ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Please Give Us Feedback on Our Draft Brief on Proposed Revisions to the 2007 customer Service Accessibility Standard Enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

March 19, 2014

Summary

Here is another important chance to have your say and to help us advocate on making Ontario truly accessible to persons with disabilities.

We today make public a 50-page draft brief that we propose to submit to Ontario's Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC). Our draft brief comments on ASAC's March 3, 2014 initial proposal for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, which the Government enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Our draft brief builds on earlier submissions we have made to the Government, and on feedback we have received over the years.

We seek your feedback on this draft brief. We will take into account feedback that we receive by April 5, 2014, when we finalize our brief and submit it to ASAC. Send us your feedback by sending an email to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

On Monday, March 3, 2014, the Ontario Government posted for public comment the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council's (ASAC) initial proposal for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The AODA requires that it be reviewed no later than five years after it was enacted.

ASAC has invited the public to submit feedback, in writing, no later than April 16, 2014. Once ASAC receives this public feedback, it will review it, and then formulate its final proposals for the Government. The Government will then make ASAC's final proposal public for comment, and will then decide what, if any, revisions it will make to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

You can download our draft brief to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council on its proposed revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

Below we set out our brief's summary of its findings and conclusions. In short, we find that the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard is far too weak, and will not ensure fully accessible customer service in Ontario by 2025, or ever. It needs to be substantially strengthened. We conclude that ASAC's proposed revisions to that Standard are entirely inadequate. They do not effectively address the Standard's serious flaws. In some cases, ASAC's recommendations would make things worse.

Our brief then offers 18 specific recommendations of our own, set out below,  for strengthening the Standard. We urge ASAC to adopt our recommendations when it finalizes its proposals and submits them to the Ontario Government.

Please send us your feedback. Also, feel free to borrow from our draft brief as much as you wish when you prepare your own written submissions to ASAC. If you end up concluding that you agree with our final brief, which we will make public as soon as we can after April 5, 2014, we will invite you to email ASAC to voice your endorsement.

The text of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard is available.

The text of ASAC's March 3, 2014 initial proposal for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

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MORE DETAILS 

Summary of the AODA Alliance's Position in this Draft Brief

In this brief, we provide a detailed critical analysis of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. We then discuss and offer recommendations regarding ASAC's proposed revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. After that, we offer our own recommendations for needed revisions to that Standard. Appendix 1 at the end of this brief lists all our recommendations in one place.

The Customer Service Accessibility Standard is far too weak. It needs to be substantially strengthened. At present, even if fully complied with, it will not ensure that customer service in Ontario becomes fully accessible by 2025, or indeed, ever. This is because:

  1. It only covers providers of goods and services, not facilities.
  2. It lacks needed clarity and specificity. It doesn’t include the key requirements of an AODA accessibility standard, because it doesn’t identify the barriers that need to be removed and/or prevented, and doesn’t set out time lines for completing these tasks. It largely delegates to service providers far too much unaccountable and unreviewable discretion to choose what barriers to remove and prevent, and to choose the time lines for removing and preventing them.
  3. What little the standard does require a service provider to do is subject to time lines that are too long.
  4. It weakly requires a service provider to “use reasonable efforts to ensure that its policies, practices and procedures fulfill a series of broad principles.” This doesn’t ensure that the policies and practices that a service provider establishes will be strong and effective. This limited obligation is potentially difficult to enforce.
  5. In one area, this standard inexcusably authorizes the creation of a new barrier. The AODA doesn’t allow an accessibility standard to do this.
  6. It doesn’t require service providers, and particularly larger organizations, to put in place an effective means for accountably delivering accessible customer services.
  7. In the important area of enforcing human rights, the standard applies to the Human Rights Tribunal and the weakened Ontario Human Rights Commission. However, it unjustifiably doesn’t apply to the Ontario Government’s new Human Rights Legal Support Centre, on whom persons with disabilities must depend to investigate and enforce their human rights cases.
  8. Its provision requiring training of a service provider’s staff and volunteers on disability needs is deficient; e.g. it doesn’t say it requires any training on the fundamental requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code, including the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities in customer service.
  9. Although it is good that the standard requires service providers to have a system in place to get feedback from patrons with disabilities, it doesn’t require persons in position of authority such as senior management to be notified of any of the feedback received, nor does it provide for any accountability whatsoever for action taken on such feedback.
  10. Its provisions for notifying the public about the availability of accessible services are seriously inadequate, and don’t ensure that that notification will be fully accessible to persons with disabilities.
  11. The standard permits a barrier-ridden process regarding notification of patrons about service disruptions.
  12. The final version of this standard is even weaker than the weak one which the Ontario government’s Customer Service Standards Development Committee proposed as its final recommendation on February 27, 2007.

ASAC's initial proposals for revision to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard are substantially inadequate. They for the most part do not address the major problems with the Standard that we have demonstrated, and that we made public over six years ago, on September 12, 2007. Some of ASAC's proposals would make things worse, by further weakening this Standard. While some acceptable improvements are proposed, these fall very far short of what is needed. Unless substantially more is done to strengthen the Standard, it will not ensure that customer service in Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, or ever.

We propose that the Customer Service Accessibility Standard should also be revised to:

  1. strengthen purpose of the Standard
  2. redefine classes of organizations under the Standard
  3. include in the standard comprehensive provisions targeted at specific recurring barriers and specific required corrective action
  4. revise the standard to effectively address accessibility barriers in the built environment that impede accessible customer service
  5. ensure that signage is accessible and doesn't create barriers
  6. ensure timely snow removal to ensure physical accessibility
  7. expand duty to provide accessible point-of-sale devices and self-service kiosks
  8. prohibit any surcharge for accessible customer service
  9. require organizations to review their goods, services and facilities for barriers
  10. work towards providing goods, services and facilities that are disability-accessible
  11. require organizations to post and file with the government an their service accessibility policies
  12. require regularly publicizing for customers the availability of accessibility supports and opportunities for giving feedback to the organization
  13. provide one-stop staff person to be available when needed for customer service accommodation and accessibility support
  14. improve customer service training
  15. require organization's senior management to periodically review feedback received on accessible customer service
  16. make it easier for people with disabilities to provide documentation that they are accompanied by a qualified service animal
  17. remove the exemption for accommodating people using service animals if otherwise excluded by law
  18. repeal the power to require a person with a disability to bring a support person and power to charge an additional admission fee