In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. One of these improvements is the need for creating an AODA complaint system to report violations. During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees state that many organizations are not AODA compliant. As a result, attendees suggest ways to report this non-compliance and better enforce the AODA.
Creating an AODA Complaint System
Onley’s review states that under the current system for enforcing the AODA, too many organizations choose not to comply. For example, an organization may not be providing services the AODA requires, such as:
- Information in accessible formats and with communication supports, upon request
- Accessible web content
- Welcoming customers with:
- Training all workers and volunteers on the AODA
- communicating with customers in ways that take their disabilities into account
- Notifying customers about temporary service disruptions
- Audio and visual announcements, and courtesy seating on public transit
Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) Process
Currently, people can report AODA violations to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). However, many review attendees describe this process as “cumbersome, overloaded and expensive.” Moreover, the review states that the process of hearing each case individually “forces vulnerable people to address systemic discrimination as if it were a personal problem, creating additional burdens.” As the HRTO investigates, people may fear that the HRTO process will involve disclosing their names and publicly revealing that they have been discriminated against. Consequently, this process may lead to more stigma or harassment. Instead, attendees suggest that a complaint process should focus on patterns of discrimination as systemic or social problems, rather than separate problems that each affect only one person.
In addition, some attendees report that when the HRTO reaches a settlement, they do not publicize the terms of the settlement. As a result, organizations that violate the AODA can easily continue to do so.
Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO) Contact Line
The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO) runs a contact line where people can notify the government about AODA violations. For instance, people can describe, by phone or email, how an organization has not trained workers or communicated accessibly. This contact line supports the ADO’s efforts to develop programs geared to educate organizations about AODA compliance. In addition, the system informs people about the accessibility feedback processes that all organizations should have. These processes help people explain their needs, and the importance of AODA compliance, directly to organizations.
However, if organizations respond to customer feedback by refusing to comply, the ADO contact line offers no further guidance. In contrast, a complaint system would be more helpful in enforcing the AODA than a contact line. Moreover, Onley’s review states that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes an online complaint system. Therefore, the review recommends that the Ontario government should turn the ADO’s contact line into a complaint system.
How a Complaint System could Help Enforce the AODA
The ADO could use the information in citizens’ complaints to directly enforce the AODA when feedback processes fail. For example, the ADO could send AODA inspectors to investigate a complaint someone has made about a business. If inspectors found that the business was not AODA compliant, a Director of the AODA could order the business to comply.
Onley’s review recognizes that the ADO may not be able to investigate every complaint it would receive. However, the ADO could examine complaints to search for patterns. For instance, they could investigate an organization if they receive many complaints about it. In this way, an AODA complaint system could improve the accessibility of the province on a larger scale than ever before.