Every three years nonprofits and businesses with 20+ employees need to complete a report with the Ontario Government confirming their compliance with the AODA. For public sector organizations, this must be done every two years.
In an effort to streamline what has been a challenging process in the past, now you just have three steps:
- Download the Accessibility Compliance Reporting Form
- Complete the form by answering the questions relevant to your organization’s size and type.
- Submit your completed form, after which you will a confirmation email that includes an accessible PDF copy of your report for your files.
Note: You’ll need your organization’s legal name, business number, and the name and contact information of your certifier (a director or senior officer with legal authority to say that the report is complete and accurate)
Changes to your organization’s information?
Notify the government of any changes to your organization (e.g. change in address, change in primary contact information, etc.).
Compliance Reporting Questions?
If you have any questions about accessibility compliance reporting or details necessary to complete the forms, contact Service Ontario:
- TTY: 1-800-268-7095 / 416-325-3408
Lett Architects is a full service architecture firm based in Peterborough. Run by Bill Lett, who has been principal for the last 10 years, the firm has designed major cultural, institutional, and healthcare projects throughout Ontario. In addition to being an award-winning architect, recognized for his design excellence, Lett is also a progressive employer who supports accessibility in the workplace. His recent full-time hiring of Intern Architect Amanda Motyer, who has a severe hearing loss, demonstrates that this firm doesn’t let a disability become a barrier to getting the job done.
Lett explains that when they make a hire, they want a professional who can look after all aspects of the job, from start to finish. “We don’t tend to pigeon hole employees into roles. They need to have that ability to not only work on their own, but also engage with the client, engage with stakeholders, and engage with contractors.” Motyer is no exception to this.
Motyer first came to Lett Architects through a co-op placement from her university several years ago. Initially, Lett thought it interesting that someone with a hearing disability should apply; “We’d never had that level of involvement,” says Lett. But he explains that a trial period is a nice way to get to know someone. After her initial co-op was completed, Motyer went back to school and then returned to do another co-op with them. “When she finished her Master’s degree, it made sense to hire her,” says Lett.
Motyer is involved in all aspects of her projects. She does design work, functional programming, construction documents, and construction administration—where she goes on construction sites and attends job site meetings. She also attends all project meetings that they have internally, and with consultants and clients.
Due to her hearing disability, Motyer is unable to use the phone. She communicates with clients and consultants through email. On the plus side, Lett explains, this enables her to focus more on her work. “By taking away that one piece of technology, what’s clear to everybody, is that it gives her the ability to focus better than anyone else in the office, which is really interesting.”
Lett admits he was a bit concerned at first, as using the phone is big part of their work. If a situation arises in which a phone call is required, another person will make a call on Motyer’s behalf. But Lett is quick to add that because they have multiple people working on any given project, this is never a problem.
Motyer can speechread, which is a combination of lipreading, residual hearing and guesswork. Face to face meetings and video conference calls work best. The only accommodation, says Lett, “is that we have to make sure that if we’re sitting at a table of say more than four people, that Amanda gets the most prominent spot from a visual standpoint, so she can see everyone.”
And they ask that everyone speaks one at a time; if multiple conversations start happening, she can become lost. “Whoever has the conch can speak,” Lett laughs. “It’s not that big a deal.”
In the studio, Motyer has her hearing dog, Tilley, with her. When colleagues need to get Motyer’s attention, they simply call her name. Tilley alerts Motyer and brings her to them.
“From a client experience, they love the fact that we have a working dog in the office.” When Tilley is in the studio, Lett explains, she doesn’t have her vest on, so people are allowed to pet her. “In a lot of cases, it cuts that initial tension in meetings.”
One of the areas of focus the firm has been looking at over the past few years is animal welfare projects. Motyer has a passion for this, and has been very involved. “You can imagine going to the Humane Society, everyone is very excited to see Tilley.” Client feedback has been very positive, says Lett. “Everyone is very accommodating.”
One of the company’s core values is to “maintain levity through discipline.” Lett explains that while they work hard, they try to have fun as well. Motyer takes part in all office activities, whether it is skiing in the winter, or paddle boarding in the summer — where Tilley joins her on the board.
Motyer has also assisted on an accessibility front. She sits on the Accessibility Advisory Committee of Peterborough. As Lett explains, “she’s been able to bring a better focus for us on accessibility issues as we think about our design work.”
Another of the company’s core values is to “engage communities,” which Lett has certainly done through his open hiring practices. By bringing Motyer onto the team, he not only acquires the services of a capable architect, he also sends a message to his clients and contractors that demonstrates his commitment to accessibility.
Lett highlights that Motyer is just as qualified and capable as the other architects in his firm. “She has the education and the ability to work on multiple facets of projects, the same way any other architect in the office would.” The accommodations are easy to do, he says, and they don’t cost anything extra. Lett explains that her disability is not a barrier: “Amanda is just as able.”
This interview and article was done by Accessibility Services Canada for the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA). OBIAA recently completed an 18-month EnAbling Change project, in partnership with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, entitled “Accessibility Smart: Make It Your Business”. Accessibility Services Canada managed the project, as well as designed and delivered the content. This was the second EnAbling Change project we managed for OBIAA.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
The Internet is perhaps the greatest inventions since the wheel. Think about what you use the Internet for in your daily life. Do you use it for work and leisure, for communication, shopping, government licenses and forms, or for education? Our lives revolve around the Internet and the services it provides, however, much of the Internet is inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Over 16% of Ontarians have a disability and that is expected to rise over the coming years as the population ages. By 2036, 47% of Ontario’s population is expected to be over 65 years of age. These are figures CSAE members cannot ignore! Everyone knows someone with a disability and that is why accessibility is so important to Ontario’s future. Accessibility affects multiple lives. It affects everyone.
Barriers to Accessible Communication
Vision impairment is one of the most common forms of disability. Do you wear glasses or know someone who does? There are many visual elements on a website that contribute to person’s experience or use of your site. Low contrast between text and background, small font size, long line lengths of text, or spacing that is too great or too small are some of the factors that can prevent someone from reading your web content.
Going deeper, many blind website visitors use a screen reader to access content online. However, much of the web is inaccessible to them due to lack of semantic coding, images with alternative (ALT) text, meaningful hyperlinks, keyboard navigation, and other factors.
There are other disabilities too, such as cognitive and mobility impairments. Barriers to people with cognitive impairments can include inconsistent layout or navigation elements, too much information on one page, unclear content, and flashing elements. We have found through our work with people with disabilities that web applications such as BrowseAloud are helpful, because they can read text aloud, highlight and define words for readers, or make audio files of website content.
People with mobility impairments sometimes use assistive devices to browse a website, such as a pointer stick, switch, or operating a computer through breath, eye gaze, or voice control. To ensure your website can be accessed through alternative means, make sure it can be navigate with a keyboard with clear and easy-to-access links and menus.
Everyone has the right to communicate. Your organization’s ability to provide information in accessible formats is not only the right thing to do, but allows you to reach all clients, staff, and the public – no matter what their abilities are. As our population ages and medicine advances, accessibility continues to become more and more important for you, your organization, and your community.
Ontario’s Accessibility Law
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law in 2005 with the aim to create a fully accessible province by 2025. The AODA includes rules that all businesses and organizations have to follow to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility in Ontario. The AODA has specific dates and guidelines for organizations like yours to follow to help you progress towards being a fully accessible by the 2025 deadline.
One important standard that the AODA includes is the Information and Communication Standard which lays out the requirements for Internet and intranet websites. The standard states:
“Designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall make their internet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA…” O. Reg. 191/11, s. 14 (2).
Website Accessibility Compliance
Starting January 1, 2014, all new websites and web content, or significantly redesigned websites, published by large businesses and nonprofit organizations are required to abide by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A. And, as of January 1, 2021, all internet website and web content will be required to be fully accessible under WCAG 2.0 Level AA. Failing to meet these requirements can have severe financial repercussions.
Fortunately, WCAG lays out a clear and thorough set of guidelines for organizations to follow in order to become Level A and Level AA compliant. Although it is tempting to start with Level A, we have found in our work that it is more cost effective for organizations in the long run to aim towards Level AA or Level AAA compliance when first thinking about accessibility. Further information on WCAG, including examples and techniques, can be freely accessed through the website, How to Meet WCAG 2.0: Quick Reference.
Would you like to learn more about website and document accessibility? Accessibility Services Canada offers workshops and webinars for technical as well as non-technical staff. Check out our accessibility training sessions.