Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and other 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 have access to services open to non-disabled people.
The Right to Accommodation
Under the employment standards of the AODA, employers must develop accommodation plans for workers with disabilities. Similarly, the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) also mandates accommodation for people with disabilities in the workplace. Moreover, the Code also requires accommodation in four other areas of society:
- Accessing goods, services, and facilities
- Entering contracts
- Membership in unions or professional associations
Nonetheless, many guidelines governing workplace accommodation under the AODA also apply to accommodation under the Code.
For instance, under the AODA, a worker with a disability may approach their employer and request accommodation. The worker has the most knowledge about their own needs and what accommodations will best meet those needs. At other times, the employer may ask the worker whether accommodation would help them perform job tasks.
Similarly, under the Code, someone may approach an organization to discuss accommodations they need as a worker, a tenant, or a client receiving goods or services. Alternatively, the organization also has a duty to recognize that workers, tenants, or clients may need accommodations. As a result, if an employer, landlord, or service provider notices that someone is having difficulty accomplishing tasks, that person may need accommodations. The employer, landlord, or service provider must start a discussion to determine how best to meet the person’s accessibility needs.
For example, a person may approach their employer to ask for accommodations because they are losing their hearing. Alternatively, the person may feel reluctant to approach the employer because they fear stigma if they disclose that they are gaining a disability. However, the employer may notice that the worker seems distracted or less productive than usual. The employer should take time to discuss whether this behaviour could be due to challenges the worker is experiencing, and whether workplace accommodations could reduce these challenges. In either case, the worker and employer can then begin discussing what the worker’s disability-related needs are and how the employer can provide accommodations that will allow the worker to be productive again.
Moreover, under the AODA, a person does not need to disclose a specific medical diagnosis in order to receive accommodations. However, they may need to disclose that they have a disability that impacts how they perform certain job functions. Likewise, people seeking workplace, household, or service accommodations do not need to disclose a specific diagnosis. However, they do need to discuss how their disabilities impact how they perform tasks.
For example, a tenant who has developed arthritis may have difficulty opening the doors in their home. To receive accommodations, they do not need to disclose their medical diagnosis. Instead, they could show a doctor’s note explaining that they have limited function in their hands. Then, they can discuss possible solutions, such as installing door handles instead of knobs.
Furthermore, the employer, landlord, or service provider may ask for more information about the person’s disability. For example, an employer may request that a worker ask for a second medical opinion. However, the employer is required to cover the cost of any testing or other proof they request.
In addition, under both the AODA and the Code, accommodations should remain confidential. In some cases, colleagues, neighbours, or others may be involved in the accommodation process. As a result, the worker or tenant will need to disclose their needs to these individuals. However, the employer, landlord, or service provider cannot disclose the accommodated person’s disability to anyone without the person’s permission.
Our next series of articles will explore accommodation in employment, housing, and other services, as mandated under the Human Rights Code.