Integrated Accessibility Standards: Choosing the Right Training for Your Organization

By Melissa Magder

Training is a mandatory requirement under the AODA Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) for organizations with more than one employee.

Private and not-for-profit organizations with 50 or more employees must meet this requirement by Jan. 1, 2015. Similar to the Customer Service Standard, organizations must document training, including who was trained, on what content, on what date, and by what method.

Private and not-for-profit organizations with fewer than 50 employees must meet this requirement by Jan. 1, 2016. While it is not a requirement for this group to document training, they could be questioned about their training process if audited or inspected by the government. They may then be asked to document and record training going forward, therefore, from a “best practice” standpoint, it is recommended that organizations of all sizes document and record their training. This can be done quite simply by way of computer tracking, certificates or manual signing sheets.

WHO needs to be trained: All employees (paid and unpaid), volunteers, board members, anyone who provides goods, services or facilities to your customers, and those responsible for developing policies for the organization need to be trained. Organizations are also required to train new employees soon after joining the organization and if/when accessibility policies change.

WHAT needs to be trained: Training must be provided on the requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Standards and disability-related obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The legislation further states that training should be based on job duties and be appropriate to a person’s role or function within the organization. For example, the role of a cashier is different from the role of a human resources manager, which is in turn different from the role of a facilities or maintenance supervisor. From an AODA training perspective, the cashier’s training needs to be service oriented, the human resources manager needs to focus on employment processes and accommodating candidates and employees with certain supports, and the facilities/maintenance supervisor needs to pay particular attention to physical barriers that prevent access to the site such as garbage bins and sidewalk maintenance. It is therefore very important to look at the scope of different roles in an organization and identify how the IASR requirements impact those duties.

From a “best practice” standpoint, it is recommended that organizations have at least two levels of training—one for staff and one for management and supervisors.

HOW to train: The method by which organizations choose to train their staff may differ depending on the size of the organization and/or the function of various roles. For example, volunteers may receive a shorter training program than other staff if they are with the organization for a short time only, or if they work in a limited capacity. Training can also be provided in a variety of formats including interactive workbooks, classroom training and online training. An increasing number of organizations are turning to online training as their preferred mode of training for a variety of reasons. In addition to being easy to use, highly time- and cost-effective, and available 24/7, organizations can ensure participants truly understand what is being taught via “testing” of new knowledge throughout the program and/or at the end of the program via a final quiz. Remember—the goal of any training program is to transfer knowledge that can actually be used in the workplace!

Considerations: No matter what training method an organization chooses, remember that everyone is required to learn about the AODA and how to eliminate and prevent barriers to persons with disabilities. While physical barriers in the workplace are the ones that are most noticeable, the largest obstacles for persons with disabilities tend to be created by attitudes and a lack of awareness from others. That is why it is strongly recommended that staff be trained on how to work effectively with coworkers who have disabilities and create a welcoming workplace that is barrier-free. Note that this type of training will in almost all cases be included in an organization’s Multi-Year Accessibility Plan—a key component of the IASR that we will be addressing in the next issue of FORUM. The goal of reaching a comfort level working and interacting with persons who have disabilities is something that all organizations should strive to achieve.