Accomodating people with disabilities

When the focus is on building an inclusive environment that is welcoming to people regardless of disability, you may need to make changes to work areas, consider technological modifications, make information accessible in alternate formats or make changes to tasks or working hours. Duty to Accommodate refers to the obligation of an employer, service provider or union to take steps to eliminate disadvantage to employees, prospective employees or clients resulting from a rule, practice or physical barrier that has or may have an adverse impact on individuals or groups protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act, or identified as a designated group under the Employment Equity Act.

This includes the hiring process as well as accommodating an individual once they are hired.

While you may have to make some changes to workstations or provide an assistive device or assistive technology, many changes are simple.

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Not every person will self-identify that they have a disability and need accommodation.

This may be due to fear of, for example, being passed over for promotion or embarrassment because of society's stigma of their disability.

The only grounds for not accommodating an applicant or employee having personal characteristics protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act is if the exclusion is based on a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR).

A BFOR is a standard or rule that is integral to carrying out the functions of a specific position.

My research into foreign language learning in schools took place mainly in the early nineties when modern foreign language learning was becoming compulsory for all children in the first four years of secondary school.

At that time I was teaching learners with dyslexia full time, and parents were frequently asking me if their children should not be taken out of language learning.

For a standard to be considered a BFOR, an employer has to establish that any accommodation or changes to the standard would create an undue hardship.

When a standard is a BFOR, an employer is not expected to change it to accommodate an employee.

Also, recent jurisprudence has widened the applicability of accommodation.

Many accommodation options available to you as an employer can be low-cost or no cost.

Remember that the accommodation process can be ongoing as accommodation needs change or the work environment changes.

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