New Accessible Customer Service Standards come into force July 1st. Are you ready?

June 22nd, 2016 by Katie Douglas

On July 1, 2016, the Accessible Customer Service Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the AODA) are changing. The changes apply to all organizations in Ontario with one or more employees that provide goods or services to the public.

The AODA is organized into five ‘standards’: customer service, information and communications, transportation, employment, and the design of public spaces. These standards are being phased in gradually and will be fully implemented in 2025. We’ve previously written about the new employment standards coming into force under the AODA in 2017. Those changes apply to all organizations with fewer than 50 employees. Read up on them here.

Below is a brief summary of the changes coming July 1st under the Customer Service Standard. Organizations with questions or which are unsure if they are meeting their obligations under the AODA are encouraged to contact us.

1. Staff Training

Organizations must train all staff (including volunteers and students) on accessible customer service and how to interact with people with different disabilities.

2. Service Animals

If a person needs a service animal to get access to an organization’s goods or services but it is unclear if the animal is in fact a service animal, the organization may ask the individual to provide documentation from a “regulated health professional” establishing that he or she needs the animal for accessibility purposes. Previously this documentation had to be a letter from a doctor or nurse but it may now be accepted in any format and from many different health professionals including an occupational therapist, chiropractor and psychologist.

A complete list of regulated health professionals is here.

3. Support Persons

In some circumstances, an organization may require a person with a disability to be accompanied by a support person to get access to its goods and services (for example, if the individual has impaired vision and it would be unsafe for them to use the services alone). Because this requirement could limit access to the organization’s goods and services, before making a decision about whether a support person is necessary, the organization must

  1. consult with the person with a disability to understand his or her needs;
  2. consider health or safety concerns based on available evidence; and
  3. determine if there is no other reasonable way to protect the health or safety of the person or others on the premises other than requiring a support person.

If the organization decides a support person is necessary, it must waive admission or other fees for the support person.

4. Customer Feedback

Organizations are currently required to have a procedure for customers to give feedback on how they provide accessible customer service. The July 1 changes will require that feedback processes be available in accessible formats and with communication supports, on request.

5. Written Policies

Previously organizations with 20 or more employees were required to have written accessible customer service policy.  Starting July 1, this will be a requirement only for organizations with 50 or more employees. The policy must be available publicly (posted at the organization or on its website) and provided in an accessible format or with communication support, on request.

Further, all organizations required to have written policies must update them to incorporate the July 1 changes and train staff on the new policies.

Filed in: Human Rights

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