The Information and Communications Standards under the AODA and the Information and Communication Standard under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) both require organizations to make information and communication accessible to citizens with disabilities. Moreover, both standards require many of the same processes and practices to ensure accessibility. However, there are many important differences between the standards. The third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should coordinate with other provinces and the federal government to ensure that accessibility laws are consistent across Canada. Therefore, requirements in the AODA may one day change to align with mandates under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act. In this article, we will explore requirements for accessible formats and communication supports in Ontario and Manitoba.
Accessible Formats and Communication Supports in Ontario and Manitoba
The AODA’s Information and Communication Standards and the Accessible Information and Communication Standard of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) both require organizations to provide information in accessible formats or with communication supports. For instance, accessible formats include:
- Large print
- Electronic formats, such as:
Examples of communication supports include:
- Sign language
- Plain language
- Augmentative or alternative communication, such as:
- Letter, word, or picture boards
- Digital devices with speech or print output
In both provinces, organizations must provide these formats and supports:
- Upon request
- In a timely manner
- At no extra cost
- For emergency and public safety information
Organizations must consult with a person requesting accessible information, to choose the best format or support for that person.
However, both laws list some circumstances where organizations do not need to provide information in accessible formats or communication supports. For example, organizations do not need to make information accessible if:
- It is not technically feasible to convert the information
- Technology for converting the information is not readily available
- The organization does not have direct control over the information
- The information is part of a product label
Manitoba’s standard also recognizes that organizations cannot provide accessible information if doing so will cause undue hardship. While Ontario’s standards do not mention this term, undue hardship is an important element of Ontario human rights policy.
Conversely, under Ontario’s standards, an organization that cannot provide certain information in an accessible format or with a communication support must:
- Explain to the person requesting accessible information why the organization cannot provide it
- Summarize the inaccessible information
In other words, organizations must remain in contact with any person requesting accessible information. Although they cannot grant that person’s request, they are still accountable to explain their inability, and to provide as much accessible information as they can. In contrast, Manitoba’s standard does not require organizations to provide reasons or summaries if they cannot convert information.