Accessing current local labour market information is a continuing challenge. PHWDG has taken on the challenge of improving the supply of such information for the Peel & Halton Regions. Beginning in 2011, PHWDG committed to survey employers annually about their needs as it pertains to their workforce needs. The survey investigates a range of parameters including expected retirement rates; training priorities and significance of newcomers to Canada as potential employees.
Population growth in Peel and Halton Regions has continued at a high rate, based on the 2011 Census figures. Mississauga and Brampton are now the 3rd and 4th largest municipalities in Ontario, while Milton had the largest population growth of any larger municipality in Canada between 2006 and 2011.
Four years after the start of the recession and it is striking how its impact lingers. Employment is showing some signs of recovery, with the unemployment rate for youth still needing further improvement.
In terms of number of employers in Peel and Halton Regions, the data is finally offering some good news, as firms across all employee size categories increased over the 2011 figures (except for firms with zero employees). These increases were experienced across most industries.
Excellence in customer service is the goal of any successful business today. Ensuring you are accessible and open to all your customers, including people with disabilities, is what the Customer Service Standard is all about. Improving accessibility to your goods and services by removing and preventing barriers helps everyone.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
In June of 2005 the Ontario government passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The legislation establishes standards for accessibility.
The first of those standards, the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Customer Service Standard), came into effect on January 1, 2008 and by January 1, 2012, every business in Ontario that provides goods or services to the public and other organizations and has at least one employee must be in compliance.
What will you have to do to comply?
By January 1, 2012, Ontario businesses and organizations will be required to:
Policies - Set up policies, practices and procedures on providing goods and services to people with disabilities. Include a policy on how people with disabilities who use assistive devices can access your goods and services.
Communication - Communicate with people with disabilities in a manner that takes into account his or her disability.
Training - Provide training - to staff and any other people who interact with the public, or other third parties, on your behalf on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard. Also train those involved in developing your policies, practices and procedures on the provision of goods or services on a number of topics as outlined in the customer service standard.
Service Animals - Allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide dog or service animal in your areas open to the public.
Support persons - Permit people with disabilities who use a support person to bring that person with them. If you have an admission fee, let people know ahead of time what admission, if any, would be charged for a support person.
Temporary disruptions - Provide notice when facilities or services that people with disabilities rely on to access or use your goods or services are temporarily disrupted.
Feedback - Make sure people can provide feedback on how you provide goods or services to people with disabilities and how you will respond to them. Make it clear how people can provide this feedback.
Businesses with 20 or more employees will also need to file regular compliance reports. This can be done quickly online with a simple-to-use electronic form. Businesses with fewer than 20 employees must comply with the standard, but will not have to file reports.
What happens if you don't comply?
Under the AODA, the government has the authority to conduct inspections to ensure compliance. Organizations that are persistently non-compliant and have not returned to compliance with assistance efforts could be fined as high as $50,000 per day for individuals and $100,000 per day for corporations.
What is it going to cost?
For most businesses the cost of implementing the new standard on accessible customer service will be minimal.
Most of the requirements can be met with no-cost solutions such as simply asking customers with disabilities how you can best help them, being patient, and not making assumptions about what a customer with a disability may or may not be able to do.
Meeting the training component will require an hour or less for each employee.
The website, 'Access ON ' is available to help businesses attract more customers of all abilities. The site offers up-to-date information on the standards, tips on no-cost and low-cost solutions to make your business more accessible today, as well as some tools and resources to make compliance easier. You can find it at:
The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service is the first of five standards being developed under the AODA. The standards for employment, information and communications and transportation have been harmonized into the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), which came into effect on July 1, 2011. Information on the IASR can be found at: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/other_standards....
The standard for the built environment is still under consideration, and not yet law.
1.85 million, or one out of seven, people in Ontario have a disability. That number will grow to one in five by the year 2025. These measures also serve the growing population of seniors. By 2017 there will be more seniors than kids aged 0 to 14. It's a market that no business "big or small" can afford to overlook.
Shalini da Cunha is the Executive Director at Peel Halton Workforce Development Group and can be reached at 905-306-9588 x102