Policy

SECTION: GENERAL ADMINISTRATION

INDEX NO.: 102-004

TITLE: EQAO Accessibility Policy

POSTED/PUBLISHED: June 6, 2019

EFFECTIVE DATE: March 1, 2010

UPDATE APPROVED: April 23, 2019

Introduction

In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was established. Ministries, public bodies and the private sector must comply with its requirements by 2021. To prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities, the Ontario government developed a supporting regulation: the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), which is a grouping of five AODA standards. The following components of the IASR apply to EQAO:

  • General Requirements,
  • Information and Communications Standards,
  • Employment Standards and
  • Customer Service Standards.

Under the AODA, the EQAO classifies as a large designated public sector organization with more than 50 employees.

EQAO’s Commitment to Accessibility

EQAO is committed to providing students, parents, guardians, the public and EQAO staff with goods and services that are free of barriers and biases. The agency strives to ensure that it offers support and resources that reflect the key principles of independence, dignity, respect, integration and equality of opportunity. EQAO’s conduct demonstrates its belief in the strength diversity brings to communities.

Purpose

This policy sets out the practices and procedures that guide EQAO’s accessibility business practices and protects personal information in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Application

This policy applies to the board of directors, senior management as well as all full- and part-time employees, contract workers, consultants, interns, students and temporary workers. Unless approved in writing by the executive team at EQAO, there are no exceptions to this policy.

Content

This policy lays out EQAO’s guiding principles and overarching actions to ensure that persons with accessibility needs receive EQAO’s good and services with equal or better standards than those without accessibility needs. This policy follows the AODA, IASR and Ontario Human Rights Code.

Principles

EQAO has adapted guiding principles established by the Ontario Public Service (OPS) to reflect the agency’s commitment to accessibility. Overall, EQAO’s leadership, management and staff must use reasonable efforts to ensure that programs, processes, policies, procedures and guidelines include the ability to provide accessible goods and services to people with disabilities within and outside the agency.

On Accessibility

  • Dignity: The principle of respecting the dignity of people with disabilities means treating them as customers who are valued and deserving of timely service as high quality as that any other customer receives. People with disabilities must not be treated as an afterthought or forced to accept lesser service, quality or convenience. The delivery of goods and services must take into account how people with disabilities can access and use them effectively.
  • Independence: In some instances, independence means freedom from control or influence of others—in other words, the freedom to make one’s own choices. It can also mean freedom to do things one’s own way. People who move or speak differently must not be denied the opportunity to participate in a program or service, for example.
  • Integration: The provision of goods or services must be integrated so that people with disabilities and those without benefit from the same services, in the same place and in the same or a similar way. Integration means that policies, programs, services, practices and procedures are designed to be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.
  • Equal opportunity: Equal opportunity means that people with disabilities have the same access as others to obtain, use and benefit from goods or services. People with disabilities should not have to make significantly more effort to access or obtain services, and they should not have to accept lesser quality or more inconvenience than other customers.

On Privacy

  • In addition to ensuring that people with accessibility needs receive EQAO’s goods and services in a way that guarantees dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity, the agency also ensures that all privacy needs are fulfilled in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Definitions

AODA: the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005) and its regulations.

Accessibility: refers to “giving people of all abilities opportunities to participate fully in everyday life. It is used to describe how widely a service, product, device or environment is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility can be seen as the ability to access and benefit from a system, service, product or environment.”1

Accessible formats: “may include, but are not limited to, large print, recorded audio and electronic formats, braille and other formats usable by persons with disabilities.”2

Accommodation: under the Human Rights Code, “organizations are required to prevent and remove barriers and provide accommodation to the point of undue hardship. The principle of accommodation arises most frequently in the context of creed, family status, sex (pregnancy) and disability, as well as age, gender identity and gender expression.”3

Assistive device: any device used by people with disabilities to help with daily living; any auxiliary aid such as communication aids, cognition aids, personal mobility aids, mobility assistive devices and medical aids (wheelchairs, walkers, white canes, oxygen tanks and electronic communication devices).

Barrier: anything that keeps someone with a disability from participating in all aspects of society. Examples of barriers include the following:

  • Attitudinal barriers: “may result in people with disabilities being treated differently than people without disabilities”4 (e.g., a receptionist who talks to an individual’s support person rather than to the individual with a disability);
  • Informational or communication barriers: “arise when a person with a disability cannot easily receive and/or understand information that is available to others”5
  • Technological barriers: “occur when technology or the way it is used does not meet the needs of people with disabilities”6 (e.g., e-mails or other electronic communications that are not accessible to people who use screen readers);
  • Systemic barriers in policies, practices and procedures: result when people with disabilities are treated differently than others or sometimes excluded altogether;
  • Physical and architectural barriers: occur “in the environment and prevent access for people with disabilities.”7

Communication supports: “may include, but are not limited to, captioning, alternative and augmentative communication supports, plain language, sign language and other supports that facilitate effective communications.”8

Customer: any person who uses the goods and services of the agency, such as educators, students, parents and guardians, educational stakeholders, the public and EQAO staff. Guide dog: “means a dog trained as a guide for a blind person and having the qualifications prescribed by the regulations” R.S.O. 1990, c. B.7, s. 1 (1).

Guide dog: “means a dog trained as a guide for a blind person and having the qualifications prescribed by the regulations” R.S.O. 1990, c. B.7, s. 1 (1).9

Person with a disability: an individual who has a disability. “Disability” is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code as

  • “any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device;
  • a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability;
  • a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language;
  • a mental disorder; or
  • an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.”10

Service animal: “An animal is a service animal for a person with a disability if

  1. the animal can be readily identified as one that is being used by the person for reasons relating to the person’s disability, as a result of visual indicators such as the vest or harness worn by the animal; or
  2. the person provides documentation from one of the following regulated health professionals confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability:
    1. A member of the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario.
    2. A member of the College of Chiropractors of Ontario.
    3. A member of the College of Nurses of Ontario.
    4. A member of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario.
    5. A member of the College of Optometrists of Ontario.
    6. A member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
    7. A member of the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario.
    8. A member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
    9. A member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists and Registered Mental Health Therapists of Ontario. O. Reg. 165/16, s. 16”

Support person: “means, in relation to a person with a disability, another person who accompanies the person with a disability in order to help with communication, mobility, personal care or medical needs or with access to goods, services or facilities.”12

General

EQAO will

  • regularly monitor accessibility updates to the AODA and IASR annually.
  • review all EQAO policies, procedures and guidelines, always considering an accessibility lens, and at a minimum, fulfilling AODA and IASR requirements.
  • make the AODA and IASR regulations available in an accessible format upon request.
  • update its Multi-Year Accessibility Plan every five years in accordance to the AODA.

Accessible Customer Service Business Practices

  • EQAO is committed to providing exceptional and accessible service to its customers.
  • Goods and services will be provided in a manner that takes disabilities into account, that respects the dignity and independence of all customers and that integrates accessibility into the agency’s business practices wherever possible.
  • These business practices include, but are not limited to, development of materials, reporting of data and information, procurement, and the development of policies, procedures or guidelines as well as new systems and services.
  • Persons with disabilities will be given equal opportunity to obtain, use and benefit from the goods and services provided by or on behalf of EQAO.

Procurement

To make sure the needs of people with accessibilities needs are included in all of the agency’s procurement processes and practices (where required), EQAO will

  • incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features into its procurement practices so that goods, services and facilities are more accessible to people with disabilities, unless it is not practicable to do so.
  • include, where applicable, in procurement documents specific details about the desired accessibility criteria to be met and provide guidelines for the evaluation of proposals in respect of those criteria.
  • verify that any good or service procured for the agency fulfills accessibility requirements (in cases when the procured good or service has accessibility requirements).
    • Note: It is the providers’ responsibility to ensure that the accessibility regulations, specifications and standards are met.
  • incorporate accessibility criteria and features into the procurement or redesign of any space to be owned or leased by the organization, where applicable.
  • provide an explanation as to why it did not incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features (when requested and in cases where it was not feasible).
  • use the Government of Ontario online tool, “Accessibility Rules for Procurement,” to better guide procurement processes and practices.

Information and Communications

EQAO is committed to meeting the communication needs of people with disabilities. When asked, the agency will

  • provide information and communications materials in accessible formats or with communication supports. This includes publicly available information about EQAO’s goods, services and facilities, as well as emergency and safety information.
  • consult with people with disabilities to determine their informational and communication needs.

Employment

EQAO is committed to fair and accessible employment practices. The agency will

  • notify the public and staff that, when requested, it will accommodate disabilities during its recruitment, assessment and hiring processes.
  • create an individual accommodation plan or provide workplace emergency response information for any employees who have a disability, if needed.
  • include the accessibility needs of employees with disabilities in their performance management, career development, redeployment and return-to-work processes.
  • inform employees (current and new) of the policies used to support its employees with disabilities, including, but not limited to, policies on the provision of job accommodations that take into account an employee’s accessibility needs due to disability.
  • provide updated information to its employees whenever there is a change to existing policies on the provision of job accommodations that take into account an employee’s accessibility needs due to disability.
  • consult with an employee with a disability who requests accessible formats and communication supports for information that is
    • needed in order to perform the employee’s job.
    • generally available to employees in the workplace.

Use of Assistive Devices

The agency will

  • ensure that staff members are aware of all accessibility devices for customers available on EQAO premises, such as assistive devices or equipment for customers and any other equipment that may be used or acquired.
  • allow customers to use their own assistive device to access the agency’s goods and services, when possible.

Use of Service Animals

EQAO will

  • ensure that any facility it occupies will accommodate to the maximum extent possible a person with a disability who is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal in their care and control (e.g., in case other receivers of EQAO’s goods and/or services report allergies to animals, EQAO will find alternative accommodations to the maximum extent possible).

Use of Support Persons

EQAO will

  • ensure that any facility it occupies will accommodate a person with a disability who is accompanied by a support person.
  • enable the support person to participate in public events or individual meetings at the discretion or choice of the person with the disability.
  • make sure that any cost associated with admission to an event applicable to the support person will be communicated through public notice in advance.

Notice of Temporary Service Disruption

  • Any potential disruptions to EQAO-related activities that could affect persons with disabilities will be communicated in a notice.
  • The notice will include the reason for the disruption, its anticipated duration and a description of alternative facilities or services, if any.
  • Notice of temporary service disruptions will be posted in a conspicuous place at the physical location of the service disruption.

Training

EQAO will

  • ensure that all staff complete their training as required by the IASR.
  • provide training as soon as is practical once the agency has hired an individual or if there is a change to the agency’s procedures and practices governing the provision of goods or services to persons with disabilities. The training will include
    • a review of
      • the purposes of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005; and
      • the requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Ontario Regulation 191/11;
    • instructions on
      • EQAO’s policies, procedures, guidelines and practices pertaining to the provision of goods and services to persons with disabilities;
      • how to interact and communicate appropriately with persons with various types of disabilities;
      • what to do if a person with a disability is having difficulty accessing EQAO’s goods and/or services; and
      • how to interact with persons with disabilities who use assistive devices or who require the assistance of a support person or service animal; and
    • information about the equipment or devices available on EQAO’s premises that may help with the provision of goods or services to persons with disabilities.
  • offer training sessions to all staff if there is a change to the agency’s procedures and practices governing the provision of goods or services to people with disabilities.

Feedback Process

In serving customers with disabilities, EQAO’s goal is to meet and surpass expectations. Comments about how well the agency meets those expectations are welcome and appreciated.

EQAO will

  • receive feedback about the delivery of goods and services to persons with disabilities by telephone, in person, in writing and in an electronic format (whether it be e-mail or any other web-based means of communication).
  • log, investigate and report any accessibility-related feedback.
  • respond immediately to all queries relating to accessibility concerns.

Notice of Availability and Format of Documents

EQAO will

  • provide public notice regarding the availability of documentation to persons with disabilities, as required by the Accessibilities for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.
  • make available upon request (subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) all documents required by the IASR, including EQAO’s Accessibility Policy, notices of temporary disruptions, training records and written feedback process.
  • provide documents or the information in them to persons with disabilities in a format they can use.
    • The preparation of an alternative format may result in delays in providing the requested information.

1Government of Ontario. (2019). How to Create an Accessibility Plan and Policy.
2Integrated Accessibility Standards, O. Reg. 191/11 (2013).
3Ontario Human Rights Code, (2013). Accommodation policy and procedure in A policy primer: Guide to developing human rights policies and procedures.
4Government of Ontario. (2019). How to Create an Accessibility Plan and Policy.
5Ibid.
6Ibid.
7Ibid.
8Integrated Accessibility Standards, O. Reg. 191/11 (2016).
9Blind Persons’ Rights Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. B.7 (1990).
10Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19 (2019).
11Integrated Accessibility Standards, O. Reg. 191/11 (2016).
12Ibid.

For more information

For more information on this policy, please contact Nelson Palacio.
Phone: 416-325-6516
Email: Nelson.Palacio@eqao.com

Accessible formats of this document are available free upon request.

References

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, S.O. 2005, c. 11 (2005).

Blind Persons’ Rights Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. B.7 (1990).

Government of Ontario. (2019). How to Create an Accessibility Plan and Policy.

Integrated Accessibility Standards, O. Reg. 191/11 (2016).

Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19 (2019).

This policy aligns with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the agency’s equity and inclusion practices.

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