The AODA was created with the intent to make Ontario a more accessible place to live and work, by clearly identifying, removing and preventing barriers for persons with disabilities. Making Ontario more accessible for people with disabilities creates a win-win situation for both businesses and customers.
Through this piece of legislation, five standards have been developed which place mandatory requirements on private and public sector businesses with at least one employee in Ontario. These standards are: Customer Service; Information and Communication; Employment, Transportation; and Built Environment.
Accessibility is not just for customers with disabilities but also for families visiting an establishment or place of business, older customers with different needs and potentially any customer in one way or another.
Most people think of disabilities as physical disabilities such as an individual who uses a wheelchair. In fact, there are numerous other disabilities including many that are invisible or episodic and disabilities can vary in degree and seriousness. Regardless of the severity of the disability, disabilities include vision, hearing, deaf-blind, physical, speech or language, mental health, intellectual, development and learning.
According to current statistics, 1 in 7 Ontarians currently have a disability. This is expected to grow to 1 in 5 in the next 20 years. Less than 2% of Canadians with a disability require the use of a wheelchair. The majority of disabilities are not readily apparent and may include invisible disabilities such as: anxiety, asthma, developmental disabilities and diabetes.
Businesses with improved accessibility will appeal to a wider range of visitors ensuring they are accessible by anyone.
Businesses who adopt the changes detailed within the AODA, and are adaptable to this change will gain an important opportunity of tapping into a larger market by offering all customers the ability to access its goods and services. Breaking down barriers is not only legally required, but makes great business sense.
Improving accessibility will mean that more people will have access to shops, stores, goods, services, restaurants, hotels, motels and attractions. Increasing communication so that the needs of your customers are considered is not only a best business practice but will also ensure business owners are aware of and responsive to customer requirements.