Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility inspections across Canada.
Accessibility Inspections Across Canada
AODA Inspections allow the government to find out if businesses are complying with the Act. An inspector can enter a business without a warrant if the inspector believes the place contains relevant documents or things. However, the inspector must enter during the hours the place is open for business. Alternatively, if a place does not have business hours, an inspector must enter during daylight hours.
Moreover, during the inspection, the inspector can ask for any item that is related to the inspection. For instance, the inspector can request a document or record. However, the inspector must make this request in writing. Furthermore, the inspector can use any equipment, such as a computer, to retrieve the items they need to view. In addition, the inspector can borrow these documents, records, or things, to make copies. However, the inspector must give a receipt for the documents, records, or things they borrow. In addition, the inspector must give the owner of the documents or things access to them, if needed. This access must take place at a time convenient for both the inspector and the owner.
Inspectors can bring other people, such as people with expert knowledge, to help with inspections. In addition, the inspector can question any person on the premises about the inspection. People on the premises must give the inspector all the help they can. For instance, they must help the inspector use computers or other devices to retrieve documents, if required.
Inspections with Warrants
If an inspector believes that a business is not complying with the AODA, thee inspector can acquire a search warrant from a justice of the peace. A warrant gives inspectors more power than they have during inspections without warrants. For instance, warrants allow inspectors to:
- Enter dwellings
- Search before or after business hours
- Use force, or ask for assistance from police officers
Inspectors have thirty (30) days, after a warrant has been issued, to conduct a search. However, this time limit can be renewed for another thirty (30) days.
Manitoba and Nova Scotia
In Manitoba and Nova Scotia, inspectors have many of the same duties and guidelines. For instance, inspectors can:
- Enter any place to inspect it, except a dwelling
- Enter a dwelling only with a warrant
- Request and receive copies of documents or other relevant records
As in Ontario, inspectors in Manitoba and Nova Scotia can also require the assistance of people on the premises during the inspection. However, in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, inspectors can only Ask for assistance, or written responses, from people in charge of the premises or its records. In contrast, Ontario inspectors can ask for assistance from any person on the premises. This wider mandate could allow inspectors in Ontario to access more information about how an organization meets the needs of people with disabilities.
The Accessible Canada Act
Similarly, under the Accessible Canada Act, the Accessibility Commissioner can enter any location under federal jurisdiction to verify its compliance with parts of the Act, including:
In addition, inspectors can also examine anything on the premises, including hard-copy or electronic documents. Moreover, inspectors can borrow or make copies of documents, in whole or in part. Furthermore, inspectors have the power to start or stop:
- Activities that will help or hinder an inspection
- Movements of conveyances
- Activities involving any new standards that the Act has mandated
Like Ontario inspectors, the Commissioner can have another person assist in conducting the inspection.
The Act also allows the Commissioner to conduct inspections remotely, as well as in person. These requirements will make it possible for the Commissioner to perform more frequent or thorough inspections. However, inspections under the Act only oversee an organization’s accessibility plans, progress reports, and feedback processes. In contrast, the wider mandates of provincial inspectors may allow them to encounter more organizations and encourage more accessible service.