Currently, no AODA standards require houses and apartments to be accessible. However, the Third Review of the AODA recommends the creation of standards mandating accessibility in housing. AODA standards in housing could require accommodation plans for tenants with disabilities.
Accommodation Plans for Tenants with Disabilities
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), landlords are required to provide housing accommodations. Similarly, the Code also requires employers to provide accommodations for workers with disabilities. However, the AODA’s Employment Standards also mandate that employers develop and implement individual accommodation plans for workers who need them. Under the standards, Public-sector and large private-sector businesses must have processes that outline how to develop and implement accommodation plans. These processes should help employers smoothly arrange the tools a worker needs to do their job safely and independently. In the same way, accommodation plans for tenants with disabilities could help landlords implement any supports their tenants need to live independently.
Elements to Include in Housing Accommodation Plans
Many elements of the employment accommodation process could also apply to housing. For instance, landlords, or managers who represent them, could work with tenants to develop individual plans. For example, a tenant who gains a disability may approach their landlord to request accommodations. Alternatively, a new tenant could disclose their disability and explain their needs. Landlords can meet tenants’ needs quickly and effectively if they have a process in place for responding to these requests.
Moreover, a landlord and tenant could discuss barriers the tenant faces at home, such as:
- Difficulty with door knobs or stairs
- Inaccessible switches or buttons, such as on thermostats
- Environmental sensitivities to chemicals or scents
- Lack of a credit or tenant history
Next, the landlord and tenant should discuss accommodations to prevent or remove these barriers, such as:
- Installing new door handles or ramps
- Researching and acquiring more accessible controls for lighting and temperature
- Using chemicals and scents that are safe for the tenant, throughout the building
- Using other criteria to verify that the tenant can pay rent, such as a guarantor
In addition, the accommodation plan should state who will be involved in implementing each accommodation. For instance, involved parties could include:
- Housekeeping or maintenance staff
- Third-party companies
Furthermore, an accommodation plan should list any accessible formats or communication supports a tenant uses. Likewise, if a tenant needs an individualized emergency response plan, this document should be part of the accommodation plan. Finally, the landlord and tenant must observe how successful the plan is. They should review the plan and make any needed changes on pre-scheduled dates, as well as if:
- An accommodation is not working correctly
- The tenant’s ability to perform certain household tasks changes
Processes for developing and implementing accommodation plans for tenants with disabilities could help landlords meet tenants’ accessibility needs.