Upcoming Deadlines under Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Upcoming Deadlines under Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Ontario employers should be aware that there are two requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “AODA”) that must be satisfied in the coming months. The AODA applies to every person or organization in the public and private sectors of Ontario. Organizations are defined as including, amongst other things, corporations, associations, partnerships, and trade unions.

Accessible Websites and Web Content

Although not necessarily falling under the responsibility of the HR department, AODA contains major accessibility obligations for websites of Ontario employers with more than a threshold number of employees. Under the AODA, designated public sector organizations and organizations with 50 or more employees in Ontario must make their websites and web content conform to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (the “WCAG 2.0”).

The WCAG 2.0 provides guidelines and criteria for how to make online content more accessible to people with disabilities. There are three levels to the various guidelines in the WCAG 2.0: A; AA; and AAA. Level A represents the lowest level of accessibility under the WCAG, whereas level AAA provides the greatest amount of accessibility.

By January 1, 2020, designated public sector organizations and private sector entities such as employer companies over the 50 employee threshold must ensure their internet websites and web content conform with WCAG 2.0 level AA, except for:

  1. Success criteria 1.2.4. Captions (Live), and
  2. Success criteria 1.2.5. Audio Descriptions (Pre-recorded).

This requirement applies to websites and web content, including web-based applications that an organization controls directly or through a contractual relationship that allows for modification of the product, and to web content published on a website after January 1, 2012.

The requirement does not apply where it is not practicable for an organization to implement. In determining whether the requirements are not practicable, the following factors, among others, are considered:

  1. The availability of commercial software or tools or both; and
  2. Significant impact on an implementation timeline that is planned or initiated before January 1, 2012.

Accessibility Compliance Report

By December 31, 2020, all designated public sector organizations and organizations with 20 or more employees in Ontario, so the vast majority of medium-sized businesses must file an Accessibility Compliance Report (the “AC Report”).

The AC Report confirms that the organizations has met the current accessibility requirements under the AODA. To complete the AC Report, an organization must fill out the applicable form found at:

http://www.forms.ssb.gov.on.ca/mbs/ssb/forms/ssbforms.nsf/FormDetail?OpenForm&ACT=RDR&TAB=PROFILE&SRCH=&ENV=WWE&TIT=0237&NO=009-00237E.

After filling out the organization’s information, the form asks a series of yes or no questions, to which explanatory comments may be added.

While some AODA requirements are not HR-related, many of them are, including policies to facilitate the hiring and retention of employees with disabilities. By now requiring Ontario employers to proactively file an AC Report on the extent of their compliance, it will be easier for the government to flag non-compliance by organizations that have failed to file.

Failure to comply with the AODA, including the obligation to file AC Report, can result in orders and administrative penalties such as monetary fines.

With a few months left before these obligations are in force, Ontario employers just have time to remedy any compliance gaps and be compliant by filing a report that shows all AODA requirements have been met.

For more information about these upcoming deadlines and how comply with them, contact us at Howard Employment Law at:

ghoward@howardlaw.ca, 604.424.9686; or

schern@howardlaw.ca 604.424.9688