Accessibility is the law in Ontario

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By Jackson Hayes

Ontario dealerships with 20 or more employees are running out of time to file Customer Service Standard reports and avoid the potential of government inspections and fines.

Accessible customer service came into effect for all Ontario businesses and organizations with one or more employee as of Jan. 1, 2012. According to the terms laid out by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, businesses with more than 20 employees must file a report informing the province it has met the standards by Dec. 31, 2012.

“Our first goal is always to help organizations meet their accessibility requirements. We are here to help you meet your commitments with educational tools and templates that will make it easier for you to understand what you need to do and how to do it,” the ministry explains on its website.

“For organizations that persist in not meeting their obligations, the government has the power to conduct inspections, assign monetary penalties and prosecute through the courts.”

The Accessibility Standard for Customer Service applies to all organizations (public, private and non-profit) that provide goods or services either directly to the public or to other organizations in Ontario and that have one or more employees in Ontario. This includes consultants, manufacturers and wholesalers as well as other businesses and professional services.

Ontario car dealerships are included in the program and those with more than 20 employees must create a plan, train staff, record the plan and report it to the ministry. Dealerships can use the Accessibility Compliance Reporting tool to report compliance available on ServiceOntario’s ONe-Source for Business website.

Anyone can complete the report, the government says, but only someone who can bind the organization (someone who can write cheques or contracts) can submit it.

Dealerships with fewer than 20 employees still need to create a plan and train its staff, but it does not need to report the plan to the province.

Count all full-time, part-time, seasonal and contract employees. Do not include volunteers or independent contractors.

The Accessibility Standard for Customer Service also requires organizations to have a feedback process so that customers can submit concerns or make a complaint. Businesses and organizations must also say how they will respond to feedback and act on complaints.

“Accessible customer service is not about ramps or automatic door openers,” the plan says. “It’s about understanding that people with disabilities may have different needs. It can be as easy as asking ‘How can I help?’ and making small changes to how you serve customers with disabilities.”