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 more AODA standards. In addition, the review recommends that the government update the General Provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR). During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees outlined the need for creating more AODA standards and updating general ones.
Creating More AODA Standards
Onley’s review states that the AODA has the goal of making Ontario accessible by 2025. To date, there are only five sectors of the economy with standards outlining what accessibility means for those sectors. The sectors are:
In addition, committees are developing standards for two more sectors: healthcare and education. In contrast, many other sectors do not yet have standards. To reach its goal of full accessibility in the province by 2025, the AODA needs to have more standards. As a result, Onley’s review recommends that the government consult the public about sectors that most need standards. Moreover, this government consultation must include people with disabilities, who will know what sectors will most benefit from standards.
Furthermore, review attendees name some of the sectors they believe should have standards. For example, some of these sectors are:
- Residential Housing
- Politics and Elections
- Sports and Recreation
- Goods and Products
After the government chooses new sectors for standards, it must create a standards development committee for each standard.
Updating General AODA Standards
In addition, Onley’s review states that all the AODA’s existing standards receive regular reviews from committees. In contrast, the General Provisions of the IASR have not received reviews. The General Provisions outline requirements that organizations from all sectors must follow. Under these requirements, organizations must:
- Provide all workers with AODA training
- Have accessibility policies
Furthermore, all public-sector organizations and large private organizations must:
- Have accessibility plans
Moreover, all public-sector organizations must also:
- Include accessibility design, criteria, or features when procuring goods, services, or facilities
- Design, procure, or acquire accessible self-service kiosks
Therefore, Onley’s review recommends that the government begin the overdue review of these important requirements. Moreover, the previous review of the AODA, in 2014, made a similar recommendation. In other words, Ontarians with disabilities have waited at least six years for updates to these requirements.
More Updates for the AODA’s General Requirements
Furthermore, the previous review of the AODA suggests that updated requirements should mandate accessibility plans focusing on barrier removal. Currently, many organizations write accessibility plans that focus on preventing new barriers. However, this type of plan allows them to leave existing barriers in place. In contrast, the requirement to plan barrier removal would show organizations that they should become as accessible as possible. In addition, review attendees suggest that the requirement for accessibility plans should apply to small private organizations.
Similarly, the requirement to procure accessible goods, services, and facilities should apply to private organizations as well as public ones. Moreover, the current version of this requirement is easy for organizations to avoid following. The requirement states that organizations can decide that including accessibility in goods, services, or facilities will not be “practicable”. When an organization makes this decision, it does not need to consider how to design or procure goods, services, or facilities that are accessible. However, the requirement does not explain what “practicable” means, or how an organization should decide whether accessibility is “practicable”. As a result, an organization can easily choose not to consider accessibility when buying or creating goods, services, and facilities.
To solve this problem, attendees suggest expanding this requirement by removing the statement about deciding that accessibility is not practicable. Alternatively, the requirement could include guidelines to help organizations understand what “practicable” means, or help them find ways to make accessibility practicable.