AODA Update: Changes to the Accessible Customer Service Standard for Ontario Employers

On July 1, 2016, a number of changes under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) will take effect. The changes will consolidate the following two regulations under the AODA:  (1) Ontario Regulation 429/07 – Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the Customer Service Standard);  and (2) Ontario Regulation 191/11 – Integrated Accessibility Standards.

As a result of the consolidation, the following changes will be made to the AODA’s Customer Service Standard:

  1. Written Policy Exemption for Small Private Sector Organizations – Previously, organizations with 20 or more employees were required to “document” the policies required under the Customer Service Standard in writing and to make a copy available to the public on request. As of July 1, 2016, this requirement will apply only to organizations with 50 or more employees.
  2. Expanded Training Requirement – Previously, organizations were required to provide training on the Customer Service Standard only to: (a) employees and volunteers who provide goods or services to the public; and (b) employees involved in developing the organization’s policies. As of July 1, 2016, training on the Customer Service Standard must now be provided to all employees and volunteers regardless of their role. Employees who have already received training are not required to be re-trained.
  3. Feedback - The Customer Service Standard requires that organizations provide a way for customers to provide feedback on how the organization provides accessible customer service. As of July 1, 2016, organizations must ensure that this feedback process is accessible, by providing for accessible formats and communication supports, on request.
  4. Support Persons – The Customer Service Standard allows an organization to require a support person to accompany a person with a disability on the organization's premises for health or safety reasons. As of July 1, 2016, an organization must take the following steps before imposing this requirement: (i) consult with that person to understand their needs; (ii) consider health and safety reasons based on available evidence; and (iii) determine if there is no other reasonable way to protect the health and safety of the person or others on the premises.
  5. Service Animals –  The Customer Service Standard requires organizations to allow a person with a disability to be accompanied by a guide dog or service animal onto premises that the public has access to. Previously, if it was not readily apparent that the animal was used by the person for reasons related to a disability, the organization could request a note from a physician or nurse confirming the relationship. As of July 1, 2016, this provision has been broadened to allow regulated health professionals to also provide confirmation.

These changes will require Ontario employers to review their AODA policies to ensure they incorporate the new requirements. Employers must also ensure that training on the Customer Service Standard is provided for all new employees and for any employees who did not originally receive the training. The next compliance reporting deadline under the AODA is December 31, 2017.

For further information regarding this matter, please contact Caitlin Russell or other members of Cassels Brock & Blackwell’s Employment and Labour Group.