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Forms of Discrimination

In our last article, we outlined what discrimination based on disability is. In this article, we describe some forms of discrimination on the basis of disability.

Forms of Discrimination

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), organizations have a responsibility not to discriminate. Moreover, they must avoid all types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Subtle discrimination
  • Adverse effect discrimination

In other words, organizations need to have environments and practices in place to support people with disabilities, to prevent discrimination from happening. Moreover, organizations must also respond to instances of discrimination when they occur.

Direct Discrimination

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) states that discrimination is sometimes direct. In other words, employers or service providers take steps to deny people the services they need, or treat them differently in a negative way. For example, a business discriminates directly when it refuses to welcome customers with service animals.

Indirect Discrimination

However, organizations can also discriminate indirectly, through a third party. For example, an organization recruiting new workers through a third-party hiring agency could request that the agency does not send a candidate with a disability. In this case, both the organization and the recruiting agency are discriminating.

Subtle Discrimination

Furthermore, discrimination can also be subtle. For instance, someone entering into a contract with a person who has a disability could attempt to charge more than they would charge a non-disabled person for the same service. Since this client may not know about the price difference, they may not know they are being discriminated against. However, if this client finds out that the contractor often charges clients with disabilities more than non-disabled clients, they will know that discrimination is taking place.

Adverse Effect Discrimination

Finally, adverse effect discrimination happens when organizations have policies or practices that exclude people with certain disabilities. For example, if a landlord always uses cleaning chemicals that harm people with environmental sensitivities, the landlord is discriminating against any tenants or visitors who have these sensitivities.

Organizations must take steps to avoid all these types of discrimination. For instance, they must train staff to interact with people in ways that are not discriminatory. Furthermore, they must construct their policies and practices so that they are open and welcoming to all people. In addition, they must meet the needs of all workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities who request accommodations or other support.