The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council


The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council assists the Minister who is in charge of the AODA by offering advice. More than half of Council members must be people with disabilities.

The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council

The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council advises the Minister about the process for creating new AODA standards. Likewise, the Council also confers with the Minister regarding the progress of standards development committees. Moreover, the Council advises organizations about submitting their accessibility reports. Furthermore, the Council works with the Minister on programs that spread public awareness of the AODA and its purpose. Finally, the Council must assist the Minister with any other elements of the Act that the Minister oversees. The Minister may require the Council to consult members of the public about any of these matters, and to submit reports.

The Minister can pay the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council for its time and expenses. The Lieutenant Governor determines the amount that the Minister pays Council members. In addition, the Minister can appoint members of the Council to be part of an accessibility standards development committee. However, the AODA does not explain how this appointment impacts the Council’s ability to advise on a committee’s progress. For instance, the AODA does not state whether a Council member sitting on a committee can also advise about that committee. This arrangement could be a conflict of interest. In contrast, the Act does not mention whether the Council offers advice without the presence of members who are also on standards development committees. This solution would maintain the Council’s neutrality, but would mean that the Council sometimes has fewer members.

The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council supports the Minister in charge of the AODA. The Council also helps to monitor the government’s progress in implementing the Act. With the AODA standards development committees, the Council ensures that people with disabilities have some impact on how the Act develops.




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AODA Standards Development Committees


AODA standards mandate how organizations must make themselves accessible to people with disabilities. The standards outline organizations’ responsibilities, and the deadlines they must meet. AODA Standards development committees are responsible for creating and maintaining the standards.

AODA Standards Development Committees

The government assigns one member of the Executive Council to be the minister in charge of the AODA. This minister oversees the process of developing standards. Therefore, the minister creates AODA standards development committees, whose members decide what rules a standard should include. Furthermore, the Minister invites people to be part of standards development committees. For instance, committee members can be:

  • People with disabilities
  • Representatives from the industries or sectors that the standard will one day apply to
  • Members of government organizations responsible for those industries or sectors
  • Other people or organizations the minister chooses to include
  • Experts who advise the committee
  • Members of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council

Moreover, the minister sets deadlines for the different stages of the committee’s work. The minister also specifies which kinds of services or organizations a standard can or cannot govern. In addition, the minister may choose to pay committee members for their time and expenses. The minister must make all this information, within a document called the terms of reference, public on a government website or other location. Likewise, minutes of committee meetings must also appear where the public can read them.

Once a committee proposes an accessibility standard, the proposal must become available to the public so that people can comment on it. The committee then has the chance to revise the proposed standard based on those public reactions and resubmit it to the minister. The minister must recommend to the Lieutenant Governor that the standard be accepted in whole, in part, or with modifications.

Re-Examining Standards

AODA standards development committees must re-examine standards, determine whether they are fulfilling objectives, and make any needed changes, in five years or less after a standard has been accepted. These changes must go through the same process of public commentary and revision. This process ensures that standards remain up-to-date and deal with any new barriers that arise after their creation.




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What are AODA Standards?


The standards of the AODA mandate how organizations must remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. The AODA standards govern how organizations can offer services that meet the needs of all Ontarians, including citizens with disabilities.

AODA Standards

Each of the AODA standards has rules for different sectors of the economy. The standards govern organizations that:

  • Offer goods, services, or facilities
  • Employ Ontario workers
  • Provide accommodation
  • Own or use a building or other premises
  • Operate a business

Currently, there are five AODA standards:

In addition, two new AODA standards are being developed:

The standards require organizations to create policies and practices that identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. These barriers may impact how people access their services, buildings, or employment. For instance, the standards require all new sidewalks to be wide. This mandate supports the needs of citizens with physical disabilities to move freely. Moreover, the standards also require organizations to provide accessible formats and Communication supports upon request. This mandate helps all people be aware of any printed or spoken material.

Furthermore, AODA standards require all organizations to have accessible hiring processes. This mandate ensures that hiring personnel remove barriers for applicants with disabilities and improve their chances for employment. In addition, the standards require that new public transit vehicles, such as buses and trains, are accessible. This mandate makes it possible for more people to travel freely around their cities and the province. Finally, the standards require that customer service personnel are trained to communicate with and serve customers with disabilities. This mandate gives all customers access to service that meets their needs while upholding their dignity.

What can an AODA standard include?

A standard specifies the kinds of organizations or sectors of the economy that must follow it. For instance, some standards have rules that apply only to public sector organizations or private businesses with fifty or more workers. In addition, some organizations must obey more than one standard. For instance, a newly-built shopping mall must comply with the Design of Public Spaces Standards and the Customer Service Standards. Standards also provide deadlines for the organizations that must follow them. In other words, they specify how soon a business needs to begin following their rules.

Our next article will outline how standards development committees work to create AODA standards.




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What is Disability?


People who do not have friends, family, or colleagues with disabilities may have only a vague idea of what disability is. They may wonder: what is disability? They may also think first, or only, of someone with a physical disability. In addition, these people may not know how disability affects people’s lives. For example, they may assume that someone with a disability cannot work or raise a family. As a result of these assumptions, many people design barriers that limit the lives of people with disabilities. Some of these barriers are:

People can help to remove these barriers through understanding what disability is. The AODA includes a definition of disability, to help Ontarians better understand how its mandates impact people’s lives. Moreover, the definition helps people understand why the rules in the AODA’s standards matter.

What is Disability?

The AODA defines disability broadly. It states that disability can happen at birth, or through illness or injury. Furthermore, the act also outlines several types of disability. These types are examples, rather than a complete list of all disabilities.

Physical Disabilities

For instance, the act states that physical disabilities may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • A brain injury
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Speech impairment
  • Reliance on a:

In other words, disability sometimes affects how people’s bodies move, or how they perceive or communicate. In addition, some people with disabilities use service animals or assistive devices, while others have invisible disabilities. Moreover, there are different kinds or degrees of disability. For instance, one person may have one amputated limb, while another has more than one. Likewise, one person may be totally blind while another has some sight.

Other Disabilities

The AODA then briefly lists some other types of disability, which include:

  • Mental impairment or developmental disability
  • Learning disability
  • Mental health disability
  • An injury or disability that allows someone to claim or receive benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act

Here, the act makes Ontarians aware of some other types of disability that people may have. For instance, it mentions mental health disabilities, another broad term that includes many medical conditions. These conditions can affect many different aspects of a person, such as:

  • Thought processes
  • Emotions
  • Moods
  • Behaviours
  • Sense of self
  • Capacity to connect with others
  • Ability to cope with stress

Similarly, learning disabilities affect people’s ability to take in, understand, or remember information. However, learning disabilities impact people in different ways. For example, some people may have difficulty with writing but understand speech easily. In contrast, others may not process speech but communicate easily using writing and visual information.

Readers of the AODA find answers to the question: what is disability? Ontarians learn that there are many types of disability that affect people’s lives. Moreover, they discover that the AODA’s standards remove barriers and create more access to:

Therefore, Ontarians can learn through the AODA that when barriers are removed, people can live full lives. 




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New AODA Requirement for School Libraries


A new AODA requirement for school libraries came into force on January 1st, 2020. Under the Information and Communications Standards, Ontario school libraries must make all digital or multimedia resources accessible upon request. Moreover, they must do so by making these resources available either in accessible formats or in conversion-ready formats.

New AODA Requirement for School Libraries

School libraries are libraries within school settings, such as:

  • Public and private schools
  • Colleges
  • Universities

School libraries have been required to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions of print resources since 2015. Now, the same rule applies to all digital or multimedia materials. When a student requests an accessible version of a digital or multimedia resource, libraries must provide that resource in a format that is either accessible or conversion-ready. Furthermore, the library must work with the student to find out what formats will be useful.

Libraries can meet this requirement most easily when some of their resources are already accessible. For instance, libraries can subscribe to or partner with online resources that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. They can also partner with other libraries to share accessible resources through inter-library loans. However, some library resources may not already be accessible. As a result, libraries will still need to provide accessible copies of those resources upon request.

What are accessible formats?

An accessible format is a format that the student can use right away, without any more conversion. For example, accessible formats of digital information include:

  • Online on accessible websites
  • Accessible file types, such as Word or HTML
  • Digital audio

What are conversion-ready formats?

A conversion-ready format is an electronic file type that can quickly be converted into the format a student needs. For instance, a student may need a resource in Braille. However, the library may not be able to offer this format. Nonetheless, the library can create a Microsoft Word or HTML copy of the resource. The student may then be able to read the file in Braille using a Braille display or embosser.

What if a Library cannot convert a resource?

The only exceptions to this requirement are:

  • Special collections
  • Resources that are:

Otherwise, if a library cannot convert a resource even into a conversion-ready format, they must explain why they cannot do so. In addition, the library must provide a summary of the resource they cannot convert.

These guidelines will support librarians and other staff as they follow the new AODA requirement for school libraries.




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New AODA Requirement for Producers of Educational Resources


A new AODA requirement for producers of educational resources came into force on January 1st, 2020. Under the Information and Communications Standards, Ontario producers of educational resources must make all print supplementary learning resources accessible. Moreover, they must do so by making these resources available either in accessible formats or in conversion-ready formats.

New AODA Requirement for Producers of Educational Resources

Producers of educational resources have been required to provide textbooks in accessible or conversion-ready formats since 2015. Now, the same rule applies to all other printed materials they produce for any educational institution, such as:

  • Public and private schools
  • School boards
  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • School libraries

When a school or school board requests an accessible version of a learning resource, producers must provide that resource in a format that is either accessible or conversion-ready. Furthermore, the producer must work with the school or school board to find out what formats their students can use.

What are accessible formats?

An accessible format is a format that the student can use right away, without any more conversion. For example, accessible formats include:

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Online on accessible websites
  • Accessible file types, such as Word or HTML
  • Digital audio
  • Tactile maps, pictures, or diagrams

What are conversion-ready formats?

A conversion-ready format is an electronic file type that can quickly be converted into the format a student needs. For instance, a student may need a resource in Braille. However, the producer may not be able to offer this format. Nonetheless, the producer can create a Microsoft Word or HTML copy of the resource. The school can then easily convert the file into Braille. 

What if a producer cannot convert a resource?

If a producer cannot convert a resource even into a conversion-ready format, they must explain to the school or school board why they cannot do so. In addition, the producer must provide a summary of the resource they cannot convert. For example, a producer may not be able to provide tactile maps that a school board has requested. This producer must tell the school board that they cannot produce tactile maps because they lack the technology. Furthermore, they must provide a description of the maps in an accessible format.

All producers of learning materials must now follow these guidelines to obey the new AODA requirement for producers of educational resources.




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New AODA Requirement for Government Websites


A new AODA requirement for government websites came into force on January 1st, 2020. Under the Information and Communications Standards, the Ontario government and the Legislative Assembly must make sure that all their websites, as well as content on Internet and Intranet sites, are accessible. Moreover, they must do so by making all these sites compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities.

New AODA Requirement for Government Websites

WCAG 2.0 guidelines describe how visitors should be able to:

  • Perceive and navigate web content, such as with:
    • Text, instead of images of text
    • Information that can be enlarged up to 200 per cent without losing site functionality
    • Good colour contrast between text and background
    • Buttons labeled with words, not just with pictures, shapes, or colours
    • Captions available for all audio
    • Audio descriptions and captions available for all videos
  • Operate websites, such as with:
    • Keyboard commands instead of mouse clicking
    • Options to extend time limits
    • No elements that might induce seizures, such as flashing lights
    • Titles and headings that help visitors know where they are
  • Understand website information and layout, such as with:
    • Simple, linear layouts that are the same for each page of a website
    • Clear language, instead of figures of speech
    • Clear instructions for completing tasks, such as purchasing items or filling in forms
    • Text descriptions of visitor errors when inputting information
    • Sign language interpretation
    • Definitions of unusual words and abbreviations
  • Visit websites using a variety of assistive technology, such as:
    • Screen readers and Braille displays
    • Screen magnifiers
    • Speech recognition programs

The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance for website owners and developers on how to implement them. All government personnel must now follow these guidelines to obey the new AODA requirement for Ontario government websites.




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Incentive Agreements For Accessibility Services


Under the AODA, the minister in charge of the act can make incentive agreements with organizations. Incentive agreements encourage organizations to provide more accessible services than the AODA requires them to. These agreements may help businesses find new and creative ways to serve citizens with disabilities.

Incentive Agreements

Incentive agreements provide support to businesses that choose to become more accessible than the law requires. For instance, customer service providers can offer more extensive AODA training for workers. Similarly, small businesses, not required to document their customer service policies, can do so. Furthermore, businesses can enhance their hiring practices and actively recruit qualified workers with disabilities. Likewise, small private businesses, not required to create processes for writing accommodation plans, can do so.

In addition, businesses can prepare accessible formats and communication supports in advance, instead of waiting until a customer makes a request. Similarly, businesses with older websites can make that web content accessible. Moreover, transportation providers can offer more in-depth AODA training for transportation workers. Likewise, providers with older vehicles can retrofit them for accessibility or buy new vehicles. Finally, businesses can retrofit their spaces to include accessible features, such as parking. Similarly, small businesses, not required to have accessible outdoor eating areas, can install them.

When businesses make agreements with the minister, the two parties decide which requirements the business will exceed. In addition, they will agree on a timeframe, so that the business has a deadline for its goal. Finally, the minister may exempt some businesses from filling in part of their accessibility reports. This exemption may help businesses focus on meeting their new requirements.

Businesses may begin making incentive agreements because they value the incentives they receive. However, they may come to value how their efforts allow new customers, clients, and workers to access their spaces and services.




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Accessibility Audits for Public Sector Organizations


Under the AODA, public sector organizations must complete accessibility reports every two years. The next accessibility reports for public sector organizations are due on December 31st, 2019. The Ontario government will not give any extensions after December 31st, 2019. In addition, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division (AODT) audits organizations to verify compliance. Accessibility audits for public sector organizations help everyone obey the law.

Accessibility Audits for Public Sector Organizations

Every year, the AODT inspects organizations to find out whether they are compliant. Moreover, some organizations choose “no” when answering some questions in the accessibility report. When the AODT finds organizations non-compliant, it offers tools and resources to help them learn and obey the law. Moreover, the AODT helps organizations develop new deadlines for full compliance. A new deadline gives workers time to educate themselves and to implement full compliance.

However, some organizations may still not make the effort to change their policies or practices. For instance, an organization might refuse to comply with various AODA standards, including:

When organizations refuse to learn about and obey the law, the AODT will order them to comply. If they do not obey this order, they may be fined or taken to court.

In contrast, organizations can educate themselves about the AODA and how to comply. This knowledge will help organizations serve every client, patient, student, or traveller, not just those without disabilities. People with disabilities are part of the public, and their numbers are increasing. Therefore, only by obeying the AODA can organizations truly serve the whole public. Accessibility audits for public sector organizations help ensure that laws for the public good are upheld.




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Accessibility Report Questions for Public Sector Organzations


Under the AODA, public sector organizations must complete accessibility reports every two years. The next accessibility reports for public sector organizations are due on December 31st, 2019. The Ontario government will not give any extensions after December 31st, 2019. Here, we answer some accessibility report questions that workers should know how to answer.

Accessibility Report Questions: Public Sector 

To begin with, the yes-or-no questions in accessibility reports for public sector organizations ask whether an organization complies with mandates in the AODA. Furthermore, each question should include a link to the mandate or rule it asks about. Likewise, other links lead workers to resources that help them learn what they should do to follow the rules. Workers can use these links to remind themselves what the mandates are and think about whether their organization complies. Then, workers complete the form by responding to each question with yes or no. Moreover, they can also write comments under each question.

Accessibility Report Questions about Customer Service

Organizations providing customer service will need to answer questions about whether they comply with AODA customer service requirements. For instance, whether they:

Accessibility Report Questions about Employment

Additionally, organizations also need to respond to questions about how accessible their employment practices are. For instance, they may be asked whether they:

Accessibility Report Questions Questions about Information and Communications

Similarly, organizations will need to confirm that they provide information in ways that people with disabilities can access. For instance, they may need to state whether they have:

Accessibility Report Questions Questions about Transportation

Likewise, organizations that provide transportation will need to answer questions about the accessibility of their vehicles and services. For example, they may be asked whether they have:

Accessibility Report Questions about Public Spaces

Finally, organizations that have built or renovated public spaces will need to verify that these spaces are accessible. For instance, they may need to confirm that people with disabilities can access:

In other words, these questions in accessibility reports for public sector organizations help workers learn how well their business obeys the law. Our next article will cover how the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division (AODT) audits organizations to verify compliance.




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