What is the Duty to Accommodate?

Source: Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The “duty to accommodate” is the legal obligation that employers, unions, landlords and service providers have under the Ontario Human’s Right Code (and respective provincial codes in other provinces) to ensure that persons with disabilities are free from discrimination. The goal of accommodation is to allow equal benefit from and participation in services, housing or the workplace.

There is no set formula for accommodating people with disabilities. The best ways to accommodate a disability depend on what works best for the individual with the disability. Many accommodations can be made easily, and at minimal cost. In some cases, immediate implementation of the most appropriate solution might result in “undue hardship” to the employer because of costs or health and safety factors. There is still a duty to consider and implement next-best measures that would not result in undue hardship. Such measures should be taken only until more ideal solutions can be put in place or phased in.

The employer may have to add or modify roles, processes, rules, policies and/or practices so that the needs of employees with disabilities are met. Accommodations can be simple and straight forward (e.g., turning off fluorescent lights in an office) or they can be complex and multifaceted.

Some examples of accommodations include:

  • Increased flexibility in work hours or break times;
  • Providing reading materials in alternative formats including digitized text, Braille or large print;
  • Providing sign language interpreters or real time captioning for persons who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing so they can participate in meetings;
  • Installing automatic entry doors and making washrooms accessible in the workplace or the common areas of a condominium; and
  • Depending on the circumstances, job restructuring, retraining or assignment to an alternative position.

For more information on accommodations, visit www.ohrc.on.ca or www.mentalhealthworks.ca.


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