Under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Employment Standard of the AODA, employers are required to accommodate workers with disabilities unless accommodation would create undue hardship. Some employers may choose not to hire a candidate with a disability because they fear that accommodating such a candidate would be too costly. However, this assumption is not true. This article will look at different types of funding for workplace accommodations.
Accommodations Can Be Affordable
We explained in our article on Top Myths Regarding Disabilities in the Workplace that over half of accommodations cost less than five hundred dollars, and many others cost $1,500 or less.
Accommodations in this price range include:
- Changes to work schedules
- Different communication methods, such as writing instead of speaking or colleagues self-identifying
- Changes to work stations, such as raising desk height
- Organizational items, such as wall calendars, timers, or apps
- Different training techniques, such as recording sessions or demonstrating tasks
Nevertheless, some needed accommodations are more costly. They include:
Accessible building features, such as:
- Automatic doors
- Accessible washrooms
- Visual fire alarms
Computer equipment, such as:
- Large monitors
- Screen reading software
- Braille displays
- Speech recognition software
Mobility Aids, such as:
Wheelchairs performing specific functions, like standing wheelchairs
Funding for Workplace Accommodations
Despite the greater cost of these accommodations, they need not create undue hardship for the employer. Here, we describe a few of the sources of funding for workplace accommodations that allow workers to access the accommodations they require. Different sources have specific criteria, including:
- What kinds of equipment or projects are funded
- Who is or is not eligible
- Whether employers or workers should apply
- When or how often applications are accepted
- What percentage of cost is covered
- The process of applying and receiving the grant or equipment
For more information about a specific funding source, visit its website.
The Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) offers frequent opportunities for organizations to apply for grants. These grants fund capital projects that make a workplace or community more accessible for workers or citizens with disabilities. The small projects component of the program offers grants of up to $100,000 per project. Based on criteria of individual grants offered, organizations may apply for funding to construct, renovate, or retrofit buildings, or to install technology.
Likewise, the Ontario Trillium Foundation also provides capital grants to help citizens be fully involved in their communities, including employment. Grants are between $5,000 and $150,000, for the term of one year. In addition to larger community projects like buying land and renovating community spaces, funding can support smaller, organization specific projects, such as:
- Buying equipment
- Construction, renovation, or repair, including developing plans, legal fees, or survey costs
Organizations must apply for funding and later report on how they use it. The Foundation gives applicants the final ten percent of their grants when they submit their reports.
Individual cities may also provide funding. Moreover, local Lions Club, Rotary Club, or Kiwanis Club chapters may fund certain devices for citizens who contact them to inquire. Application processes, and kinds of devices funded, vary from chapter to chapter.
Funding for Personal Assistive Devices
Finally, workers may sometimes bring assistive devices they already own to use in the workplace. Ontario residents with physical disabilities lasting for at least six months can receive funding for such personal devices through the Assistive Devices Program (ADP). ADP is an Ontario government program that provides 75 percent of the cost of equipment, including:
- Mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, crutches, or positioning supports
- Hearing devices, such as hearing aids, FM systems, or teletypewriters (TTY)
- Visual aids, such as white canes, specialized glasses or magnifiers, or computers with specialized hardware or software like Braille displays or screen readers
- Communication aids, such as voice amplifiers, communication boards, or computers with specialized hardware or software like mouse alternatives or text-to-speech software
The other 25% of the cost may be available through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works. An authorizer assesses an applicant’s individual needs and recommends which devices a person could find most useful. People may apply for new devices every five years. ADP does not fund devices for people receiving similar funding through WSIB, or to Group “A” veterans as defined by Veterans Affairs Canada.
Everyone can be Accommodated
The above funding for workplace accommodations and other sources of support allow employers to fund a wide variety of accommodations. In this way, employers gain the freedom to hire or retain the best person for the job, regardless of whether that person needs structural or technological accommodations to succeed.