April 8, 2014
We have sent the Ontario Government our finalized April 4, 2014 brief on the initial proposal for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. We strongly encourage you to let the Government know if you endorse and support our brief. Take a moment to email the Government to let it know. You can send an email to the Government at: CSStandardFeedback@ontario.ca
We need the weak 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard to be substantially strengthened. Our brief explains why. It makes constructive proposals on how to strengthen it.
Below we set out a summary of our finalized brief on the initial proposal for revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You can download in MS Word format our finalized April 4, 2014 brief on the initial proposal for revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
We thank those who sent us feedback on the draft of our brief that we recently circulated for comment. We only made very minor changes to our draft brief before we finalized it.
Our efforts on your behalf to get the time extended for you to give the Government your input on the Customer Service Accessibility Standard have finally paid off. Initially, the Government gave the public only up to April 16, 2014 to give input. We asked for this deadline to be extended to May 22, 2014. Initially, the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) refused our request. However, in an email sent to the public and a new web posting on Monday, April 7, 2014, the Government announced that this deadline was being extended to May 22, 2014. See the text of that posting, below.
In other accessibility news, there have now been 141 days since we revealed back on November 18, 2013 that the Ontario Government had broken its promise to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and that the Government had known for months of rampant AODA violations by private sector organizations with at least 20 employees. We have also revealed that the Government has had on hand an unused plan for AODA enforcement and unused funds, that could be used for AODA enforcement. There have also been 47 days since the Toronto Star reported that the Ontario Government would make public a plan for enforcing the AODA “in short order.”
Learn more about the Government’s failure to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA despite the Government knowing of rampant private sector AODA violations, and despite ample enforcement funding on hand.
Read the February 20, 2014 Toronto Star article, reporting that the Government committed to make public an AODA enforcement plan “in short order”, after we revealed that the Government had sat on a 2012 AODA enforcement plan developed by the Ontario Public Service.
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Summary of Our April 4, 2014 Brief’s Conclusions and Recommendations for Improvements to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard
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.
In summary, 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:
a) It only covers providers of goods and services, not facilities.
b) It lacks needed clarity and specificity. It doesn’t include the key requirements of an AODA accessibility standard. This is 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.
c) What little the standard does require a service provider to do is subject to time lines that are too long.
d) 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.
e) In one area, this standard inexcusably authorizes the creation of a new barrier. The AODA doesn’t allow an accessibility standard to do this.
f) It doesn’t require service providers, and particularly larger organizations, to put in place an effective means for accountably delivering accessible customer service.
g) 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.
h) 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.
i) 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.
j) Its provisions for notifying the public about the availability of accessible services are seriously inadequate. They don’t ensure that that notification will be fully accessible to persons with disabilities.
k) The standard permits a barrier-ridden process regarding notification of patrons about service disruptions.
l) The final version of this standard is even weaker than the weak one that the Ontario government’s Customer Service Standards Development Committee proposed as its final recommendation on February 27, 2007.
ASAC’s March 3, 2014 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, 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:
- strengthen purpose of the Standard
- redefine classes of organizations under the Standard
- include in the standard comprehensive provisions targeted at specific recurring barriers and specific required corrective action
- revise the standard to effectively address accessibility barriers in the built environment that impede accessible customer service
- ensure that signage is accessible and doesn’t create barriers
- ensure timely snow removal to ensure physical accessibility
- expand the duty to provide accessible point-of-sale devices and self-service kiosks
- prohibit any surcharge for accessible customer service
- require organizations to review their goods, services and facilities for barriers
- work towards providing goods, services and facilities that are disability-accessible
- require organizations to post and file with the government their service accessibility policies
- require regularly publicizing for customers the availability of accessibility supports and opportunities for giving feedback to the organization
- provide a one-stop staff person to be available when needed for customer service accommodation and accessibility support
- improve customer service training
- require organization’s senior management to periodically review feedback received on accessible customer service
- make it easier for people with disabilities to provide documentation that they are accompanied by a qualified service animal
- remove the exemption for accommodating people using service animals if otherwise excluded by law
- repeal the power to require a person with a disability to bring a support person and power to charge an additional admission fee
Background on the Government’s Extending to May 22, 2014 the Deadline for Giving It Feedback on the Initial Proposal for Revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard
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 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The Customer Service Accessibility Standard was enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2007. The AODA requires that it be reviewed no later than five years after it was enacted.
ASAC invited the public to submit feedback, in writing, no later than April 16, 2014. Once ASAC receives 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.
We wrote ASAC on March 4, 2014 to raise concerns with its consultation process. Among other things, we asked ASAC to extend its consultation period to May 22, 2014. This is because its consultation period directly overlaps with the public forums and public consultation by the completely-separate Mayo Moran Independent Review of the AODA. The Government had previously extended similar consultation periods at our request, when we presented a good reason.
Despite this, in a March 13, 2014 email to us, ASAC refused all of our requests. We then urged ASAC to reconsider its position. We also called on the Ontario Government to implement our proposals for better ensuring that the ASAC public consultation is open, inclusive and effective.
Our tenacity yielded results. We commend the Government for its April 7, 2014 announcement, set out below, extending the deadline for providing public feedback, to May 22, as we had requested.
We urge the Government to act on our two other requests of ASAC. We urged ASAC to hold some public meetings to get feedback in person on its proposals. It should not limit the public to only giving feedback in writing. We also urged ASAC to ask the Government to far more widely publicize this consultation process.
Here is the text of the Government’s April 7, 2014 announcement:
“April 7, 2014
To provide individuals and organizations with additional time to submit feedback, the deadline for providing public comment on the proposed changes to the Customer Service Standard has been extended from April 16, 2014 to May 22, 2014.
To participate, visit ontario.ca/AccessON for information on the Standard Development Committee’s initial proposed changes and how to provide your feedback.
Public feedback is an important part of the process for developing and reviewing accessibility standards. The Committee welcomes your comments and thanks you in advance for your interest in improving accessibility in the Province of Ontario.”