According to Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services, one in seven people in the province are disabled, and that number is expected to rise as the population ages. But the Ontario disability act addresses those issues, taking into consideration not only the needs of disabled individuals, but the needs of businesses and others in the community charged with making sure disabled persons have access to services and benefits.
The Ontario disability act, formally known as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act became law on June 13, 2005 and replaces the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which was repealed the same year.
The key goal of the act is to make the province accessible to the disabled by 2025 with a number of accessibility standards, all of which are mandatory for businesses and organizations. The act deals with customer service, transportation, information and communications, employment, and the “built” environment.
The customer service part of the Ontario disability act reinforces in business and organizations the notion that customer service isn’t just about wheelchair ramps or automatic doors; it’s recognizing disabled persons have different needs, and changes have to be made to ensure there is access to customer service.
The Transportation Standard of the Ontario disability act that went into effect in 2011 is designed to make public transportation more accessible for the disabled and includes changes to earlier laws, according to the Ministry of Community and Social Services:
- Verbally announce route, direction, destination and major stops.
- People with disabilities cannot be charged a higher fare or a fee to store their wheelchairs, canes and walkers and other equipment necessary for mobility.
- Make sure that accessibility equipment is in good working order and fixed as soon as possible, that disabled people are otherwise accommodated until the equipment is repaired.
The Accessibility Standard for Employment as part of the Ontario disability act makes employers more aware of steps they need to follow when finding, hiring, and communication with disabled persons as a way of providing equal employment and earning opportunities.
The Ontario disability act also makes provisions related to information and communications, with the end goal of helping people with disabilities access the information they need every day. This means it will:
- Give support to people who are vision impaired to access more websites through the use of screen readers
- Increase the availability of large print and digital collections in public libraries
- Make sure that students have course documentation and learning materials in accessible formats.
Accessibility standards for the build environment related to the Ontario disability act is critical as it removes barriers to entry in buildings and outdoor spaces to people with disabilities, making it easier and safer for them to enjoy the same environment as non-disabled people do.
Finally, the underlying point of the Ontario disability act is to raise awareness, that while most of us have access to everyday activities, some of us don’t and there is an obligation as a community and taxpayers to make this happen.
Find out more information about disability tax credit in Ontario.