Accommodating the individual needs of people with disabilities is a legal duty under the Code. This allows people to benefit equally and take part fully in the workplace, housing, and other services. The most appropriate accommodation is the one that best meets the individual needs of the person with a disability. You are only exempt if it would cause undue hardship — a very high test.
There is no set formula for accommodation. Some accommodations can benefit many people, but what works for one person may not work for others. You must consider individual needs each time a person asks to be accommodated. Many accommodations can be made easily and inexpensively. But if it's not possible to put the best solution in place, or if doing so results in undue hardship, you still have the duty to take the next-best steps. Examples of accommodation include:
- Providing printed material in alternative formats such as electronic files, large print or Braille.
- Providing sign language interpreters or real-time captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Offering flexible work hours or break times
- Modifying job duties, retraining, or offering alternative work
- Installing automatic door openers and accessible washrooms Accommodation doesn't have to be provided if it causes undue hardship. Undue hardship is the legal limit of the duty to accommodate. It refers to situations where severe negative effects outweigh the benefit of providing accommodation. Three factors are used to determine undue hardship:
- One: Costs. Renovating an older building to make it accessible may be too costly for a small business. If the business must reduce staff or hours to provide the accommodation, then it may be able to claim undue hardship.
- Two: Are there external funding sources, such as grants or tax breaks, to reduce the accommodation costs?
- And Three: Health and safety considerations. For example, there may be undue hardship if the accommodation violates occupational health and safety regulations. Employers must try to keep all workers safe and still accommodate the needs of the worker with a disability. If a significant risk remains for others, it will be undue hardship. If a significant risk remains only for the worker with a disability, they might have the right to accept the risk. The courts have set a very high standard of proof. You must provide clear evidence if you are claiming undue hardship. Employers have a duty to accommodate the employee as fully and as promptly as possible in his or her job. Modifying job duties might be appropriate in some cases. If accommodation in the original job isn't possible or would cause undue hardship, consider other available jobs or re-training opportunities that could accommodate the employee in another job. You may be held liable if your organization fails to take steps over time to accommodate employee needs.
Everyone involved must take part in the accommodation process. Sometimes outside experts can help too. If you need an accommodation:
- Tell your employer, union, landlord, or service provider about any needs related to your disability and your job duties, tenancy, or the services being provided.
- Provide supporting information about your disability-related needs, including medical or other expert opinions where required.
- Get involved in seeking accommodation solutions to the best of your ability. An employer, union, landlord, or service provider must:
- Accept requests for accommodation in good faith.
- Act promptly, even if it means creating a temporary solution before a long-term one can be put in place.
- Ask only for information needed to provide the accommodation. For example, you may need to know that someone with vision loss is unable to read printed material, but not how or why she lost her vision.
- Actively seek appropriate accommodation solutions and ask for expert help if needed.
- Cooperate with other parties where necessary.
- Respect the dignity and privacy of the person asking for accommodation, and make sure the accommodation process doesn't lead to reprisals against that person.
- Cover the costs of accommodations, such as any needed medical or other expert opinions or documents, to the point of undue hardship.
Understanding the Duty to Accommodate
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