Did you know:

  • Nearly one in five York Region residents has at least one disability. This represents 162,600 people, about 18% of the population.
  • Provincially, as of May 2021, 296,021 Ontarians are receiving support from the Ontario Disability Support Program (O.D.S.P).
  • In a survey done in 2020, 38% of people who identify with having a disability have a yearly total household income of under $25,000 in Canada.

A “disability” can include, but is not limited to:

  • Physical disabilities
  • Sensory disabilities
  • Deafblind disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Mental health conditions
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Neurological disabilities
  • Speech or Language disabilities

Ontario Human Rights

The Ontario Human Rights Code of 1990 calls for equal rights, opportunities and freedom from discrimination. The Code prohibits discrimination in employment on grounds of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.

In the workplace, employees with disabilities are entitled to the same opportunities and benefits as people without disabilities. This may include special arrangements or workplace “accommodations” to enable them to fulfill their job duties.

Customers, clients and tenants with disabilities also have the right to equal treatment and equal access to facilities and services. Therefore, we must recognize the dignity and worth of every person and provide equal rights and opportunities to everyone without discrimination.

About the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

In 2005, the Government of Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (A.O.D.A.). Its goal is to make Ontario accessible by 2025. Accessibility standards are created as part of the A.O.D.A. These standards are rules that businesses and organizations in Ontario must follow in order to identify, remove and prevent barriers so that people with disabilities will have more opportunities to participate in everyday life.

The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service was the first standard to become law as part of the regulation. The next four standards — information and communications, employment, transportation and design of public spaces — have been combined under one regulation, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation or I.A.S.R. The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (I.A.S.R.) builds on the first standard for accessible customer service and moves us closer to an accessible Ontario by 2025.

Accessible Customer Service

The Town of Aurora is committed to providing excellent customer service to all residents and visitors and treating everyone with dignity and respect.

To do this, we must recognize the diverse needs of all of our residents — including the needs of people with disabilities.

In 2008, the Government of Ontario launched the Accessible Customer Service Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (A.O.D.A.). Its goal is to ensure that people with disabilities get the same level of customer service as everyone else.

The law requires that all public and private sector organizations in Ontario, including The Town of Aurora, identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessible customer service. It also states that all staff, Council members, volunteers, board and advisory committee members must be trained on how to provide accessible customer service.

This guide will give you tips on how best to interact with a person who has a disability, so that you can provide excellent customer service to all Aurora residents and visitors.

When interacting with a person with a disability, remember the T.A.L.K. principle:

T  - Take the time to ask “may I help you?”

A - Ask, do not assume.

L - Listen attentively and speak directly to the customer.

K - Know the accommodations and services that are available.

If you notice a person is having difficulty accessing your goods or services, a good starting point is to simply ask how you can best help. Be patient – and remember your customers are your best source of information about their needs. The solution can be simple and they will likely appreciate your attention and consideration.

How to interact and communicate with people with various types of disabilities

Being able to interact and communicate with people who have disabilities is a big part of providing accessible customer service. Sometimes the best approach is to ask a person with a disability how you can best communicate with them.

Here is some helpful information on how to address individuals that have a disability.

Interacting with persons who are deafblind

According to DeafBlind Services Ontario, over 200,000 people in Ontario are Deafblind.

A person with deaf-blindness has a greater or lesser extent of hearing and vision loss. This results in difficulties accessing information. People with deaf-blindness may be accompanied by an intervenor, a professional who is trained in tactile sign language. This sign language involves touching the hands of the client in a two-handed manual-alphabet, also known as finger spelling.

Other persons with deaf-blindness may use American Sign Language (ASL), or they may require small window interpreting (signing within a restricted range of vision). Some persons with deaf-blindness have some sight or hearing, and others have neither. Persons with deaf-blindness will probably let you know how to communicate with them. If you are unsure, ask.

Suggestions for interacting with persons with deaf-blindness

  • Patience, respect and a willingness to find a way to communicate are your best tools.
  • Some people who are deaf-blind have some sight or hearing, while others have neither; don’t make assumptions about what they can or cannot do.
  • When you approach a person with deaf-blindness, identify yourself.
  • Ask permission before touching the individual, unless it is an emergency.
  • Service animals may accompany persons with deaf-blindness. Service animals are working and should not be distracted.
  • Speak directly to the person, not to the intervenor.
  • If you are not sure what to do, ask, “Can I help?”

Interacting with persons who are Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing

People who have hearing loss may be deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. The Canadian Hearing Society has used the following definitions:

Deaf is a term that refers to members of a socio-linguistic and cultural group whose first language is sign language.

Deafened, late-deafened and oral deaf are terms that refer to individuals who have lost all hearing at some point in their lives, use spoken language, and rely on visual forms of communication, such as speech reading, text and occasionally sign language.

Hard of hearing is a term that refers to individuals who have a hearing loss ranging from mild to severe and who use their voice and residual hearing – and occasionally sign language – for communication.

Some individuals with hearing loss may use assistive technology to communicate such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, while others may use interpretive services or read lips.

Suggestions for interacting with persons who are Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing

  • Patience, respect and a willingness to find a way to communicate are your best tools.
  • Attract the person’s attention before speaking. This can be done by gently touching the person on the shoulder or by discreetly waving your hand.
  • Look at and speak directly to the person, not his or her interpreter.
  • Speak as you would normally.
  • Make sure you are in a well-lit area where the person can see your face.
  • When speaking to a person who is Deaf or hard of hearing, do not put your hands in front of your face.
  • Be clear and precise when giving directions, and repeat or rephrase if necessary.
  • Make sure you have been understood.
  • Be patient. If the person’s first language is a visual language (American Sign Language or Langue des signes québécoise), communication may take longer or be approached slightly differently than you are anticipating. Remember, the person is actually communicating in a second or third language.
  • Try to hold your conversation in a quiet area, because background noise may be distracting for persons who are hard of hearing.
  • If you are not sure what to do, ask, “Can I help?”

Interacting with persons with visual disabilities

“Visual disability” indicates an individual with varying degrees of low vision. Some people can see the outlines of objects, while others see the direction of light. Few people identify as being blind. Not everyone with a visual disability uses a service animal or a white cane; as a result it may not be immediately apparent that a person has a visual disability.

Suggestions for interacting with persons with visual disabilities

  • Identify yourself by name when you approach the person and speak directly to them.
  • Speak normally and clearly.
  • Do not assume that the person cannot see you.
  • Ask permission before touching the person, unless it is an emergency.
  • Offer your arm to guide the person, then walk at a normal pace.
  • Be precise and clear when giving directions or verbal information. For example, if you are guiding someone with a visual disability and you are approaching a door or an obstacle, say so.
  • Service animals may accompany people who have visual disabilities. Service animals are working and should not be distracted.
  • Identify landmarks or other details to orient the person to the environment.

If you are leaving a room or the presence of someone with a visual disability, be sure to let the person know that you are leaving and whether or not you will be returning.

If you are not sure what to do, ask, “Can I help?”

Interacting with persons with physical disabilities

In a survey done in 2020, 45% of people who identify with having a disability have walking limitations.

There are many types of physical disabilities, including mobility-related disabilities, health and medical disabilities, and disabilities that result from brain injuries. Sometimes physical disabilities are obvious; however, it is not always possible to identify someone with a physical disability or a medical or health-related disability.

Some physical disabilities require the use of an assistive device (for example, a wheelchair or walker). However, those with arthritis or multiple sclerosis, for instance, may not show any visible signs of disability. Physical disabilities may affect someone’s ability to stand, walk, sit or move around. Some physical disabilities are episodic; they can flare up, and then go through periods of remission. Some persons with physical disabilities may be accompanied by a personal support person.

Suggestions for interacting with persons with physical disabilities:

  • Remove obstacles and arrange furniture to ensure clear passage to where you will sit and conduct any meeting.
  • Consider an assistive device as an extension of the person’s personal space.
  • Remember that most power wheelchairs are controlled by a hand-held device and should be left for the individual to control.
  • If a conversation is expected to last longer than a few moments, suggest an area nearby that is comfortable for all parties to be seated – consider sitting so you can make eye contact at the same level.
  • Speak directly to the person, not to an accompanying support person.
  • If you are not sure what to do, ask, “Can I help?”

Interacting with persons with speech-related disabilities

According to ConnectABILITY, an estimated 5% of school aged children are impacted by speech or language conditions.

Some people have difficulties with speech, such as forming and reproducing vocal sounds, articulation challenges, or an unusual fluency pattern. These difficulties could be due to cerebral palsy, hearing loss, or another condition that makes it difficult to pronounce words. A speech-related disability may cause slurring or stuttering that can prevent individuals from expressing themselves clearly; it is not related to intellectual capacity. Some persons with speech-related disabilities may use communication boards or other assistive devices, or they may be accompanied by a communication support person.

Suggestions for interacting with persons with speech-related disabilities

  • Patience, respect and a willingness to find a way to communicate are your best tools.
  • If you haven’t understood, do not pretend that you have; ask the person to repeat the information.
  • Whenever possible, ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no.”
  • Avoid speaking excessively slowly or loudly; such adjustments are not necessary for most persons with speech-related disabilities.
  • Allow for silence to give the individual time to respond to a question. The person may simply need time rather than further explanation of the question.
  • Avoid making remarks such as “slow down,” “take a breath” or “relax.” This will not be helpful and may be interpreted as demeaning.
  • Avoid finishing the person’s sentences or guessing what is being said. This can increase his or her feelings of self-consciousness and sometimes make it worse. Wait for the person to finish before you respond.
  • If you are not sure what to do, ask, “Can I help?”

Interacting with persons with mental health conditions

As of 2017, 8% (over 60,000 people) of disabled youth (people aged 15 to 25) in Canada identify as having a mental health related condition.

Mental health issues can affect a person’s ability to think clearly, concentrate or remember things. Mental health condition is a broad term for many disorders that can range in severity. For example, some customers may experience anxiety due to hallucinations, mood swings, phobias or panic disorder.

Mental health conditions are often not obvious to others; typically you do not know if someone has a mental health condition unless the individual chooses to disclose this information to you. Some of the reasons for their reluctance include a fear of being stereotyped, the stigma of being treated differently, and the misperception of not being competent. Because of the episodic nature of mental health conditions, people with mental health conditions may go through periods of acute illness as well as periods of stability and success.

If you are aware of a person’s mental health condition, it should not affect the way you interact with the person. However, if someone is experiencing difficulty in controlling their symptoms or behaviour, or is in a crisis, you may need to help out. In these situations, it is best to stay calm and professional and let the person tell you how you can be most helpful.

Suggestions for interacting with persons with mental health conditions

  • Treat a person with a mental health condition with the same respect and consideration that you would show anyone else.
  • Be confident and reassuring. Listen carefully and work with the person to meet his or her needs.
  • If someone appears to be in a crisis, ask him or her to tell you how you can be most helpful. However, in an acute or crisis situation, seek emergency help immediately.

Interacting with persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities

According to Autism Ontario, about 135,000 people in Ontario identify with having Autism.

Developmental or intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, can limit a person’s ability to learn, communicate effectively, do everyday physical activities and live independently. You may not know that someone has this disability.

Suggestions for interacting with persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities

  • Use clear, simplified language and try speaking slower, not louder
  • Treat them as you would your peers – Do not speak down to them
  • Ask them their thoughts and allow them to answer – Don’t put words in their mouths.
  • Do not make assumptions about what a person can do.
  • Expect to get a lot of questions

Interacting with persons who use assistive devices

An assistive device is a tool, technology or other mechanism that enables a person with a disability to do everyday tasks and activities, such as moving, communicating or lifting.

Personal assistive devices can include things like wheelchairs, hearing aids, white canes or speech amplification devices.

Suggestions for interacting with persons who use assistive devices

  • Do not touch or handle any assistive device without permission.
  • Do not move assistive devices or equipment, such as canes and walkers, out of your customer’s reach.
  • Let your customer know about accessible features in the immediate environment that are appropriate to their needs (for example, public phones with T.T.Y. service, accessible washrooms, automatic door openers, etc.)

Interacting with persons who require service animals

Under the Accessible Customer Service Standard an animal is a service animal for a person with a disability,

  1. if it is readily apparent that the animal is used by the person for reasons relating to his or her disability; or
  2. if the person provides a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability.

If a person with a disability is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal, the provider of goods or services shall ensure that the person is permitted to enter the premises with the animal and to keep the animal with him or her unless the animal is otherwise excluded by law from the premises.

Common questions regarding services animals:

Question: What if someone is allergic to a service animal?
Answer: Here are some options to consider:

  • Creating distance between the two individuals.
  • Eliminating in-person contact.
  • Changing the time the two individuals receive the service.

Question: Is there anywhere on campus that a service animal may not go?
Answer: Yes. There are two exceptions to the Customer Service Standard requirements:

  1. Where food is prepared, stored or sold – Ontario Regulation 562 under the Health Protection and Promotion Act states that animals are not allowed in places where food is manufactured, prepared, processed, handled, served, displayed, stored, sold or offered for sale. The regulation makes an exception for service dogs, which are permitted where food is normally served, sold or offered for sale. Other types of service animal are not permitted in these areas.
  2. Where health and safety requirements could be violated – Rare situations may arise where another person’s health and safety could be seriously affected by the presence of a service animal on campus. If this is the case, a provider should analyze all options for safely allowing the service animal.

Suggestions for interacting with persons who require service animals

  • Service animals should not be distracted; they are working. Avoid touching or addressing them.
  • If you are unsure whether it is a service animal or a pet, ask the user/owner.
  • Service animals should be fed only by the user/owner.
  • Service animals foster independence and freedom for persons with disabilities. If the user/owner needs your help, he or she will ask for it.

Service animal control requirements for the user/owner

  • The user/owner must be in full control of the service animal at all times.
  • The animal must be well-groomed and measures should be taken to control fleas and odours.
  • A service animal must be well behaved and its user/owner must ensure that the animal does not engage in behaviour that would be a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

Interacting with persons who require the assistance of a support person

Some people with disabilities may be accompanied by a support person. A support person can be a personal support worker, a volunteer, a family member or a friend. A support person might help your customer with a variety of things from communicating, to helping with mobility, personal care or medical needs.

According to the Accessible Customer Service Standard, a support person must be allowed to accompany an individual with a disability to any part of the premises that is open to the public or to third parties. If an event or program charges admission, advance notice must be given about what admission fee will be charged for a support person.

Suggestions for interacting with persons who require the assistance of a support person

  • If you are not sure which person is the customer, take your lead from the person using or requesting the goods or services or simply ask.
  • Speak directly to your customer, not to their support person.

Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (I.A.S.R)

In addition to setting out the requirements for each of the I.A.S.R. standards — information and communications, employment, transportation and design of public spaces — the regulation includes general requirements that apply across all four standards. Here are some of the general requirements.

Service Disruptions

It is possible that from time to time, there will be disruptions in service such as elevators under repair, renovations that limit access to an area or technology that is temporarily unavailable. If a disruption in service is planned and expected, it is important to provide reasonable notice.

Customers with disabilities may go to a lot of trouble to access services such as booking specialized transit or arranging for their support person to attend. By providing reasonable notice of service unavailability, you can save the customer an unnecessary trip. Notice can be provided through several methods such as a website, by telephone or in writing.

In the event of an unexpected disruption in service, provide notice quickly and in as many ways as possible. Consider offering alternative methods of service during the disruption.

Feedback

Under the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service, The Town of Aurora has established a process for receiving and responding to feedback about how the municipality provides goods or services to people with disabilities.

Organizations may have other types of external or internal feedback processes such as online surveys, email, phone or print.

Assistance may be offered if a customer requires help providing feedback due to a disability. This may include arranging for accessible formats and communication supports upon request. It is important to notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.

Accessibility policies and plans

All obligated organizations must develop, implement and maintain policies that govern how they will achieve accessibility through meeting the requirements of the regulation. The Government of Ontario, designated public sector organizations and large organizations to develop, implement and maintain multi-year accessibility plans. Accessibility plans must outline strategies for removing existing barriers and preventing new ones and show how the requirements of the I.A.S.R. will be met.

The Town of Aurora has three policies regarding accessibility:

  • Accessibility Standards for Customer Service for Persons with Disabilities​​
  • ​Integrated​ Accessibility Standards Policy​​
  • Information and Communications Standards Policy

Training

All obligated organizations must train employees and volunteers about the regulation, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code as it relates to people with disabilities. These organizations must provide this training to those who participate in developing the organization’s policies and all those who provide goods, services or facilities on the organization’s behalf.

Procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities

The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations must incorporate accessibility criteria when procuring or acquiring goods, services and facilities except where it is impractical to do so.

Self-service kiosks

When designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks, the Government of Ontario and designated public sector organizations must incorporate accessibility features. Large and small organizations must consider accessibility for people with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks.

Information and Communications Standard

The Information and Communications Standard outlines how organizations will be required to create, provide and receive information and communications in ways that are accessible for people with disabilities.

Here are some of the information and communications requirements.

Accessible formats and communication supports

Organizations must provide or make arrangements for accessible formats and information and communication supports when a person with a disability requests them. The accessible formats and communication supports must be made available in a timely manner and at no additional cost.

Accessible websites and web content

The Government of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly designated public sector organizations and organizations with 50 or more employees must conform to the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (W.C.A.G) 2.1 as outlined in the Information and Communications Standard.

All Town websites and web content must conform to the following policies, standards and guidelines:

  • World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
  • Information and Communications Standards Policy
  • Guide – Accessible Communication 

Educational and training resources

Public libraries (as defined in the regulation) and libraries of educational and training institutions must provide more of their collections in accessible formats upon request where they exist.

Emergency procedures, plans or public safety information

Organizations that prepare emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and make them available publicly must provide this information in accessible formats or with communication supports upon request.

Employment Standard

The Employment Standard will help employers make their employment practices and workplaces more accessible to potential and existing employees with disabilities.

Here are some of the employment requirements.

Recruitment, assessment and selection

Every employer must notify employees and the public about the availability of accommodations for job applicants who have disabilities.

Applicants must be informed that accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request for interviews and other selection processes.

Plans and processes

Employers that use performance management or provide career development must take into account the accessibility needs of their employees with disabilities in those processes.

Every employer must provide individualized workplace emergency response information for employees with disabilities if the disability makes it necessary.

While all employers must accommodate their employees with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, this regulation requires that employers, other than small organizations, have a written process for developing and documenting individual accommodation plans for employees with disabilities.

Transportation Standard

The Transportation Standard will make it easier for everyone to travel in Ontario including people with disabilities, older Ontarians and families traveling with children in strollers. The Transportation Standard of the A.O.D.A is shared by both the Town of Aurora and the Regional Municipality of York. York Region is responsible for and creates action items for removing barriers in conventional and specialized transportation services. While not directly responsible for all components of the Transportation Standard the Town still has obligations under the Duties of Municipalities and Taxi Cabs.

This standard applies to:

  • Conventional transportation services such as York Region Transit (Y.R.T.) and the Toronto Transit Commission (T.T.C.).
  • Specialized transportation services including T.T.C.’s Wheel-Trans and Y.R.T.’s Mobility Plus.
  • Other public transportation services such as those that service public school boards, hospitals, colleges and universities.

Municipalities and taxicabs

Municipalities that licence taxicabs must ensure that owners and operators of taxicabs do not charge higher fares or additional fees to a passenger with a disability. They must also consult with the public to determine the proportion of accessible taxis required in the community.

Design of Public Spaces Standard

The Ontario Building Code continues to be amended to ensure buildings are accessible to accommodate everyone. New construction and renovations will be subject to updated accessibility requirements.

The accessibility standards for the built environment focus on removing barriers in two areas:

  • Public spaces
  • Buildings

The design of public space standard only applies to new construction and major changes to existing features.

Here are highlights of what the provincial standard covers:

  • Recreational trails/beach access routes. For example, meet minimum requirements for trails and beach access routes (i.e. clear width), and post signs with specific information at the start of the trails.
  • Outdoor public eating areas like rest stops or picnic areas, such as providing a minimum number of picnic tables.
  • Outdoor play spaces, like playgrounds in local communities. This includes consulting with people with disabilities to help incorporate accessibility for children and caregivers with various disabilities into play spaces.
  • Outdoor paths of travel, like sidewalks (i.e. clear width), ramps, stairs, curb ramps, rest areas and accessible pedestrian signals.
  • Accessible parking on and off street. For example, making four percent of spaces accessible in new lots with less than 100 spaces.
  • Service-related elements like service counters, fixed queuing lines and waiting areas. Maintenance and restoration of public space.

2022 Town of Aurora Accessibility Design Standards

In 2022, the Town released its own Town of Aurora Accessibility Design Standards. This document outlines Town-wide standards that build a universally-designed and accessible community for residents, visitors and employees. These standards are applied to all new and/or renovated Town owned, leased or operated facilities. In addition to our municipal facilities, we encourage their use throughout the community.

Additional Information

For more information on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, visit The Government of Ontario’s Accessibility in Ontario website.

Alternate formats are available upon request.