to relay information verbally. Remember, if you provide information and methods to interact with your organization via the Internet, no alternative format can compete with these online services.

If your IT departments or personnel are not taking the AODA seriously, consider sensitivity-awareness training. Also, consider letting staff know this is the future of IT and if staff wants to remain relevant they will have to learn to develop accessible content with style. Just because you provide accessible content, it does not mean your website will be boring. Staying within the guidelines will reap rewards of reaching a wider audience, and accessible Internet communications can be just as elegant as your desired image.

Finally, if IT accessibility consultants become too expensive to contract, maybe we will have to campaign together for accessible prices!

Suzanne Cohen Share, M.A., CEO
Access (SCS) Consulting Services o/b 623921 Ont. Ltd.

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AODA compliance: the good, the bad and the ugly written for First Reference Talks


Today’s post is all about hearing from you! Questions arise as to how organizations are dealing with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) compliance requirements in Ontario. I want to hear from you about the good, the bad and the ugly! Allow me to share your expertise or stories with the rest of the province. Of course, the idea is to help others meet compliance and use the lessons you’ve learned to encourage others. As for your bad ideas that turned ugly, organizations can really use that information to avoid similar pitfalls.


Let us know where you stand on compliance and what hurdles you encountered or are still encountering. If it is a lack of funds, then which creative ideas have you chosen as alternatives? If the issue is not funding, but all the barriers you’ve identified that need a remedy, then share those thoughts too. If you have a good secret, let it out. The broader the discussion, the better the solutions we’ll come up with.


My blog posts have all been about educating organizations about the needs of people with disabilities, focusing on the accessibility standards under the AODA. Whenever possible, I’ve tried to help organizations cope with changes, comply with the law and at the same time provide guidance on sensible alternatives.


Lately, people have asked, how is everyone else doing with the AODA?  I have to honestly state, I only know about organizations I directly deal with. Statistics maybe coming, but I have not seen any numbers that really capture the answer to this question. Let me redirect the question: how are you doing? And if you can, please share your stories.


The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services also wants to hear from you, and may showcase your organization in a YouTube video. We’d love to hear if you’ve won an accessibility award through an organization, charity or government. Let us hear about the changes you have seen in your organization when enforcing compliance. If you are embracing the notion of making your organization accessible, are you seeing positive outcomes from the changes?


While I am inviting you to grouch, remember I am completely positive the AODA is underrated. I do believe the AODA is an excellent win-win initiative that will strengthen our economy and support people with disabilities. Your organization may not directly see financial benefits in enacting compliance but every individual will see benefits, if people with disabilities are working, able to shop everywhere including the Internet and travel.


As I continue to contribute to the Accessibility Standards PolicyPro publication from First Reference, let me know if you have any stories or wisdom—negative or positive—to share that might benefit your peers. Feel free to talk about specific standards or generalize.


I do have one question in particular I would like to hear about. In training staff, volunteers and decision-makers about the AODA, do you feel the organization is going through the motions of compliance, or do you see value in the training? Perhaps training began as something you just had to do, and attitudes changed when staff and volunteers understood the lessons. A good number of responses will give us a pulse on whether organizations are seeing a positive or negative change in attitude toward people with disabilities.


You can respond by leaving a comment below. How have you managed to navigate and implement the standards? Talk to me and I will talk to the rest of the province through this blog and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro.


I believe we can all learn something new from each other every day. Tell us about the good, the bad and the ugly you’ve encountered when meeting compliance with the AODA. We are all moving in this direction together.


Suzanne Cohen Share, M.A., CEO Access (SCS) Consulting Services o/b 623921 Ont. Ltd.


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We are not SHOUTING or SCREAMING! Font size and accessibility

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