On January 1, 2008, the first accessibility standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law. Called the Customer Service Standards, it applies to all organizations (public and private) operating in Ontario regardless of their level of contact with the general public.
The Customer Service Standards set out requirements that organizations must follow to ensure accessible customer service for people with disabilities. The deadline for public sector compliance was January 1, 2010; the deadline for public sector compliance was January 1, 2012.
Ontario’s Customer Service Standards requirements
- Establish customer service policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities.
- Set a policy on allowing people to use their own personal assistive devices to access your goods and use your services, and about any other measures your organization offers (assistive devices, services or methods) to enable them to access your goods and use your services.
- Use reasonable efforts to ensure that your policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the core principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.
- Communicate with a person with a disability in a manner that takes into account his or her disability.
- Train staff, volunteers, contractors and any other people who interact with the public, or other third parties on your behalf on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard.
- Train staff, volunteers, contractors and any other people who are is involved in developing your policies, practices and procedures on the provision of goods or services on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard.
- Allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide dog or service animal in those areas of the premises you own or operate that are open to the public, unless the animal is excluded by another law. If a service animal is excluded by law, use other measures to provide services to the person with a disability.
- Permit people with disabilities who use a support person to bring that person with them while accessing goods or services in premises open to the public or third parties.
- Where admission fees are charged, provide notice ahead of time on what admission, if any, would be charged for a support person of a person with a disability.
- Provide notice when facilities or services that people with disabilities rely on to access or use your goods or services are temporarily disrupted.
- Establish a procedure for people to provide feedback on how you provide goods or services to people with disabilities, and how you will respond to any feedback and take action on any complaints. Make the information about your feedback process readily available to the public.
For organizations with more than 20 employees, or organizations designated as public sector, there are additional responsibilities:
- Document in writing customer-service policies, practices and procedures.
- Notify your customers that these documents are available upon request, and
- Provide information in the required document(s), when providing them to a person with a disability, in a format that takes into account their disability.
For suggestions on what you can do to meet these requirements, consult the compliance toolkit offered by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario at the Ministry of Community and Social Services.