In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees outlined many barriers that people with disabilities face. More improvements to the AODA would help to remove existing barriers and prevent future ones. Therefore, in addition to direct recommendations, Onley’s review also includes suggestions from attendees about how to remove these barriers. This article will explore how paperwork in the AODA may create barriers, and ways to remove them.
Paperwork in the AODA
Many of the AODA’s mandates require staff of businesses and other organizations to complete paperwork. For example, all public sector organizations and large private sector organizations must complete:
- accessibility policies outlining how they will identify, remove, and prevent accessibility barriers
- accessibility plans listing the steps they will take to identify, remove, and prevent barriers
- Accessible customer service policies outlining how they will serve customers with disabilities accessibly
In addition, large public sector organizations must also:
- Review and update their accessibility plans at least every five years
- Submit yearly status reports that document their progress implementing accessibility
- complete accessibility reports every two years
Similarly, large private sector organizations must complete accessibility reports every three years.
During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees stated that this required paperwork distracts organizations from the actual implementation of accessibility. Furthermore, a business can complete its paperwork but fail to provide the services its documents describe. For example, a business can create an accessibility policy but not perform the tasks in the policy, such as:
- Welcome customers with service animals
- Make their hiring processes accessible
- Provide accessible formats and communication supports, upon request
- communicate with customers in ways that take their disabilities into account
Likewise, a business can state in their accessibility report that they perform these services, even if they do not.
Moreover, paperwork is currently the main method of AODA enforcement. However, Onley’s review recommends better ways of enforcing the AODA, such as inspecting actual business practices instead of paperwork. As a result, the need for extensive paperwork may decrease if the government decides to enforce the AODA in more practical, proactive ways. Therefore, businesses could use the time they once spent on paperwork to focus on removing and preventing barriers.