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 will explore accessible customer service in Ontario and Manitoba.
Accessible Customer Service in Ontario and Manitoba
The customer service standards under the AODA and the accessible customer service standard under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act both require service providers to make their goods and services accessible for customers with disabilities. Moreover, both standards require many of the same processes and practices to ensure accessibility. For instance, both standards require service providers in the public and private sectors to:
- Have documented customer service policies
- Welcome customers with:
- Train workers to interact appropriately with customers who have disabilities
- communicate with customers in ways that take their disabilities into account
- Provide information accessibly
- Have accessible feedback processes
- Notify customers about temporary service disruptions
Differences Between Standards
However, Ontario’s standard requires providers to notify customers about disruptions to any accessible service. In contrast, Manitoba’s standard only requires providers to notify customers about disruptions involving the built environment. In other words, customers in Manitoba may not find out about disruptions to services they need, such as:
- Accessible format material, such as:
- Hard copy Braille or large print documents
- Website compatibility with assistive technology
- Equipment or personnel needed for communication supports, such as:
- Captioning equipment
- Sign language interpretation
Moreover, while both standards apply to providers that offer goods and services, Ontario’s standard also applies to providers that operate facilities.
On the other hand, Manitoba’s standard requires providers to comply with the rules in their customer service policies. In contrast, Ontario’s standard requires providers to create policies, but does not directly state that providers must perform the tasks their policies describe.
In addition, Manitoba’s standard also requires providers to ensure the accessibility of public events, such as:
- Public meetings
- Public hearings
- Consultation processes that the law requires
Under the standard, providers planning or hosting these events must:
- Hold them in physically accessible locations
- Ensure that notice of the events appears in accessible formats
- Meet people’s needs for physical and communication accessibility, upon request
- Notify the public that people can request accessibility support
In contrast, Ontario’s standard does not designate additional accessibility guidelines for public events. However, a higher degree of accessibility for these events could benefit Ontarians, because these events may have a large impact on the lives of the people who attend.
The customer service standards of the AODA and the Accessibility for Manitobans Act may change over time to improve accessibility. To do so, the standards can exchange best practices, or learn them from standards that develop in other Canadian regions or jurisdictions.