Legal Aid Ontario strives at all times to provide its services in a way that respects the dignity and independence of people with disabilities. We are also committed to giving people with disabilities the same opportunity to access our services and allowing them to benefit from the same services with the same level of quality and timeliness as others.
We will carry out our functions and responsibilities in the following areas:
We communicate with people with disabilities in ways that take into account their disability. We train employees who communicate with clients on how to interact and communicate with people with various types of disabilities.
We are committed to providing fully accessible telephone service to our clients. We train staff to communicate with customers over the telephone in clear and plain language and to speak clearly and slowly.
We communicate with clients by TTY (teletypewriter) if telephone communication is not suitable to their communication needs or is not available.
LAO’s TTY is located in the Client Service Centre. The Client Service Centre will relay messages from clients received by TTY to other parts of the organization.
Service by TTY is provided with the same timeliness and quality as service provided over the telephone by the Client Service Centre.
We are committed to providing accessible communication to all of our clients and contacts. Written information includes, but is not limited to, legal account information, certificates, letters, forms, brochures and email.
For this reason, written communications will be provided, in the following formats, upon request:
- Hard copy
- Large print
- Portable document format (PDF)
- Microsoft Word
We will provide brochures, public policies, manuals and other public information by email or on compact disk (CD). If these formats are not sufficient to accommodate a client’s disability, LAO will communicate with the client to work toward acceptable accommodation.
We will answer any questions clients or contacts may have about the content of written communication in person or by telephone.
LAO’s online services include various accessibility features. The accessibility features for each online service are listed below.
- Public Website – www.legalaid.on.ca
- Assistive technologies like screen readers employed by people with visual disabilities interact properly with the site
- Appropriate table markup and alternative text are available throughout for use with screen readers
- The site is compatible with standard browsers with accessibility features like screen and text magnification
- Location listings can be updated in real time by Area Offices and Duty Counsel, allowing up-to-the minute reporting of accessibility interruptions such as construction and maintenance of ramps and elevators
- The location search tool includes a locally submitted photo for each office
Where online services are not accessible to people with disabilities, services are available on the phone, in person or at an LAO location.
We are committed to serving people with disabilities who use personal assistive devices to obtain, use or benefit from our services. We deliver our services in a way that accommodates the needs of people who use assistive devices.
Examples of assistive devices that may be used by clients include:
- Mobility device (i.e., wheelchair, scooter, walker, cane, crutches)
- TTY (Teletypewriter)
- Amplification systems or assistive listening devices
- Computerized note-takers
We ensure that our staff are trained and familiar with assistive devices offered by LAO that may be used by clients or contacts with disabilities while accessing our services. A list of available assistive devices is posted on the information page for each LAO location.
We will also ensure that staff with access to the following assistive devices know how to use them:
- TTY (Teletypewriter)
- Automatic door openers
Welcoming service animals
We are committed to welcoming people with disabilities who are accompanied by a service animal on the parts of our premises that are open to the public and other third parties. We ensure that all staff, volunteers and others dealing with the public are properly trained in how to interact with people with disabilities who are accompanied by a service animal.
Staff with allergies to animals
In some positions, staff who regularly provide services to the public may spend time with clients in a small enclosed space, such as an interview room. Employees with severe allergies to animals who are not able to spend time in close proximity to a service animal are asked to inform their manager about the allergy immediately.
Managers of employees with disclosed allergies are responsible for accommodating the employees’ allergies while maintaining timely service to people with disabilities accompanied by a service animal.
Welcoming support persons
Legal Aid Ontario accepts and welcomes the presence of interpreters, support persons and other necessary personnel who accompany, assist and support persons with disabilities who are dealing with Legal Aid. LAO takes the view that, in most cases, the presence of a support person or interpreter will not adversely affect the solicitor and client relationship or the confidentiality of information provided to legal aid staff, including counsel.
In the rare circumstance where legal advice is being provided and the LAO employee feels that the presence of a support person or interpreter might threaten the confidentiality of the solicitor and client relationship, the legal aid client with a disability will be advised of the concern and given the choice to proceed with or without the support person or interpreter present. The legal aid applicant may be asked to confirm their decision in writing.
Notice of temporary disruption
Legal Aid Ontario provides clients with notice in the event of a planned or unexpected disruption in the facilities or services usually used by people with disabilities. This notice includes information about the reason for the disruption, its anticipated duration, and a description of alternative facilities or services, if available. Notices will be placed on the location information pages of our website at www.legalaid.on.ca.