Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility feedback processes across Canada.
Accessibility Feedback Processes Across Canada
Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must create processes for accessible customer service feedback. These processes must outline how providers will receive and respond to feedback from customers with disabilities about how accessibly they provide goods and services.
Providers might receive feedback about many aspects of their services. For instance:
- Accessible elements of a space or building, such as:
- Availability of technology or equipment, such as:
- Staff accessibility knowledge, such as:
- Welcome for service animals or support persons
- How prepared staff are for temporary service disruptions
- Staff willingness to assist customers with invisible disabilities
Providers must allow customers to offer feedback in a variety of formats, such as:
- In person
- By phone
- In writing
Moreover, providers’ processes must detail how they will respond to any complaints they receive. If customers offer negative feedback, providers must address the customers’ concerns. Furthermore, providers must respond using communication methods that take customers’ disabilities into account.
Finally, providers must alert the public about their feedback processes in multiple ways, such as signs, websites, phone messages, and in person.
In addition, under the Information and Communications Standards, organizations with processes for receiving and responding to feedback must ensure that those processes are accessible. They can do so by providing accessible formats and communication supports, upon request. Alternatively, they can arrange for a third party to provide formats and supports. Service providers must also notify the public that these formats and supports are available for anyone who wishes to take part in their feedback process.
Accessible Canada Act
Under the Accessible Canada Act, federally regulated organizations must also create processes for receiving and responding to feedback about:
- How well they implement their accessibility plans
- Barriers that customers, clients, and workers with disabilities face
Furthermore, organizations must publish a description of their feedback process, so that people who wish to offer feedback will know how they should contact the organization.
Most organizations need to develop one (1) feedback process. However, some organizations need two (2) processes. These organizations:
- Carry on broadcasting undertakings
- Are Canadian carriers or telecommunications service providers
- Are in the Transportation Network
The Governor in Council chooses how these organizations publish a description of one of their processes, which addresses barriers that any organization might have, such as in the areas of:
- The built environment
- Transportation (for broadcasters and telecommunications providers)
On the other hand, these organizations need to prevent and remove specific barriers in the areas of:
- Information and communications technology
- Procuring goods, services and facilities
- Design and delivery of programs and services
- Transportation (for transportation companies)
As a result, these organizations must develop separate feedback processes to address the accessibility plans specific to barriers in these areas. Moreover, the governing organizations of these industries, not the Governor in Council, chooses how organizations publish descriptions of these processes.
As governments work together to align their accessibility laws, the Accessible Canada Act could adopt some provincial mandates. For instance, the Act could require all organizations to create and implement accessibility plans and feedback processes. Moreover, the Act could mandate only one plan and process per organization. However, the Act could require certain organizations, such as communication or transportation organizations, to have more extensive plans dealing with industry-specific barriers. As a result, organizations could streamline their processes. People eager to offer feedback could more easily collaborate with staff to improve structures and services.