Ontario Public Service (OPS) accessible customer service policy
The Ontario Public Service (OPS) is committed to ensuring that the information and services we provide are accessible for all Ontarians. This includes providing services and programs that people with disabilities can use and benefit from equally and in a manner that respects their dignity and independence.
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The Government of Ontario supports the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in its laws, policies, programs and services. These obligations are spelled out clearly in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA), 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005.
The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07 (also known as the Accessible Customer Service Regulation), came into force on January 1, 2008. It was the first accessibility standard created under the authority of the AODA and was a significant step toward the goal of an accessible Ontario. The Government of Ontario was required to comply with the regulation by January 1, 2010.
The Integrated Accessibility Standards, Ontario Regulation 191/11 (IASR), which came into force in June 2011, creates standards in the areas of information and communications, employment, transportation and the design of public spaces. The requirements under this regulation are being phased in over time. As some of these requirements impact the way the government provides services to our customers, the Accessible Customer Service Policy will be reviewed and updated as needed to ensure consistency.
This policy also supports the service vision, principles and mandatory requirements of the Ontario Public Service (OPS) Service Directive and the OPS Common Service Standards, which are intended to guide ministries in their efforts to meet or exceed customer needs and expectations.
The Ontario Public Service (OPS) is committed to providing high-quality, cost-effective services that keep pace with rising public expectations. The OPS endeavors to demonstrate leadership for accessibility in Ontario. The goal is to ensure accessibility for our employees and the public we serve in our services, products and facilities.
The purpose of this policy is to:
- Outline the Ontario Government’s responsibilities for providing accessible goods and services to persons with disabilities as required by regulatory requirements set out in the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07 (also known as the Accessible Customer Service Regulation) and the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Ontario Regulation 191/11 (IASR). Note: This policy only deals with those elements of the IASR that impact the Government of Ontario’s services to its customers. Other elements of the IASR are captured in other relevant OPS policies.
- Support the service vision, principles and mandatory requirements of the OPS Service Directive and OPS Common Service Standards, which are intended to guide ministries in their efforts to meet or exceed customer needs and expectations.
Application and scope
This policy applies to:
- all ministries
- all consultants and contractors to ministries
This policy is intended to benefit the full range of persons with disabilities, as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA.
The Ontario Government is committed to ensuring that its policies, practices, procedures, and programs are consistent with the following principles:
- Goods and services are provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities.
- Goods and services are provided to persons with disabilities with the same attention to quality and timeliness that are provided to others.
- Goods and services to persons with disabilities are integrated with regular services, unless an alternate measure is necessary, to enable a person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the services.
- Customers with disabilities are given equal opportunity to obtain, use and benefit from government goods and services.
Whether a person’s disability is apparent or not, everyone should be treated with courtesy, made to feel welcome, and have their need for disability-related accommodation respected whenever they access a government service.
- Ministries will ensure that all employees, volunteers, and any other persons who provide government services or who are involved in developing policies, practices or procedures governing the provision of goods and services to the public participate in training in accessible customer service.
- Training will be provided as appropriate to the duties of the employees, volunteers and other persons who provide government goods and services, and will include:
- a review of the:
- purpose of the AODA
- Requirements of the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service Regulation and the standards referred to in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation that impact on the delivery of government services.
- Ontario Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities.
- Ontario Government policies, practices and procedures on the provision of services to persons with disabilities.
- instruction on:
- How to interact and communicate with persons with various types of disabilities.
- How to interact with persons with disabilities who use assistive devices or require the assistance of service animals or support persons.
- How to use assistive communication devices and other assistive devices available on the provider’s premises.
- What to do if a person with a disability is having difficulty accessing OPS goods and services.
- a review of the:
- New staff as well as those who take on new duties that involve interaction with the public or other third parties will receive training as part of their orientation; training will be provided as soon as is practicable upon an individual being assigned the applicable duties.
- Training will also be provided on an ongoing basis when changes are made to the policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of goods or services to persons with disabilities.
- All ministries will keep records of the accessibility training provided, including the dates on which training took place and the number of individuals to whom it was provided.
- Ministries will strive to effectively serve persons with disabilities who use assistive devices, to obtain, use or benefit from Ontario Government services.
- Ministries will inform customers of the assistive devices (e.g. TTY, sound amplification systems, mobility devices, video remote interpreting services, etc.) available at their various locations and ensure staff are trained on how to use them.
Use of service animals and support persons
- Persons with disabilities may bring their service animal to premises that are open to the general public or other users of government services, and will be able to keep their service animal with them unless the animal is expressly excluded from the premises by law.
- In cases where a service animal is excluded by law, ministry staff will ensure that appropriate alternative arrangements are offered to enable the person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the goods and services.
- If it is not readily apparent that the animal is a service animal, the person with a disability may be required to provide proof.
- Proof can be from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to his or her disability or documentation that shows the customer is certified as a service animal handler.
- It is the responsibility of the person with a disability to ensure that his or her service animal is kept in control at all times.
- Any person with a disability who is accompanied by a support person (e.g., sign language interpreters, real-time captioners, or attendants) will be allowed to enter government premises open to the public or to other third parties, with that person. At no time will a person with a disability who is accompanied by a support person be prevented from having access to that person while on government premises.
- On rare occasions, the provider of service may determine that a support person is required to protect the health or safety of the customer with a disability or that of others on the premises. In these cases, an explanation must be provided and documented.
- When support persons are required for ministry-sponsored meetings, consultations or events, ministries will arrange for and cover the costs for the necessary support persons to be present. If a person requests ahead of time to have their own support person present, the ministry may enter into an agreement with the person to pay support persons directly for their time and reasonable travel expenses on request, in accordance with government travel and hospitality guidelines.
- In situations where the confidential information of a customer with a disability is to be discussed, ministries must require permission from the customer (verbal or written) allowing their support person to be present. Ministries may also require the support person and customer to indicate in writing or otherwise, their understanding of confidentiality considerations where confidential ministry matters are being discussed.
- Where an admission fee is charged, ministries will not charge an admission fee for support persons. This policy will be posted (1) on the ministry’s website; (2) included in information where admission fees are published; and (3) at entrances and/or location(s) where fees are collected.
Information and communication
- Ministries will ensure that communications with their customers take the accessibility needs of people with disabilities into account. Staff will communicate using methods that enable people with disabilities to use, receive and request OPS services and facilities with the same quality and timeliness as others.
Accessible formats and communication supports
- When a customer requests an Ontario Government document or information in an accessible format or with a communication support, ministries will seek to provide the document or information in a way that takes into account the accessibility needs of the person with the disability.
- Ministries will inform the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports upon request, by placing notification in conspicuous places (e.g. on their websites, on their documents, on meeting invitations, etc.).
- In responding to a request for an accessible format or communication support, ministries will consult with the person with the disability to determine the appropriate format or support.
- Requests for accessible formats and communication supports will be met in a timely manner. If a ministry is unable to meet the request in a timely manner, the ministry will provide an explanation to the requestor or, where required, determine with the requestor, an alternate method for meeting the request. The acknowledgment of such requests and responses regarding the ministry’s ability to meet the request must be provided in accordance with the OPS Common Service Standards.
- No cost shall be charged to the individual to produce an accessible format or to provide a communication support. If there is normally a charge for a document or service, the ministry should charge the same cost for the document or service as would be charged to others, without passing along the cost of the conversion or support.
- In certain circumstances, ministries may not be able to meet the request for an accessible format or communication support, such as when information is not convertible as it is technically not feasible to convert it, or the technology or services needed to convert the information are not readily available. In these cases, ministries will provide an explanation to the individual making the request as to why the information is unconvertible and will also provide a summary of the unconvertible information to the customer.
- The ministry that is responsible for maintaining or producing the document is responsible for producing or arranging for the production of the accessible format of the document, regardless of where the request originated.
Accessible websites and web content
- Ministries are required to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities by conforming to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which are international standards to making websites and web content accessible to users with disabilities.
- Ministries will ensure that their internet websites and web content conform with the WCAG 2.0 standards at level AA in accordance with the schedule set out in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. For the Government of Ontario, this applies to new websites and new web content as of January 1, 2012; all internet websites and web content beginning January 1, 2016; and all internet and intranet websites and web content by January 1, 2020.
- Exceptions to this can be made when:
- Meeting the requirement is not practical (e.g. when the necessary software and tools are not available).
- The website or content is not controlled by the Government of Ontario, either directly or through a contractual relationship.
- The information or communication is not convertible.
- In these cases, an explanation of why the information is not convertible and a summary of the information or communication must be provided.
- For more information, please review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
- Ministries will inform customers of methods available for giving feedback, and will ensure these methods are accessible to persons with disabilities. This includes the option to provide feedback, and obtain a response to that feedback, through an alternate method and/or with communication supports upon request.
- Feedback may be provided in person, by telephone/TTY, in writing, by email, or by any other communication technology as required.
- Privacy will be respected and all feedback will be reviewed for action that may be taken to improve ministry services. Feedback received by ServiceOntario will be directed to a contact person at the appropriate ministry.
- Complaints will be addressed in accordance with ministry policy. However, some complaints may require more time and effort to address, such as consultations at a higher level.
- Customers can expect acknowledgement of feedback in accordance with the OPS Common Service Standards. If a conclusive response is not possible within the set timeframe, an interim response along with an estimated date for when the matter will be addressed and when the customer will be notified will be provided. Every effort will be made to provide the response in a format that is accessible to the person who provided the comments.
Notice of temporary disruption
- In the event of a planned or unexpected disruption in the facilities or services used by persons with disabilities, ministries will provide customers with notice of the disruption.
- This notice will include information about the reason for the disruption, how long the disruption is expected to last, whether any alternative facilities or services are available, and shall include either a contact name and telephone number, or will refer customers to a recorded message.
- The notice will be placed at all public entrances and service counters on ministry premises. Depending on the nature of the disruption, notice will also be provided on outgoing telephone and TTY messages and on ministry websites.
- This notice will be provided in an accessible format.
Roles and responsibilities
The OPS Diversity Office is responsible for reviewing and updating this policy as needed.
Deputy ministers are accountable for their ministries’ compliance with this policy; the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07; the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Ontario Regulation 191/11, and for reporting ministry compliance information to the OPS Diversity Office.
Assistant deputy ministers are accountable for divisional compliance with this policy; the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07; the Integrated Accessibility Standards (Ontario Regulation 191/11), and for reporting compliance information to facilitate collecting compliance information at the ministry level.
Managers are accountable for ensuring that this policy is communicated to staff and is carried out consistently. They are accountable for ensuring compliance with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07 and the Integrated Accessibility Standards (Ontario Regulation 191/11) within their departments, branches and units, and for reporting compliance information to facilitate collecting compliance information at the divisional and branch levels.
Staff are responsible for being aware of accessibility legislation, meeting these requirements in their daily work, and ensuring that accessible customer service is provided to all customers in accordance to this policy and related procedures.
Assistive devices: technical aids, communication devices, or medical aids that are used to increase, maintain, or improve how a person with a disability can function. Examples may include, but are not limited to, wheelchairs, walkers, note taking devices, portable magnifiers, recording machines, and assistive listening devices.
Accessible formats: as defined per the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, may include, but are not limited to, large print, recorded audio and electronic formats, braille and other formats usable by persons with disabilities.
Barrier: is defined in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act as anything that keeps someone with a disability from participating in all aspects of society. Examples of barriers include architectural or structural barriers, information or communications barriers, technological barriers, and attitudinal barriers.
Communications: is defined per the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation as the interaction between two or more persons or entities, or any combination of them, where information is provided, sent or received.
Communication supports: supports that individuals with disabilities may need to access information. As defined per the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, these may include, but are not limited to, captioning, alternative and augmentative communication supports, plain language, sign language, and other supports that facilitate effective communications.
Customer: is defined per the OPSService Directive, the direct user or recipient (sometimes involuntary recipient) of a service.
Disability is defined per the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Human Rights Code as follows:
- 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 coordination, 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
- An injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.
Information: is defined per the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation as data, facts, and knowledge that exists in any format, including text, audio, digital or images, and that conveys meaning.
Service animal is defined per the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service as follows:
- If it is readily apparent that the animal is used by the person with a disability for reasons relating to his or her disability; or
- If the person provides a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability.
Support person: as defined per the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, a "support person" means, in relation to a person with a disability, another person who accompanies him or her in order to help with communication, mobility, personal care or medical needs or with access to goods or services.
Temporary disruption: is a short term planned or unplanned disruption to facilities or services that the public usually uses to obtain goods and services.