New Customer Service Accessibility Standards

Is your business ready for the new Customer Service Accessibility Standards which come into force on January 1, 2012?  The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “Act”) applies to every person or organization in both the public and private sectors of the Province of Ontario. The Act itself does not establish standards, but rather sets out that standards will be established by regulation.  One of those regulations is Reg: 429/07 Accessibility Standards for Customer Service and it comes into effect on January 1, 2012.

In summary, the Customer Service standards require that any company who offers good or services to the public created and put into place a plan which meets the customer service accessibility standards.  It further requires that employees must receive training on the implementation of the plan.  If a company has more than 20 employees, the plan must also be put into writing, a training log must be maintained, the plan must be accessible to customers and the company must report it’s progress on meeting the standards to the Ministry. 

 

What is a Disability?

The definition of “Disability” contained in the Act is as follows:

“disability” means,

(a) any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device,

(b) a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability,

(c) a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language,

(d) a mental disorder, or

(e) an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997; (“handicap”)

This definition should be kept in mind when assessing your organization’s obligations under the regulation.

Additionally, the Act generally contemplates, in the definition of “barrier” that there are many barriers to accessibility.  These include “physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice”.

Regulation 429/07: Accessibility Standards for Customer Service

The requirements of Regulation 429 came into effect for designated public sector organizations on January 1, 2010 and all other “providers of goods and services” are bound to comply as of January 1, 2012.

Regulation 429 requires that “Every provider of goods and services shall establish policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of its goods or services to persons with disabilities”.  The guiding principles which are contained in Regulation 429 refer to provision of goods and services in a manner which respects the dignity and independence of those with disabilities, provision of goods and services must be integrated as much as possible and those with disabilities must be given an opportunity equal to that given to others to obtain, use and benefit from the goods or services.

Compliance with Regulation 429  

Policies, practices and procedures must be prepared and documented and produced upon request to any person.  There is a requirement to provide training to any person who deals with the public or other third parties on behalf of the organization as well as anyone who participates in the development of policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of goods and services to the public.  If the organization has more than 20 employees then the training must be documented and the documentation must include a description of the training policy as well as details about the training and when it is provided.

A plan should:

  • Consider a person’s disability when communicating with them;
  • Allow assistive devices in the workplace, like wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen tanks;
  • Allow services animals;
  • Welcome support persons;
  • Let customers know when accessible services aren’t available; and
  • Invite customers to provide feedback.

The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services has an excellent online set of tools to help organizations understand the customer service standards and develop and plan.  It can be found here:

http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/customerService/

How Can We Help: 

If your organization is having difficulty assessing the requirements of the customer service standard please get in touch.  We can discuss the requirements generally, arrange to help you audit your customer service standards and help implement training.