This piece was written by Mary Neilans who is currently enrolled in the Advancing the AODA certificate program.
Nearly 2 million Ontarians have one or more disabilities – that’s one in seven people – and it is a number that continues to rise, particularly with an aging population. The goal of becoming a truly inclusive province by providing accessibility for all is not just a nice-to-have pipe dream; it’s the law.
In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) established standards for accessibility for customer service, information and communication, employment, built environments, and transportation, with the larger goal of making Ontario fully accessible by 2025. Seventy-five percent of people with self-identified disabilities have experienced at least one of the barriers that the AODA intends to prevent and remove.
What is accessibility?
It simply means giving people of all abilities opportunities to participate fully in everyday life. But there are many challenges in making this happen, and much more education, action, and advocacy are still needed.
When most people think of accessibility, they think of wheelchair ramps, automatic doors, and parking at grocery stores. But accessibility is not just a practical, physical thing; it’s also about recognizing “invisible” disabilities, understanding our own biases and attitudes, and incorporating inclusiveness when designing everything from buildings to websites. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act attempts to address all of these areas.
Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the AODA, even though Ontario’s accessibility law affects over 360,000 businesses and organizations throughout the province. Improving accessibility for people with disabilities ultimately creates more opportunities and a better environment for everyone in Ontario. But greater education and awareness about the AODA is needed to ensure compliance and to ensure that steps are taken to meet the goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025.
How can you make a difference?
Ryerson offers a certificate program in Advancing the AODA: Principles and Practices of Accessibility, under the Chang School and the School of Disability Studies, that can help make a difference in the future of Ontario.
The Advancing the AODA certificate is ideal if you want to contribute to policy and organizational change, if you work in Human Resources, or if you’re involved in any field that incorporates design, health care, social services, or customer service.
The six courses in this certificate will provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify barriers, to help prevent or solve accessibility issues, to plan and design effective programs and services, and to educate others in ensuring legal compliance with the AODA.
Most importantly, the Advancing the AODA certificate will give you an understanding of the spirit of the law and the need to work towards true inclusiveness for everyone in Ontario.
For more information on the Advancing the AODA certificate, go to http://ce-online.ryerson.ca/ce/default.aspx?id=3319.