Guidelines for Accommodating Disabilities
This guideline must be read in conjunction with the City’s Accommodation Policy and corresponding Procedures.
The term ‘Management’ refers to Divisional supervisors and managers, as well as Human Resources staff.
The City’s Accommodation Policy outlines the obligation to accommodate individuals in accordance with the City’s Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy, the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code), and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This guide has been prepared to raise awareness and fulfill our shared obligation to accommodate employees, job applicants and service recipients based on the ground of Disability.
The Code requires that all employees, job applicants and service recipients receive equal treatment and opportunities regardless of disability. The AODA requires organizations to provide employees, job applicants and service recipients with disabilities barrier-free access to goods, services, facilities, and all aspects of employment (including recruitment). Accompanying the AODA are multi-year standards establishing what organizations are required to implement in several areas, including accessible communications and the built environment (several examples related to the employment standard are highlighted below).
A disability includes:
a) any degree of physical disability that may be caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness. Examples include diabetes, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other assistive device,
b) a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability,
c) A learning disability, or limitation related to the understanding or use of language,
d) A mental disorder, including addictions or
e) In the case of employees, an injury or disability that is claimed or compensated by WSIB
A disability may be temporary, sporadic, or permanent. Disabilities differ in severity, may be visible or non-visible, and the symptoms of the disability may come and go. Examples may include the following:
- A person with arthritis has a disability that over time may increase in severity.
- A person with clinical depression has a disability that is not visible.
- A person with an alcohol addiction has a disability that may result in periods when the condition does not have an effect on work performance, and other periods when it does.
All employees, job applicants and service recipients have a right to be treated with respect and dignity and to participate fully in both service and employment activities regardless of disability. Every effort will be taken to remove barriers faced by disabled individuals when accessing services and employment activities.
Employees, job applicants and service recipients need to make their accommodation needs known as far in advance as possible from when the accommodation is likely required. This is to provide Management sufficient time to explore and respond to the request. This is particularly important for job applicants as there are often tight deadlines during the hiring process that make last-minute requests for accommodation problematic. Exploring disability-related accommodation requests can be complex and may involve multiple parties. It is not unreasonable in certain circumstances for delay to occur as a result.
Requests for accommodation should be submitted in writing; Use the confidential form to Request/Document Accommodation Plans. The completed form should be accompanied by objective medical documentation from a treating physician/specialist, in which functional limitations are clearly identified.
Management may have clarifying questions or seek assistance from Employee Health and Rehabilitation (EH&R). In order to facilitate the accommodation process, employees/job applicants and service recipients will not unreasonably withhold required information. Individuals requesting accommodation have an obligation to cooperate by providing information about their functional limitations throughout the accommodation process and remaining flexible in considering reasonable accommodation solutions.
In most cases, it is the requester’s responsibility to trigger the accommodation process by notifying Management and/or consulting with EH&R. However, if Management suspects that a disability may be impacting an employee’s ability to perform the essential duties of their job; there is a duty to inquire regarding potential accommodation needs. The duty to inquire may arise due to the sudden and uncharacteristic onset of one or more of the following: erratic behaviour, increased absenteeism and/or performance issues. Divisional Management should consult with the Human Rights Office (HRO) and/or EH&R for assistance.
Assessing the Accommodation Request
Management will document the accommodation exploration process and any accommodation plan that results. Documented accommodation plans are a legislative requirement under the AODA. Use the confidential form to Request/Document Accommodation Plans.
Management will explore and provide accommodation to the extent necessary. The City has a right to objective medical documentation from a treating physician outlining functional limitations and restrictions so that appropriate accommodation can be arranged. If an employee/job applicant or service recipient does not cooperate by providing objective medical documentation in a timely manner, an accommodation may not be put in place until medical information is received confirming a disability and outlining the functional limitations that need to be accommodated.
Where the functional limitations are unclear or additional information is required, Management should follow up with the requester for additional information. Ideally, Management will provide the requester with sufficient information about the essential duties and tasks required of the requester, and ask them to follow up with their treating physician/specialist to identify functional limitations. For example, Management may provide a job applicant with details of the tests required as part of the hiring process. In employment, Management can provide the jobs demands analysis for the requester’s position and ask their doctor to fill out the Health Professional’s Report of Worker’s Function Form.
Management may also engage the HRO and/or EH&R for assistance to determine, in consultation with the requester, the functional limitations and/or what further information is required to identify the requester’s functional limitations.
Management will be required to ensure that confidentiality is protected and that information obtained for the purposes of exploring the accommodation request is kept in a secure location and used solely for the purpose it was obtained for.
If Management receives medical information that goes beyond the requester’s functional limitations, the documentation will be forwarded to EH&R, where it will be evaluated and treated confidentially. When medical information is verified, EH&R will communicate with Management the non-confidential portions, which are the abilities, limitations, restrictions and anticipated duration of accommodation. EH&R will not disclose confidential medical information in its possession (including the type of disability, the treatment plan and the name/specialty of the medical provider) to Management unless the requester consents to sharing such information.
Personal information concerning an employee’s disability cannot be released without the prior written consent of the individual; or where there is a legal requirement or exception by law that requires/authorizes the release of that information (e.g. when dealing with workplace violence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act).
Management, in consultation with the requester and other experts as necessary, will identify and assess as many accommodation solutions as possible. The aim of employment accommodation is to address disability-related barriers that impact an employee’s ability to perform the essential duties of their job. Accommodations will be developed to meet individual needs in a way that is least disruptive to the employee and to divisional operations. Please note that:
- Accommodation does not require creating a new job.
- Accommodation does not require removing essential duties of the job or changing the job such that it becomes a substantially different one.
- Accommodation is intended to assist the employee to meet performance standards.
- Accommodation respects the dignity of the disabled employee.
- When identifying accommodation solutions, the City is entitled to select the accommodation option that is the least costly and minimally disruptive to operations; employees are paid only for the hours they have worked.
- Employees must accept a reasonable accommodation.
After accommodation is implemented Management will manage the workplace environment to ensure a respectful and supportive team culture is maintained. It will also follow up on at least an annual basis, as required by the AODA, to ensure that documentation to support the accommodation request is current and that the accommodation continues to be appropriate.
Accommodation will be provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities. There are countless options for accommodating disabilities (whether in the workplace or in the provision of services), many of which cost very little. As such, the following is a non-exhaustive list of the types of measures that can be considered:
- job redesign
- making physical adjustments to a chair, workstation, entryway, etc
- adjustments to organizational policies and practices that are inconsistent with Human Rights obligations
- minor modifications of job duties
- exploring commuting options in exceptional circumstances – Consult HRO for advice
- Human support
- rescheduling an assessment or meeting, if requested and appropriate
- modifying tests or exams, where appropriate (job applicants)
- Provision of materials and communications in alternative formats and/or with communication support
- allowing the use of assistive devices and technical aids, which may include electronic equipment, such as large computer screen, specific software, etc
- ensuring that individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired can make inquiries via email or another appropriate forum
- Building modifications
- Flexible work hours to attend counselling and referral services
- Temporary or permanent alternative work
- Unpaid leaves of absence
- Changes to scheduling or hours of work
- Changes to work uniforms.
- Removal from the City’s various Attendance Management Programs (see below).
If through the Attendance Management Program the employee advises Management that they have a disability that impacts their attendance at work, Management should refer the employee to EH&R. If EH&R confirms that the disability is impacting attendance, then the Attendance Management Program does not apply. Division Management continues to work with the employee to manage attendance, but not through the Attendance Management Program.
For further information please review:
Both employers and unions must co-operate when:
- implementing changes to the physical work environment or equipment and/or modifying how and when tasks are performed to enable the employee to achieve the objectives of his/her position.
- modifying the employee’s job duties in a manner consistent with his/her individual capabilities in order for the employee to perform the essential tasks so as to achieve the objectives of his/her position.
- exploring other available job opportunities within the employee’s home division in which he/she would be capable of performing the essential tasks of the position, with or without modifications.
- exploring available job opportunities in other divisions in which the employee would be capable of performing the essential tasks of the position, with or without modifications.
Accommodating a person who has been absent from work may involve any of the above listed criteria, but also raises unique issues. People who return to work after an absence related to a disability are protected by the Code. It is typical that an employee’s return-to-work after an extended absence may include gradually increasing their work hours until the employee is able to successfully return to full-time hours. This graduated return-to-work plan includes the use of sick time for the days not worked and would be for a period up to 12 weeks. Any accommodation requests for reduced work hours extending beyond a 12 week period must be reviewed with a Disability Management Consultant or EH&R.
For further information, please review:
A customer with a disability that is accompanied by a service animal will be allowed access to premises that are open to the public. “No pet” policies do not apply to service animals. If a bona fide health and safety concern presents itself, for example in the form of a severe allergy to the animal, Management will assess the accommodation needs of all individuals.
Glossary of Terms
Include, but are not limited to, captioning, alternative and augmentative communication supports, plain language, sign language and other supports that facilitate effective communications.
Personal Assistive Devices
Personal supports used by persons with disabilities that enable them to carry out the activities of daily living and allow access to city services. Equipment such as power-mobility devices is also considered Personal Assistive Devices.
Used by people with many different kinds of disabilities. Examples of service animals include dogs used by people who are blind, hearing alert animals for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, and animals trained to alert an individual to an oncoming seizure and lead them to safety.
Accompanies a person with a disability, in order to help with communication, mobility, personal care or medical needs or with access to goods or services. Medical needs may include, but are not limited to, monitoring an individual’s health or providing medical support by being available in the event of a seizure. A support person may be a paid profession, a volunteer, family member or friend of the person with a disability.
Human Rights Office: 416-392-8383 TTY 416-397-7332
Employee Assistance Program: 416-392-6633
Employee Health and Rehabilitation Services: 416-392-7330
Occupational Health and Safety: 416-392-5497
See the City’s Guide to Good Practice
One helpful external resource on understanding mental health issues is CAMH’s (Centre for Addiction & Mental Health) Mental Health and Addiction 101 Series of free tutorials. One of the biggest concerns people face is the fear of dealing with “Stigma”. We encourage you to review this CAMH tutorial and to review their Introduction to Mental Health 101 tutorial.
Health Professional’s Report of Worker Function
Request/Document Accommodation Plans
Understanding Functional Limitations
Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy
Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy Complaint Procedures
Psychological Health and Safety Policy
Director, Equity, Diversity and Human Rights
August 25, 2014