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 improve AODA compliance in public spaces.
Improving AODA Compliance in Public Spaces
Even if businesses are fully compliant with the design of public spaces standards, they can still make changes to their policies and services to enhance accessibility. For instance, the standards only mandate accessibility in buildings and spaces that are new or redeveloped. These legal limitations mean that older buildings and spaces are closed or unwelcoming to people with certain disabilities, including people who:
- Use assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or scooters
- Have invisible disabilities, such as heart or lung conditions
Business owners or managers may feel that they do not need to worry about making older spaces accessible because the standards do not require them to do so. They may also fear that installing accessible features will be costly, time-consuming, or inconvenient. However, grants for structural accessibility may offset costs. In addition, some changes are less costly and easier to put in place. While renovating for accessibility may take time and construction is inconvenient, inaccessibility is just as time-consuming and inconvenient for people with disabilities.
Moreover, accessible spaces offer many benefits to businesses, in addition to welcoming visitors with disabilities. For instance, accessible areas for walking, waiting, or eating could benefit:
- Families with babies or small children
- Shoppers with carts
In addition, people who develop disabilities later in life can continue to patronize businesses with accessible features. Businesses that go above and beyond the AODA standards can prove that they value all visitors.