Imagine a land with bustling urban centres, soft and sandy beaches, snow-covered mountains and forests with soaring trees. Imagine a place that offers its people an abundance of career opportunities, and unique spots to enjoy with family and friends.
Now imagine that you’re a resident of this land – but you don’t have access to most of these offerings.
It’s a feeling that many people with disabilities in Ontario have experienced.
However, wide-ranging legislation passed by the Ontario government in 2005 aims to change this. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) aims to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities (PWD).
People with disabilities do not comprise a small segment of the population: more than 15 per cent of Ontarians report having a disability. With a large aging population, that number is expected to rise. In fact, it is estimated that by 2035, 40 per cent of Ontario’s consumer base will be PWD.
The AODA aims to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025 through five standards:
- Customer Service: Focuses on the businesses policies and practices that prevent PWD from obtaining the same level of customer service as their non-disabled counterparts.
- Information and Communications: Increases access to information, including that provided in person, through print, phone and online services.
- Employment: Addresses practices related to employee/employer relationships, including recruitment, hiring and retention policies and processes.
- Transportation: Ensures accessible transportation for PWD, including buses and trains.
- Design of Public Spaces: Addresses accessibility within buildings and outdoor spaces, including issues such as counter height, aisle and door width and parking.
The AODA standards are being phased in over a 20-year period. It affects every business and organization with one or more employees and requires regular compliance reporting. The next reporting deadline, specifically for businesses with 20 or more employees, is December 31, 2017.
Beyond compliance, there are enormous benefits of making your business more accessible and inclusive.
- Creating better access to your business, whether by installing a ramp to your store or allowing for accessible options on your website, opens up your market. Learn more about the $55 billion PWD market in Canada.
- Creating inclusive hiring and recruitment practices means vastly growing your pool of candidates – allowing you to hire the very best. Learn more about how PWD are often a business’ best employees.
Many businesses across Ontario have taken steps to become more accessible and inclusive since the AODA came into effect. Others have built their business with accessibility and inclusiveness as fundamental values. Either way, there are many stories about how both businesses and PWD are benefiting from accessibility, including:
- Ontario Provincial Parks, where PWD can utilize innovative devices to enjoy beaches and trails, including all-terrain wheelchairs, beach mats, accessible boardwalks and fishing ramps.
- Sodexo Canada, a 10,000-employee business that operates with the values of accessibility and inclusivity at its core. Some of Sodexo’s best teams are stacked with hard working and industrious PWD. Read more.
- Blue Mountain, one of Ontario’s best-known ski resorts located in Collingwood, offers many accessible options to allow PWD to enjoy the grounds, including adaptive skiing lessons, accessible hotel accommodations, and ski lifts that accommodate adaptive skiing equipment.
Find out more about your business’ reporting requirements and how accessibility will benefit your business.
- Learn more about the December 31, 2017, reporting requirement for businesses and organizations with 20 or more employees.
- Learn what your business needs to know about the AODA with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s free Enabling Change webinars and workshops.
- Interested in hiring PWD for your team? Our Discover Ability Network connects employers with highly skilled, job seeking PWD.
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