Ontario businesses must follow the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) to prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities. The IASR is a grouping of five standards under the AODA. In this article, we will explain the Information and Communications Standards, what it is and what is included in it.
What is the Information and Communications Standards?
The Information and Communications Standards of the AODA lists rules for organizations to create, provide, and receive information and communications that people with disabilities can access. The standard gives all people an equal chance to learn and be active in their communities.
What is included in the Information and Communications Standards?
Formats and communication supports
Organizations must create and provide accessible formats and communication supports to people with disabilities.
For instance, accessible formats include:
- Html or Microsoft Word
- Large print
- Described video
- Text transcripts of visual or audio information
- Reading aloud
For example, a clinic handing out pamphlets about its programs must have the same information available in different formats. For people who cannot read print, digital text would be a good option to have. People with visual disabilities can read digital text by using screen reading software, magnification, or a Braille display.
Communication supports include:
- Writing, email, or texting
- Sign language interpretation
- Video relay service
- Assistive listening systems
- letter, word, or picture boards
- Rephrasing in clear language
An example of a communication support is the use of email instead of the phone. For instance, a company doing a phone survey should email the same questions to clients who are deaf or have speech disabilities.
Accessible formats and communication supports must be given in a timely manner when requested. Organizations should work with the person asking for the information to find out what format or support the person needs. If conversion to a certain accessible format or communication support is not technically possible, the organization must explain why and summarize the information. Moreover, organizations cannot charge more for accessible formats or communication supports than for the original format.
This standard also applies to customer feedback systems. One example is the option for online or telephone feedback instead of hand-written surveys.
Websites and web content
By January 1, 2021, all internet, websites, and web content must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. These guidelines make websites more accessible for people who use computers differently because of their disabilities. People must be able to navigate websites using technologies that make browsing possible without certain actions, such as looking at the screen or clicking a mouse. For example, these technologies include:
- Speech recognition software
- Screen reader software
- Screen magnification software
All organizations must ensure that people have access to public emergency information. For example, an emergency safety brochure for a university campus should be available upon request in other formats, such as large print or online.
Educator Awareness Training
School boards must provide accessibility awareness training to educators. Educators are defined as those who:
- Design courses
- Prepare and/or deliver lessons
- Are school-board staff
However, best practice suggests that educators also include:
- Early childhood educators
- Educational assistants
- Child and youth workers
- Support staff
- Administrative staff
Best practice classifies these workers as educators because they all encounter students with disabilities.
Training should help educators correct or work around any classroom barriers, such as:
- Narrow aisles with physical obstacles
- Lack of resources, such as speech recognition software or Braille Books
Training should also help educators understand some techniques that improve the learning environment for students with disabilities, such as:
- Mental health disabilities
Educators should also learn about different resources and materials to use when planning lessons that are designed with all learners in mind.
Education Materials and Training Resources
In addition, schools must provide accessible versions of materials such as:
- Course and program information
- Educational materials
- Training resources
- Student records
Schools may need to use in-house or outside contractors to convert texts and images. Additionally, staff need to work closely with people with disabilities to find out which format best suits their needs and meet them accordingly.
Public Library Materials and Resources
All public libraries must provide alternative accessible formats, wherever possible, of all new and old library materials, such as:
- Dramatic works
Library workers should let the public know when these resources are available and consider the variety of users’ accessibility needs when procuring new materials.
Likewise, upon request, libraries of educational or training institutions must provide, procure, or acquire accessible formats of resources, such as:
However, some materials are exempt, such as:
- Special collections
- Archival materials
- Rare books
Why do we need the Information and Communications Standards?
We are constantly communicating: verbally, non-verbally, through text, sound, or images. Everyone should be able to read, see, or hear information through different formats and communication supports.