Over the last few years, large Ontario employers have been busy implementing changes to their practices in order to meet new accommodation requirements under the Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). As of January 1, 2017, Ontario employers with fewer than 50 employees must now meet additional obligations with respect to employment standards and information and communications. These new requirements supplement the existing obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The new employment standards require employers keep their employees informed about policies relating to the support available to employees with disabilities, at all stages of the employment relationship. Employers must notify their employees and the public about the availability of accommodations for job applicants with disabilities. Additionally, employers providing performance management, career development, and advancement opportunities to their employees must take into consideration the accessibility needs and individual accommodation plans of employees with disabilities.  Employers are also required to provide communication supports in accessible formats, and employees with a disability must be provided with individualized workplace emergency response information.

Small and medium sized businesses will be required, upon request, to provide accessible formats and communication supports for any persons with disabilities. These will be required in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs, and at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons. Additionally, organizations which are equipped with processes for receiving and responding to feedback will be required to notify the public about the availability of accessible format and communication supports and, upon request, provide them.

These new requirements work to ensure that barriers that hinder their full participation in employment are not only identified, but removed and eventually prevented, with the goal to fully accommodate employees with disabilities by 2025.

Written with the assistance of Kristina Bezprozvannykh, articling student.