Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. The right to accommodation ensures that people can work productively, live independently, and access services open to non-disabled people. Employers, landlords, and other service providers must implement accommodations for essential duties and requirements. Accommodating essential requirements means distinguishing the most vital parts of a job, a service, or being a tenant. Then, employers, landlords, or service providers must ensure that people receive accommodations to perform those essential duties or requirements.
Accommodating Essential Requirements
Employers, landlords, and service providers can start accommodating essential requirements by distinguishing them from non-essential requirements. For example, on job postings and job descriptions, employers can list essential requirements separately from non-essential requirements.
For instance, many postings ask that candidates be “team players”, an essential skill for some jobs but not others. This requirement could prevent employers from hiring candidates who have all the core skills a posting asks for but have difficulty interpreting social cues. Employers who recognize at this stage which job tasks are essential will also be better prepared to accommodate workers who need to trade non-essential tasks with colleagues, or workers who may need to perform only the essential elements of their jobs during periods of stress or illness.
Similarly, some postings require each candidate to have a valid driver’s licence for jobs that involve travelling. This requirement means that someone losing their sight may fear that they will also lose their job. However, a driver’s licence does not need to be an essential requirement for a travelling job. For example, a worker who is blind or visually impaired could travel by bus, taxi, walking, or car-pooling. If an employer recognizes that a driver’s licence is not an essential requirement, they can retain an already skilled and competent worker.
In contrast, employers are not required to hire or accommodate workers who cannot perform elements of a job that are truly essential. For instance, although a driver’s licence is not essential for most jobs, it is essential for a truck driver. As a result, a worker who is losing their vision will no longer be able to perform this job. However, the employer may be able to accommodate them through alternative work.
Essential Requirements in Housing and Other Services
Moreover, landlords must also distinguish between essential and non-essential requirements for tenants. For instance, essential requirements for tenants include:
- Paying rent
- Maintaining a dwelling in compliance with health and safety laws
- Respecting neighbours’ needs
However, landlords may need to accommodate a tenant to meet those requirements. For instance, a landlord may employ a cleaning service to maintain common areas of their apartment building. The landlord may need to accommodate a tenant with physical disabilities by assigning the cleaning service to maintain part of the tenant’s apartment, such as high places out of the tenant’s reach. However, the building’s cleaning service is not required to clean the entire apartment. Therefore, a person with a different physical disability may have a personal support worker to assist with every-day tasks, including cleaning.
Essential Requirements in Services
Furthermore, service providers also need to accommodate clients to perform essential requirements. The requirements that are essential will differ from one service to another. For instance, essential requirements of shopping are selecting items to buy and paying for the items. Nonetheless, shoppers may need assistance to perform these requirements. For example, a shopper with a learning disability, who cannot read print, may need assistance from a store worker to identify products. However, once products are identified, the shopper is responsible for choosing which items they want or need to buy.
In our next article, we will explore how employers, landlords, and service providers can distinguish essential requirements of a job or service from non-essential requirements, through procedural accommodation.