Event industry professionals in Ontario face an increasingly intricate network of legislation with a direct impact on how business is conducted daily. First, there was the impact on event planners of the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling about TICO's jurisdiction. Now, Ontario event, meeting and conference planners also need to be aware that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) came into full effect on January 31, 2012.
It is important for event and meeting planners outside Ontario to be aware of this legislation as, often, provisions that are implemented in one jurisdiction eventually spread to others.
AODA stipulates that all events, conferences, business meetings and venues must be FULLY accessible to participants with physical challenges and other disabilities.
There are several levels to this requirement:
- transportation to and from event venues
- access to event and meeting venues
- ease of getting around conference, event and meeting facilities
- full access to content
This goes far beyond just ensuring that there are wheelchair-accessible ramps at venues. There are customer service standards, and accessibility could include providing:
- special parking areas
- braille handouts
- sign language interpreters
- facilities for guide dogs including access to emergency veterinary care
and much more. The key is to give participants the opportunity to identify what resources, tools and assistance they require for full access. In other words, ask don't assume. Staff training that meets the standards set out in AODA is an important part of the provisions. Staff must be trained about how to handle requests related to accessibility.
For organizations with 20 or more employees, there are specific AODA reporting requirements.
AODA is enforced through inspections. Failure to comply can result in:
- fines of up to $100,000 a day to organizations
- fines of up to $50,000 for each director
Every attendee has a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Even in jurisdictions where no legal framework is in place, it is in the best interests of our clients and our industry to take steps to ensure accessibility.
If there are similar provisions in your jurisdiction, please do add your comments. Let us know where you are based and about the provisions to ensure accessibility in your area.
Photo Credit: WELS.net
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