Removing barriers and designing inclusively
Persons with disabilities face barriers from physical limitation or public perception. An employer can proactively remove barriers instead of waiting for requests or complaints.
Identifying and removing barriers makes ethical and business sense. Managing workplace disabilities indicates a commitment to customers and employees. This improves employee morale and productivity, customer satisfaction and business reputation.
To manage workplace disabilities:
- Conduct an accessibility review of facilities, services and procedures to see what barriers exist.
- Implement an accessibility plan that can remove barriers.
- Design policies that consider all involved workplace parties.
- Design an accessibility policy and complaints procedure to address future complaints.
Barriers are not just physical. As an employer, take steps to change attitudes that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. This will promote respect and dignity and help people with disabilities fully participate in the workplace.
The duty to accommodate
Even with inclusive design of facilities and services, you may still need to accommodate people with disabilities. Under the Code, employers have a legal “duty to accommodate.”
Accommodation should allow people with disabilities to equally participate in the workplace, services and housing.
Accommodation is a shared responsibility. Everyone involved, including the person asking for accommodation, should work together. Involved parties can exchange relevant information, work to understand one another and develop solutions.
In developing accommodations for employees with dementia, employed caregivers and customers, consider individual needs. A solution for one person may not work for another.
Some examples of accommodations include:
- Flexible work hours
- Providing reading materials in more accessible formats
- Putting in automatic entry doors and making workplace washrooms accessible
- Retraining or reassigning an employee
Many accommodations are easy and inexpensive. But the best solution may result in “undue hardship” due to costs or health and safety factors. If this happens, you have a duty to take next-best steps that would not result in undue hardship.
In providing accommodations as an employer:
- Accept accommodation requests from employees, tenants, and clients in good faith.
- Ask only for information needed. For example, you would need to know that an employee’s loss of vision prevents him from using printed material, but not that they have diabetes.
- Consider individual needs.
- Manage requests as quickly as possible, even if it requires a temporary solution.
- Respect her dignity and keep information confidential.
- Cover the costs, including any medical costs.