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Assessing AODA Compliance in Public Spaces

Under the AODA, private or non-profit businesses with twenty to forty-nine (20-49) workers, or fifty (50) or more workers, must complete accessibility reports every three years. The next accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses were due on December 31st, 2020. However, the Ontario government has extended this deadline. This extended deadline for accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses is June 30th, 2021. Nonetheless, businesses should use this extra time to assess how compliant they are with AODA standards. Moreover, businesses should also improve their compliance by changing the services they offer so that their businesses are more accessible. In this article, we will outline ways to assess AODA compliance in public spaces.

Assessing AODA Compliance in Public Spaces

Businesses with fifty (50) or more workers need to report on the accessibility of any public spaces they have built or renovated. However, both small and large businesses need to comply with AODA requirements governing public spaces. For instance, people with disabilities must have access to new or renovated:

Furthermore, businesses with fifty (50) or more workers must ensure the accessibility of new or renovated:

The extended deadline for AODA compliance reports gives staff of businesses more time to assess how well their companies are fulfilling all these requirements.

How to Assess AODA Compliance in Public Spaces

Companies can start to assess their AODA compliance by requesting anonymous feedback from customers, workers, or other visitors who have needed accessible features. For instance, visitors can explain whether:

  • They could park their vehicles in accessible spaces
  • There was enough room to exit vehicles with ramps and transfer to assistive devices
  • Parking spaces were close enough for them to reach buildings or events easily

Similarly, customers, workers, and visitors could explain whether they could:

  • Wait in lines or waiting areas that:
  • Receive service at accessible counters
  • Enjoy leisure time on a trail or beach
  • Travel independently on all paths or walkways
  • Access public eating areas with their friends or families
  • Watch their children join peers on accessible play spaces

Accessing Older Public Spaces

Alternatively, if a business does not have accessible features, visitors with disabilities must still be able to access their services. Therefore, visitors could also give feedback about how well staff supported their access needs. For example, visitors can explain whether staff:

  • Knew what accessible features their premises had, or did not have
  • Invited them to wait in an accessible place
  • Alerted them when their turn for service came, when line areas were not accessible
  • Provided service away from high counters when needed
  • Served them remotely if parking and paths were not accessible
  • Recommended locations with more welcoming:
    • Trail or beach access
    • Eating areas
    • Play spaces

If customers or other visitors have the option to describe their positive or negative encounters with staff, these stories can help staff recognize what they should or should not do when supporting visitors’ access to their spaces. If much of the feedback a business receives is negative, it is likely that the business is not compliant with the AODA. As a result, the business will need to make changes, which could include:

  • Making sure that any plans for new or renovated spaces include accessible features
  • Improving their AODA training, to ensure that staff know how to meet visitors’ needs

Accessibility Consulting

In addition, businesses could enter short-term or on-going contracts to consult with people who have disabilities. Alternatively, companies could request the services of professional organizations that specialize in assessing accessibility. In either case, an accessibility assessor with lived experience of disability could:

  • Observe and give feedback on the quality of AODA training
  • Assess any plans for new or renovated spaces, to ensure that accessible features are included

If any of these plans or processes do not comply with AODA requirements, consultants could offer suggestions or assistance. Moreover, consultants could also help companies find resources to support them in strengthening their policies and services.