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Water First

Accessibility Policy

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Policy Subsection 3.0 - 3.10
Updated & Approved: October 2023

3.0 Integrated Accessibility

3.01 Statement of Commitment

Water First is committed to equal access and participation for people with disabilities. We are committed to treating people in a way that allows them to maintain their dignity and independence. We believe in integration, and we are committed to meeting the needs of people with disabilities in a timely manner. We will do so by removing and preventing barriers to accessibility and meeting requirements under the accessibility laws.

Purpose

This policy aims to provide a framework through which Water First can meet the needs of people with disabilities in accordance with provincial and federal legislation.

Scope

The scope of this policy includes our commitment to accessibility in our customer service and employment standards.​

Water First is committed to providing inclusive service experiences for our customers/clients and others seeking our services. All Water First team members are expected to comply with the spirit and intent of this policy when providing services to our community or otherwise representing or conducting business on behalf of Water First.

Water First is committed to providing a welcoming, respectful, and inclusive environment to our employees and community members with disabilities. Our employment standard will incorporate regulatory requirements and best practices throughout the employment relationship.

Definitions

Accessibility means giving people of all abilities an opportunity to participate fully in everyday life. It describes how widely a service, product, device, or environment is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility can be seen as accessing and benefiting from a system, service, product, or environment.

Barriers are obstacles that limit access and prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in society. Most barriers are not intentional. Barriers usually arise because the needs of people with disabilities are not considered.

Ontario’s accessibility law adopts the definition of a disability in the Ontario Human Rights Code. It defines disability broadly:

  • “Any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical coordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device.
  • A condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability.
  • A learning disability or a dysfunction in one or more processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language.
  • A mental disorder, or
  • An injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan
    established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.”

Employee(s) refers to any person Water First pays wages or a salary, has control over their assigned work, and has the right to control their work. This includes full-time, part-time, seasonal, and contract employees. Interns are included in this policy.

An animal is considered a service animal for a person with a disability if:

  • It is readily identifiable that the animal is used for reasons related to the person’s disability (such as a guide dog or other animal wearing a vest or harness); or
  • The person with the service animal provides documentation from a regulated health professional confirming the need for the animal because of a disability.

Support Persons are any person, whether a paid professional, volunteer, family member, or friend, who accompanies a person with a disability to help with communications, personal care, or medical needs while accessing goods or services.

Water First is committed to ensuring that communications are available in a format that is accessible, readable, or comprehensible for people with disabilities.

Accessible Formats and Communication Supports

Water First will, upon request, provide any communication in an accessible format or provide communication support in a timely manner that considers the person’s accessibility needs due to disability. The organization will further advise the public about accessible formats and communication support availability.

Emergency Procedure, Plans or Public Safety Information

Water First will, upon request, provide any emergency procedures, plans or public safety information in an accessible format or with appropriate communication support.

Water First is committed to meeting its current and ongoing obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, respecting non-discrimination. Water First understands that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and its accessibility standards do not substitute or limit its obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code or to people with disabilities under any other law. 

Water First is committed to complying with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA and excellence in serving all customers, including people with disabilities. This means that we will provide goods and services to people with disabilities with high quality and timeliness. 

Our accessible customer service policies are consistent with the principles of independence, dignity, integration, and equality of opportunity for people with disabilities.

People with disabilities may use their assistive devices when accessing our goods, services, or facilities.

In cases where the assistive device presents a significant and unavoidable health or safety concern or may not be permitted for other reasons, other measures will be used to ensure the person with a disability can access our goods, services, or facilities upon request.

We will ensure that our staff are trained and familiar with various assistive devices we have on-site or will provide devices that may be used by customers with disabilities while accessing our goods, services, or facilities.

We will communicate with people with disabilities in ways that consider their disability upon request. We will work with the person with a disability to determine what method of communication works for them, including communicating via email instead of the phone.

We welcome people with disabilities and their service animals. Service animals are allowed on the parts of our premises that are open to the public. If a service animal is excluded by law, we will suggest appropriate alternatives and ensure that the person can access, obtain, use, or benefit from our goods, services, or facilities where possible.

A person with a disability whom a support person accompanies will be allowed to have that person accompany them on our premises.

Water First will notify customers promptly if there is a planned or unexpected disruption to services or facilities for customers with disabilities. This posted notice will include information about the reason for the disruption, its anticipated length, and a description of alternative facilities or services, if available.

Water First will provide accessible customer service training to:

  • All employees and independent contractors
  • Anyone involved in developing our policies
  • Anyone who provides goods, services, or facilities to customers on our behalf

Team members will be trained in accessible customer service upon hire. Training will include:

  • Purpose of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and the customer service standard requirements.
  • Water First’s policies related to the customer service standard.
  • How to interact and communicate with people with several types of disabilities.
  • How to interact with people with disabilities who use an assistive device or require the assistance of a service animal or a support person.
  • How to use the equipment or devices available on-site or otherwise that may help provide goods, services, or facilities to people with disabilities.
  • What to do if someone with a disability has difficulty accessing Water First ‘s goods, services, or facilities.

Staff will be trained when changes are made to our accessible customer service policies.

Water First is committed to fair and accessible employment practices consistent with the principles of dignity, independence, integration, and equal opportunity.

We will notify employees, potential hires, and the public that accommodations can be made during recruitment and hiring.

We will notify staff that support is available for those with disabilities. We will put a process to develop individual accommodation plans for employees in place. Where needed, we will provide customized emergency information to help an employee with a disability during an emergency

Any performance management, career development, and redeployment processes consider the accessibility needs of all employees.

When requested by an employee with a disability, we will consult with the employee and arrange for an accessible format and communication support for information required to perform their job and for information readily available to employees.

Water First will notify the public that documents related to accessible customer service and employment are available upon request by emailing hr@waterfirst.ngo.

On request, Water First will provide this document in an accessible format or with communication support. We will consult with the person requesting to determine the suitability of the format or communication support. We will provide the accessible format in a timely manner and at no additional cost.

Any policies of Water First that do not respect and promote the principles of dignity, independence, integration, and equal opportunity for people with disabilities will be modified or removed.

Water First will provide reasonable accommodation for all applicants and employees with disabilities. As required by law, we will endeavour to provide reasonable accommodation to known physical or mental limitations of all applicants or employees with a disability unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on our operation.

All accommodation requests will be taken seriously. No person will be penalized for making an accommodation request.

Water First is proud to have a diverse workforce and is committed to providing accommodation to facilitate the practice of religious observances, including, but not limited to, religious holidays which extend beyond the Statutory Holidays that we recognize.

We will accommodate requests for religious accommodation unless doing so causes undue hardship to Water First.

Water First employees are responsible for informing their direct manager, in writing, if a policy or practice does not align with their religious beliefs or if they require religious accommodation.

Requests must be made with four weeks’ notice or as soon as a need is identified. Employees must work with their direct manager to find a reasonable accommodation. Employees may be asked to provide reasonable information to legitimize their request.

The employee’s direct manager is responsible for assessing the accommodation request in a timely manner. The Management Team will work with employees to find a reasonable accommodation that balances the employees’ needs and our business requirements. The Management Team may not question the sincerity of religious beliefs.