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In Canada, 22 per cent of the population over 15 years of age has a disability. Over half of persons with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years of age have a college, university or apprenticeship/trades certificate or diploma (Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017), and research shows recruiting a person with a disability and promoting accessibility is the right thing to do for your business.
Through the Discover Ability Network, businesses can find diverse talent and job seekers with a disability are able to gain and keep meaningful employment.
For success throughout all stages of employment, both the employer and job seeker have a role to play in ensuring any accessibility requirements are met.
What Exactly Is Accessibility? And How Does This Relate to Accommodation?
Put simply, accessibility means giving people of all abilities the opportunity to participate in everyday life.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed in 2005, with the goal of making Ontario accessible by 2025. The AODA sets accessibility standards that organizations must meet.
One of these standards is the employment standard which is designed to help make hiring and employee support practices more accessible. These AODA standards apply to all organizations (public, private, and not-for-profit) with one or more employees in Ontario, although requirements depend on an organization’s type and size.
In order to comply with the AODA, an employer may be required to make an accommodation. An accommodation describes the duties of an employer to take the necessary steps to give equal access to people who are protected by Ontario’s Human Rights Code which includes persons with disabilities.
Understanding the Responsibilities of the Employer
As a job seeker, it is important to be aware that businesses in Ontario must comply with the AODA and have accessibility policies for employing and providing services for people with disabilities.
The Employment Standards apply to all stages of employment for paid employees, including:
- Recruitment, assessment and selection
- Workplace accommodation
- Performance management
- Career development and advancement
- Return to work
When an employee requests an accommodation because of a disability, the employer has a duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code to:
- Accept the request and act quickly
- Get expert help if needed
- Keep information confidential
- Cover the cost of the accommodation to the point of undue hardship
Businesses have the flexibility to create policies and practices that best fit the existing work culture and business practices, as long as they meet the needs of employees and those they serve.
Accessibility at Work
According to Louie DiPalma, Vice President of SME Programs at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, even if you have just one employee, you’re obliged to comply with AODA. He says it doesn’t cost much to make some workplace accommodations, and it can pay off in greater productivity.
One example is of a welding shop puzzled over why one of their top welders wasn’t producing as usual.
“It turned out the employee had hurt his back outside of the workplace, and he didn’t have the mobility to work to the same level as before,” recalls DiPalma. “They worked up an accommodation plan and purchased a special chair for less than $270. The individual went right back to becoming their best-producing welder. That’s one of the myths we dispel in the workshop: most accommodations are either zero cost or under $500.”
Low cost and productivity gains are just part of the good news story when it comes to supporting or hiring a person with a disability, says DiPalma, who points to statistics showing better health and safety outcomes, and 20 per cent higher worker retention. He asks, “Isn’t that the ideal employee?”
Understanding the Responsibilities of the Job Seeker
While employers must accommodate the individual needs of employees with disabilities, individuals must ensure that accommodation requests are properly communicated.
- Ask for the accommodation
- Explain why you need it
- Provide information that is directly relevant to your needs, restrictions or limitations (medical information, but only as it directly relates to your request for accommodation)
- Participate in discussions about possible accommodation solutions
- Cooperate with any experts whose assistance is required
- Try different forms of accommodation, even if it is not the perfect accommodation
- The law allows for flexibility in how an employer meets the requirements of the standards, as long as they meet the needs of people with disabilities.
By working together, employers can create an accessible and inclusive workplace environment and jobseekers can perform at their best.
Want to access more resources for job seekers with disabilities? Visit the Discover Ability Network at https://discoverability.network.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.