How to train your staff on accessibility
Learn about the training requirements for staff under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).
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The AODA is the law that sets out a process for developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards. Government, businesses, non-profits and public sector organizations must follow the standards. Accessibility laws and standards help to reduce and remove barriers and make Ontario more inclusive for everyone.
Who you need to train
All designated public sector, businesses and non-profit organizations with one or more employee must provide training to:
- all employees and volunteers (paid and unpaid, full-time, part-time and contract positions)
- anyone involved in developing your organization’s policies (including managers, senior leaders, directors, board members and owners
- anyone who provides goods, services or facilities to customers on your organization’s behalf (such as external contact centres or facilities management companies)
Organizations are not required to train employees working outside of Ontario.
You must provide the training as soon as possible after an employee or volunteer joins your organization.
Accessibility training checklist
Use our interactive accessibility training requirements checklist (PDF) to easily identify the AODA requirements that apply to your organization. Open the PDF file on your computer using Adobe Reader version 10 or later. Do not open the file in your browser.
You must train your staff on:
- accessible customer service
- work related accessibility training that is relevant to your employees’ responsibilities
- the Ontario Human Rights Code (as it relates to people with disabilities)
- changes to your accessibility policies
Accessible customer service training
You must train all staff on how to interact with people with different disabilities.
Customers can be anyone who is accessing your organization’s goods, services or facilities. This can include paying and non-paying members of the public and other businesses in business-to-business relationships.
Your training must include:
- the purpose of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
- an overview of the requirements of the customer service standard
- your organization’s policy on providing accessible customer service
- how to interact with people with various types of disabilities
- how to interact with people who use an assistive device or require the assistance of a service animal or support person
- information on how to use any equipment or devices available in your organization to help provide goods, services or facilities to people with disabilities (for example, screen readers, lifts, TTY phone line)
- what to do if a person with a disability is having difficulty accessing your organization’s goods, services or facilities
- the accessibility standards and the Ontario Human Rights Code as it relates to people with disabilities
You must also train your staff when there are any changes to your accessible customer service policies. Find free education modules to meet the customer service training requirements under Ontario’s accessibility laws.
Work related accessibility training
You must train all staff on:
- areas of the accessibility standards that are relevant to their work responsibilities
- information and communications
- design of public spaces
A human resources manager may need different training than a cashier. If you use job descriptions in your organization, they may help you determine what training needs are required for your employees.
Find free education modules to meet the training requirements under Ontario’s accessibility laws.
Training on the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA
Organizations must provide training on the accessibility standards and on the Ontario Human Rights Code as it relates to people with disabilities. Find free training modules to learn about your rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA.
Maintain records of training
You must maintain training records if you are:
- Government of Ontario or Legislative Assembly
- a designated public sector organization of any size
- a business or non-profit organization with 50 or more employees
Written training records must include when the training was delivered, who attended and how many people took the training.
People with physical/mobility disabilities
Only some people with physical disabilities use a wheelchair. Someone with a spinal cord injury may use crutches while someone with severe arthritis or a heart condition may have difficulty walking longer distances.
People with vision loss
Vision loss can restrict someone’s ability to read, locate landmarks or see hazards. Some customers may use a guide dog or a white cane, while others may not. Not everyone with vision loss is totally blind. Many have some vision.
People with hearing loss
People who have hearing loss may be deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. They may also be oral deaf – unable to hear but prefer to talk instead of using sign language. These terms are used to describe different levels of hearing and/or the way a person’s hearing was diminished or lost.
People who are deafblind
A person who is deafblind has some degree of both hearing and vision loss. People who are deafblind are often accompanied by an intervenor, a professional support person who helps with communication.
People with speech or language disabilities
Cerebral palsy, stroke, hearing loss or other conditions may make it difficult for a person to pronounce words or express themselves. Some people who have severe difficulties may use a communication board or other assistive devices.
People who have learning disabilities
The term “learning disabilities” refers to a range of disorders. One example is dyslexia, which affects how a person takes in or retains information. This disability may become apparent when a person has difficulty reading material or understanding the information you are providing.
People who have developmental disabilities
Developmental disabilities (for example, Down syndrome) or intellectual disabilities, can mildly or profoundly limit a person’s ability to learn, communicate, do every day physical activities and live independently. You may not know that someone has this disability unless you are told.
People who have mental health disabilities
Mental health disability is a broad term for many disorders that can range in severity. It can affect a person’s ability to think clearly, concentrate or remember things. A person with a mental health disability may experience depression or acute mood swings, anxiety due to phobias or panic disorder, or hallucinations.
You may not know someone has a mental health disability unless you are told. Stigma and lack of understanding are major barriers for people with mental health disabilities.
People who use assistive devices
An assistive device is a piece of equipment a person with a disability uses to help them with daily living (for example, a wheelchair, screen reader, hearing aid, cane or walker, an oxygen tank).
If your organization offers any equipment or devices that can help customers with disabilities access your services, make sure you and your staff know how to use them. It could be helpful to have instruction manuals handy or an instruction sheet posted where the device is located or stored.
Some examples of assistive devices that your organization might offer include:
- mobility device, such as a manual wheelchair or motorized scooter
- lift, which raises or lowers people who use mobility devices
- technology that makes it easier for people with disabilities to communicate or access information, such as certain computer software, an amplification system or a TTY phone line
- accessible interactive kiosk, which might offer information or services in braille or through audio headsets
People who use service animals
There are various types of service animals who support people with various types of disabilities. People with vision loss may use a guide dog. Hearing alert animals help people with hearing loss. Other service animals are trained to alert a person to an oncoming seizure or to help people with autism, mental health disabilities, physical disabilities and other disabilities.
The law requires you to allow service animals on the parts of your premises that are open to the public. In cases where another law prohibits a service animal from entering certain areas (for example, a service animal would not be allowed in the kitchen of a cooking school), provide another way for the person to access your goods, services or facilities.
While service animals may be prohibited from certain areas, service dogs are allowed in areas where food is sold, served or offered for sale. This includes a restaurant’s public dining room.
People with a support person
A support person may accompany some people with disabilities. A support person can be a paid personal support worker, an intervenor, a volunteer, a family member or a friend. A support person might help your customer with communication, mobility, personal care or with accessing your services.
Welcome support people to your workplace or business. They are permitted in any part of your premises that is open to the public. If your organization is one that charges admission, such as a movie theatre, provide advance notice about what admission fee or fare will be charged for a support person.
When it may be necessary to require a support person
There are certain cases when it might be necessary for a person with a disability to be accompanied by a support person on your premises. You must first discuss the situation with the person and consider available evidence before you determine that:
- a support person is necessary to protect the health or safety of the person with a disability or the health or safety of others on the premises; and
- there is no other reasonable way to protect the health or safety of the person with a disability and that of others on the premises
In such a situation, your organization must waive the admission fee or fare, if one exists, for the support person,.
People accessing goods, services or facilities
If you notice that your customer is having difficulty accessing your goods, services or facilities, a good starting point is to simply ask “How can I help you?”
Your customers are your best source for information about their needs. Being flexible and open to suggestions will help create a good customer experience. A solution can be simple and they will likely appreciate your attention and consideration.
The aim and purpose of this webpage is to help individuals and organizations with information related to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and its associated Integrated Accessibility Standards regulation O. Reg 191/11. While we aim to provide relevant and timely information, no guarantee can be given as to the accuracy or completeness of any information provided. This guidance is not intended to nor does it provide legal advice and should not be relied upon or treated as legal advice. Those seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified legal professional.
In case of discrepancy between website content and relevant Ontario legislation and regulations, the official version of Ontario Acts and Regulations as published by the King's Printer for Ontario will prevail.
The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility and the Government of Ontario do not endorse or recommend any accessibility consultant(s), their advice, opinions or recommendations.