Multi Year Accessibility Plan - 2023 - 2027
Ontario Northland’s Commitment to Accessibility
Ontario Northland is committed to treating all people with dignity and respect. We believe in inclusion and equal opportunity. We are committed to meeting the needs of people with disabilities in a timely manner, and will do so by preventing, identifying and removing barriers to accessibility and meeting accessibility requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR).
Background and Information
The AODA and the IASR were enacted so that the mandated organizations would work towards accessibility standards for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025 with respect to:
- General Requirements
- Information and Communications
- Design of Public Spaces (Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment)
- Customer Service
Some of the Built Environment Standards were incorporated into the Building Code (January 1, 2015). Ontario is now in the process of aligning Ontario’s Building Code with the National Building Code and this will affect some of the accessibility clauses of the current Building Code.
Under the AODA and the IASR, Ontario Northland is required to establish, implement, maintain and document a multi-year accessibility plan. This plan outlines our strategy to identify, prevent and remove accessibility barriers and meet our requirements under the IASR.
In accordance with the requirements set out in the IASR, Ontario Northland will:
- Post the multi-year accessibility plan on our website
- Provide the plan in an accessible format upon request
- Review and update the accessibility plan at least once every five years
- Review and update the accessibility plan in consultation with persons with disabilities
- Prepare an annual status report and post on our website
Examples of Ontario Northland’s key accessibility-related accomplishments since the 2014-2021 Plan include:
- Ontario Northland ensured that its external website and web content conformed to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, at Level A by January 1, 2014.
- Began a comprehensive WCAG 2.0 audit and update to ontarionorthland.ca, including all pages and functionality as a part of the website refresh.
- Pre-boarding announcements and on-board announcements are now in place on all vehicles.
- All of Ontario Northland’s transportation vehicles manufactured on or after January 1, 2013, meet the technical requirements outlined in the Transportation Standards. As per the Procurement clauses of the IASR, 5. (1) and (2), purchases of transportation vehicles will incorporate accessibility design, criteria, and features except where it is not practicable to do so.
- The approval and posting of an Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) Specialist position. This position will allow Ontario Northland to expand engagement with passengers with disabilities, have a specialized focus on accessibility improvement, and dedicate more effort to the maintenance of and development of Ontario Northland’s Multi-Year Accessibility Plans.
- Merged the efforts of Accessibility work at Ontario Northland to include all aspects of operations, rather than siloed approaches to areas such as employment, recruitment, passenger services, and more. This will increase communication and efficiency.
- Renewal of Accessibility related projects including the formation of the Passenger Services Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) and their involvement in advising policy and plans.
- Completed a barrier-free accessibility audit of the North Bay Bus Station.
- Draft created for the 2023-2027 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan.
- Revising current Policies to align with the Accessibility Plan, 2023.
- Guide Dog and Service Animal Policy
At Ontario Northland, our goal is to provide equitable access to our services for all people by:
- treating all people with dignity and respect
- developing and making transportation more accessible
- providing information and communication services
- working to ensure our facilities are barrier-free
- providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities
- establishing a culture in which customers receive excellent accessible customer service and
- meeting the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in a timely manner.
- Ontario Northland will revise and develop a list of accessibility-related policies as per the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, as follows:
- Support Persons Policy
- Revise the Customer Feedback Process
- Accessible Information and Communications Policy
- Assistive Aids or Devices, Medical Aids and Equipment Policy
- Revise the Customer Service Policy (2020)
- Emergency Procedures – in facilities, emergencies on buses and trains
- Temporary Disruption Procedures
- Revise the Scent and Other Allergens Policy
- All accessibility policies and procedures will be listed in one document, which will be available on the website and at our facilities. It will also be included in training materials.
- Policies will be available in an accessible format, upon request.
- We will review our accessibility policies when regulations change or when the Accessibility Plan is being developed.
Multi-Year Accessibility Plan
Ontario Northland is committed to developing and implementing a multi-year accessibility plan that outlines strategies and actions to identify, prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities.
- The updated Accessibility Plan will be posted on the website.
- The Plan will be provided in an accessible format, upon request.
- Annual status updates, with a list of accomplishments will be prepared; the annual status update will be posted to the website and it will be available to the public and in an accessible format if requested
- The Plan will be reviewed annually by staff and the Accessibility Advisory Committee, and the results of the review will be posted on the website.
At Ontario Northland, we value feedback from all customers. When someone with a disability raises a barrier, concern, or issue, we will actively listen to the feedback, follow-up with the customer, and take action as required whenever possible, according to the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, Customer Service Standards. We will take into account the customer’s information and communication needs and ensure their concerns, issues or barriers are addressed.
Customer Feedback Process
To find out how to provide customer feedback, the link to the Customer Feedback Process is below:
Procurement of Goods, Services or Facilities and Self-Service Kiosks
Ontario Northland will determine which goods, services or facilities best demonstrate the principles of universal design and will procure or acquire these, except where it is not practicable to do so.
If Ontario Northland determines that it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, it shall provide an explanation, upon request.
“universal design”, as defined by the Center for Universal Design (North Carolina State University) means: “The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” This University developed seven principles of Universal Design, which many organizations throughout the world now utilize.
Ontario Northland shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks.
- Ontario Northland is researching the potential for accessible point-of-sale devices and accessible interactive electronic terminals. The most accessible products will be considered, given the funds available
- Ontario Northland will ensure accessibility features are functional
“kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal, including a point-of-sale device, intended for public use that allows users to access one or more service or products or both. IASR General 6. (5)
North Carolina State University, Center for Universal Design – Seven Principles of Universal Design
Information and Communications
Accessible formats and communication supports
Ontario Northland is committed to making information and communication accessible to people with disabilities. The information we provide and the ways we communicate are key to service delivery.
We will be developing an Accessible Information and Communications Policy so that our staff will have additional tools to meet the information and communication needs of people with disabilities.
Accessible websites and web content
- A high priority in 2022-2023 will be to re-design our website to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA. Our aim is to create a more user-friendly, accessible website for our customers
- Ontario Northland will update our website so that it is aligned with any new Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as they are adopted internationally
- Continue to assess web content for accessibility annually
- Ensure social media content is accessible.
Ontario Northland is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to fair, inclusive and accessible employment practices that attract and retain talented employees with disabilities. We recognize that by removing barriers in employment, Ontario Northland will create a workplace that is diverse, accessible, and which will enable employees to reach their full potential.
- Ensure current employment policies and practices comply with the Employment Standards under the IASR and are up-to-date with accessibility best practices on an ongoing basis.
Ontario Northland is committed to making our transportation services as accessible as possible for people with disabilities.
Our personnel will receive comprehensive training with respect to the Accessibility Plan and Policies. Emphasis will be placed on this section and on accessible customer service.
“assistive aids and devices” are used to replace, compensate for, or improve the functional abilities of people with disabilities. They include a broad range of items such as mobility and visual/hearing aids, orthotics/prosthetics, speech devices, medical supplies, environmental controls, and respiratory devices. (Definition from the Ontario Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility)
“bus” means a motor vehicle designed for carrying 10 or more passengers and used for the transportation of persons.
“conventional transportation service provider” means a designated public sector transportation organization that provides conventional transportation services in Ontario.
“inter-city rail” means a class of rail-based transportation, which is multi-unit, used for public passenger transportation purposes and is intended for express service covering long distances with routes connecting two or more distinct or major locations.
“medical aid” means an assistive device, including respirators and portable oxygen supplies.
“rail-based transportation” means any single or multi-unit passenger transportation vehicle operating exclusively on rail by a public transportation organization.
“support person” means, in relation to a person with a disability, another person who accompanies him or her in order to help with communication, mobility, personal care or medical needs or with access to goods, services or facilities.
Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 80.45 (3)
“transit bus” means a class of bus which, while operated on a highway, as defined in the Highway Traffic Act, is designed and intended to be used for passenger transportation.
Ontario Northland has a process in place for managing, evaluating, and acting on customer feedback. We hold at least one public meeting per year involving persons with disabilities to ensure that they have an opportunity to review and provide feedback on the accessibility plan.
Ontario Northland will deploy lifting devices, ramps or portable bridge plates upon the request of a person with a disability on wheelchair buses and on accessible train cars. We will ensure that adequate time is provided for persons with disabilities to safely board, be secured and deboard transportation vehicles, and that assistance will be provided, upon request.
We will assist with safe and careful storage of mobility aids or mobility assistive devices used by persons with disabilities.
We will allow a person with a disability to travel with a medical aid.
Alternative accessible method of transportation
Except where not practicable to do so, Ontario Northland will ensure that any person with a disability who, because of his or her disability, is unable to use conventional transportation services is provided with an alternative accessible method of transportation.
Ontario Northland will make current information on accessibility equipment and features of our vehicles, routes and services available to the public. We will provide this information in an accessible format upon request.
Non-functioning Accessibility Equipment
If the accessibility equipment on a vehicle is not functioning and equivalent service cannot be provided, Ontario Northland will take reasonable steps to accommodate persons with disabilities who would otherwise use the equipment. The equipment will be repaired as soon as is practicable.
Transportation Accessibility Training
In addition to Customer Service Training required under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, Part IV.2, 80.49, we will conduct more specialized employee and volunteer training on the following: the safe use of accessibility equipment and features, acceptable modifications to procedures in situations where temporary barriers exist or accessibility equipment on a vehicle fails, and emergency preparedness and response procedures that provide for the safety of persons with disabilities.
A record of this training will be kept, including the dates on which the training was provided and the number of individuals to whom it was provided.
Ontario Northland will not charge a fare to a person with a disability that is higher than the fare that is charged to a person without a disability.
Ontario Northland will make available alternative fare payment options to persons with disabilities who cannot, because of their disability, use an inaccessible fare payment option.
The person with a disability must demonstrate their need for a support person to accompany them and to ensure that the appropriate designation for a support person (defined above) is in place.
Ontario Northland will ensure that persons with disabilities are able to board or deboard a transportation vehicle at the closest available safe location, as determined by the operator, which is not an official stop, if the official stop is not accessible.
In determining where a safe location may be situated, Ontario Northland will give consideration to the preferences of the person with a disability.
Ontario Northland will ensure that operators of their transportation vehicles promptly report to an appropriate authority where a transit stop is temporarily inaccessible or where a temporary barrier exists.
Storage of mobility aids, etc.
Ontario Northland shall, if safe storage is possible, ensure that mobility aids and mobility assistive devices are stored in the passenger compartments of its transportation vehicles within reach of the person with the disability who uses the aid or device. If safe storage of mobility aids and mobility assistive devices is not possible within the passenger compartment and the vehicle is equipped with a baggage compartment, a conventional transportation service provider shall ensure that mobility aids and assistive devices are stored in the baggage compartment of the vehicle.
Our operators will secure and return mobility aids and mobility assistive devices in a manner that does not affect the safety of other passengers and does not cause damage to the aid or device, where the mobility aid or mobility assistive device is stored in the baggage compartment of the vehicle.
A fee will not be charged for the storage of a mobility aid or assistive device.
Ontario Northland will ensure that there is clearly marked priority seating for persons with disabilities on its accessible transportation vehicles.
The priority seating for persons with disabilities shall be signed to indicate that passengers, other than persons with disabilities, must vacate the priority seating if its use is required by a person with a disability.
Ontario Northland will inform the public about priority seating.
Where a route or scheduled service is temporarily changed and the change is known in advance of the commencement of the trip, Ontario Northland shall make available alternate accessible arrangements to transfer persons with disabilities to their route destination where alternate arrangements for persons without disabilities are inaccessible and ensure information on alternate arrangements is communicated in a manner that takes into account the person’s disability.
- Update predeparture and destination announcements on the Polar Bear Express to be automated and available visually.
Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation
Design of Public Spaces (Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment)
“amenities” means items that provide conveniences or services for use by the public, examples of which include drinking fountains, benches and garbage receptacles;
“maintenance” means activities that are intended to keep existing public spaces and elements in existing public spaces in good working order or to restore the spaces or elements to their original condition, examples of which include painting and minor repairs;
“off-street parking facilities” includes open area parking lots and structures intended for the temporary parking of vehicles by the public, whether or not the payment of a fee is charged and includes visitor parking spaces in parking facilities;
“redeveloped” means planned significant alterations to public spaces, but does not include maintenance activities, environmental mitigation or environmental restoration.
Ontario Northland is aware that these Standards apply only to public spaces that are newly constructed or redeveloped. We will be conducting barrier-free audits of our facilities and sites where construction, redevelopment or renovations may be planned.
Employees who audit our services or facilities will be required to understand the Design of Public Spaces Standards. Other employees and volunteers will be made aware of these Standards during training.
During the years specified in this Accessibility Plan, audits will be conducted of some facilities and surrounding sites, which Ontario Northland owns, or contracts to other organizations. Ontario Northland currently has a bus and train station in North Bay and a train station in Cochrane. Some of our services take place in facilities owned by other entities, such as ticket sale sites and bus stations.
As a result of the audits, we will determine which areas under the following sections of the Design of Public Spaces Standards will need to be redeveloped:
- Exterior paths of travel
- Accessible parking and signage
- Accessible service counters
- Accessible fixed queuing guides
- Waiting areas
- Outdoor garbage cans
Ontario Northland will ensure that any newly constructed or newly developed areas will adhere to the Design of Public Spaces Standards. As well, any proposed new facilities or renovations will comply with Ontario’s Building Code.
Maintenance of accessible elements
Ontario Northland will be developing:
- Procedures for preventative and emergency maintenance of accessible elements in public spaces.
- Procedures for dealing with temporary disruptions when accessible elements are not in working order.
Legislative Acts and Regulations
Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation
Accessibility in Ontario’s Building Code
In keeping with our values of safety, accountability, and continuous improvement, Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) adheres to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation to ensure that people with disabilities receive accessible customer service.
- Revise the current Customer Service Policy (2020).
- Update provided training accordingly.
Ontario Northland is committed to providing training to employees and volunteers on Ontario’s Accessibility Standards and on Human Rights legislation as it relates to people with disabilities. Training is provided in a way that best suits the duties and needs of employees and volunteers and every person who deals with the public on behalf of Ontario Northland, including third parties. In addition, employees may require more specific training on one or more of the standards, including information and communications, employment, and transportation, as it relates to the duties and responsibilities of their position.
- Continue providing training to all new employees, volunteers, and contractors, and maintain a record of the training participant’s names and date of completion.
- Complete an audit and analysis of current accessibility training programs and processes.
- Ensure training requirements in accordance with the IASR are documented in policy and processes.
- Tip Sheets on How to Interact with People with Disabilities.
Emergency Plan and Procedures
Ontario Northland is committed to providing any emergency procedures, plans or public safety information in an accessible format or with appropriate communication supports, upon request.
- Ontario Northland will be establishing, implementing, maintaining and documenting emergency preparedness and response policies that provide for the safety of persons with disabilities in our facilities and our transportation vehicles.
- These policies will be available to the public and will be made available in an accessible format upon request.
- When the policies are approved, a link will be provided.