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Ontario March of Dimes, Quadrangle Architects form joint venture

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The Ontario March of Dimes and Quadrangle Architects Ltd. have formed a joint venture called AccessAbility© Advantage to assist Ontario businesses comply with the new accessibility standards in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

staff writer

TORONTO

The Ontario March of Dimes and Quadrangle Architects Ltd. have formed a joint venture called AccessAbility© Advantage to assist Ontario businesses comply with the new accessibility standards in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The first such standard, for customer service, mandates that by Jan. 1, 2012, every business in Ontario that provides goods or services to the public and has at least one employee must be in compliance.

However, firms bidding on government construction contracts already must ensure their services are accessible, according to the Ontario General Contractors Association.

Other standards to follow will be announced in stages include built environment, employment, information and communication and transportation.

The AODA is said to be the first legislation in the world that puts the onus on businesses to make their places of work barrier-free for customers and employees with disabilities.

“Of the 360,000 businesses in Ontario, some are making progress in implementing changes, but many don’t even know where to begin and are struggling to understand the complexities of these new regulations,” said Frances Jewett, AccessAbility© Advantage’s business development manager.

The standard in part requires that staff be trained to meet the needs of customers with a variety of disabilities and to communicate with a person in a manner that takes into account his or her disability.

Customer service policies, practices and procedures must be documented in writing.

AccessAbility clients include the Ontario Realty Corp. Quadrangle produced guidelines to promote the accessibility of properties owned and leased by the Ontario government. The scope of work included reviewing existing legislation and best practices, evaluating focus group results and presenting to multiple stakeholder groups.

The report included a summary of issues, design recommendations, specifications and diagrams, options and a cost analysis. ORC accepted the recommendations and hired Quadrangle to implement them.

“We have long been champions for barrier-free access and universal design and our breadth of skills and experience enable us to offer support across the five standard areas as they are introduced,” said Quadrangle principal and accessibility specialist Susan Ruptash.

“By planning today, and with a little help, most organizations will have a successful implementation under the new legislation.”

by Patricia Williams

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