Ontario is Moving Forward
As a business owner in the province of Ontario, there are many things to consider. In addition to the everyday strategic business decisions you make, you must also consider and comply with the various legislative requirements. This includes The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). So what is the AODA? The AODA is the standard the Ontario Government has put in place with the goal to make the province accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. This legislation is addressing the issues and needs of people with disabilities to help remove the obstacles that make it difficult to access things that most of us might take for granted. It’s now the law and all companies and organizations, whether public or private, must adhere to this new standard.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is the legal framework for the Ontario Government to ensure businesses are providing the same level of service and accessibility to those with disability as they provide to those without disability. Compliance is essential for businesses for three reasons:
1. To help all Ontarians get services and goods in a manner that is reflective of their needs.
2. To increase the ease of doing business for everyone is smart business practice. In Ontario approximately 15.5% of the population has some kind of recognized disability. With an aging population this percentage is expected to increase over the next 20 years and is predicted to represent 40% of total income in Ontario.
3. For those businesses that resist this Act the government can conduct inspections, assign monetary penalties and prosecute through the courts. Visit here to find out more information.
So, as a business owner you have hopefully (or likely) already done your due diligence to meet the requirements for the first standard, the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service, and filed your compliance report with the government which was due December 31, 2012. But what about the remaining 4 standards; Employment, Information and Communications, Transportation, and Built Environment (Design of public spaces)?
The Government is working hard to phase these standards in between now and 2025 and deadlines are based on a number of factors related to your business. It is incredibly important for you as a business owner to be aware and understand what will be expected. There are many tools out there to help you meet the requirements and we have included a few for your references. The act itself, as well, as summaries can be referenced online here.
Not sure of what you need to do to be compliant or which deadlines you need to meet? The Ontario Government has created an AODA Compliance Wizard a great resource where you can see what regulations affect your business and what the timelines for compliance are for each section of the Act.
Not sure what kind of training to provide to meet the requirements under section 7 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation Resources? The Accessforward website has been developed and provides free resources to help you meet the training requirements under the act.
Need some help meeting the Employment standard requirements? The Conference Board of Canada has a great site and a Toolkit, that can be downloaded for free, to help businesses with meeting the employment requirement of the Act including templates. You can find the toolkit here.
Insurance and AODA
Now that you’re on your way to ensure that your business is compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act you’re home free, right? Not exactly.
As a result of the Built Environment Standard (Design of public spaces), coming soon will be changes to Ontario’s Building Code, which governs new construction and renovations in buildings. The standard of design for public spaces only applies to new construction and major changes to existing features (renovations). Existing structures are grandfathered and therefore no renovations have to be made to be compliant with the AODA. So if you are considering doing new construction or major renovations, you may want to consider doing a physical accessibility evaluation of your premise prior, using the following tool provided by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. For more information on the Built Environment Standard you can go here.
Not planning any new construction or major renovations?
That’s fine, but what if you have a business and there’s an accident or claim, which now requires a major renovation?
Construction will not be allowed to proceed until the whole building is compliant with Ontario’s Building Code. This is true even if only 25% of the building is damaged. 100% of the building must be compliant with the code. With the addition of the AODA a major renovation due to a claim will soon be affected by the AODA as well. For more information on Ontario Building Code check here.
The older the building, the more costly this compliance can become. That’s why having Bylaw coverage on your business’s insurance policy becomes incredibly important. What is Bylaw coverage? It provides coverage for construction costs that must be undertaken to comply with Ontario’s Building Code. Your commercial property policy should have this coverage included. If not, you should speak with your broker.
As a business owner, you need to make sure that your business property insurance policy has enough coverage to replace your entire building, not just rebuild it like it was, but to be able to rebuild it while taking Ontario’s Building Code into account. This means you should be thinking of what the extra costs will mean to your business to be compliant with Ontario’s Building Code. Will you have to add sprinklers, wheelchair ramps, elevators, updated plumbing or wiring, and other features you didn’t have to consider before. These items, and many more, could mean the rebuilding cost on your commercial property insurance policy might not be adequate.
If you want more information on Bylaw coverage or have questions about your commercial insurance or business insurance property policy please contact us here.
If you would like a quote about your business property click here.
Thanks for reading.