Accessibility Reports for Private or Nonprofit Businesses


Under the AODA, private or non-profit businesses with twenty to forty-nine (20-49) workers, or fifty (50) or more workers, must complete accessibility reports every three years. The next accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses were due on December 31st, 2021. However, the Ontario government has extended this deadline. Accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses are now due on June 30th, 2021. Therefore, private or non-profit businesses with twenty or more workers should complete their reports by this deadline. In addition, if businesses have technical difficulties, they should let the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility know. The Ministry can help resolve technical problems.

Accessibility Reports for Private or Nonprofit Businesses

Businesses complete the report by filling in a form on the Ontario government’s website. They must download the form and open it with Adobe Reader, not in their browsers. The first two pages of the form are instructions. Then, workers must click to open the rest of the form. However, once the whole form is opened, the instructions will no longer appear on the workers’ screens. Therefore, workers filling in the form should print off these two pages to look at as they complete the form. Furthermore, one or more workers in a business can complete a form. Workers can save the form and send it to coworkers so that they can complete it together.

Workers start completing the form by selecting their business category (private or nonprofit business). Selection ensures that all questions on the form will apply. Workers must then input their business’s legal name and business number (BN9), from federal or provincial tax returns. Businesses without a BN9 should contact the government to receive an AODA identifier. Next, the form asks for businesses’ number of workers. Finally, one senior member of the business must give their name and contact information. This senior member, called the certifier, will later confirm that the report is complete and accurate. The certifier must have legal authority to make this claim.

Workers must then answer the yes-or-no questions on the form. Once they have answered all questions, businesses submit the form by clicking a button at the bottom.

Our next article will discuss some of the questions in accessibility reports for private or nonprofit businesses.




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Educating Workers about Discrimination and Accessibility


In our last article, we discussed how organizational leaders can learn about discrimination on the basis of disability. Leaders can consult with people who have lived experience of disability to better understand the forms of discrimination, barriers, and stigma they face. This knowledge can help managers, supervisors, and other decision-makers develop policies and plans to reduce discrimination. In this article, we explore educating workers about discrimination and accessibility.

Educating Workers about Discrimination and Accessibility

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), Ontario workplaces must create and implement harassment policies. Moreover, workplaces must update these policies every year. These policies should clearly state that the workplace does not condone harassment on the basis of disability. In addition, employers should train their workers on the contents of their harassment policies. For example, workers should know how to follow the workplace procedure for making a harassment complaint. Furthermore, workers should know that if they make a complaint of harassment, they will not experience reprisal.

Similarly, under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), all workers and volunteers must receive AODA training. In this training, workers should learn about the requirements of the current AODA standards. Likewise, this training should also teach workers about how the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) applies to people with disabilities. In other words, workers should know about how the Code forbids discrimination on the basis of disability. Similarly, workers should know that the Code gives people with disabilities the right to accommodation in:

Workers should also know about specific policies and plans their employer has in place to accommodate workers, tenants, or clients with disabilities. Finally, workers’ AODA and human rights training should be updated regularly.

Learning More about People with Disabilities

Workers, like organizational leaders, may lack personal experience with disability. Therefore, workers may sometimes discriminate without meaning to because they do not know that they are creating barriers. Similarly, workers may stigmatize people with disabilities because they lack basic knowledge and believe stereotypes. As a result, organizational leaders can reduce the likelihood of discrimination by making their AODA training as thorough as possible. For instance, workers can learn about best practices when interacting with colleagues or customers who use:

On the other hand, workers should also know best practices for interacting with people whose disabilities are invisible.

Likewise, workers should know about the different types of barriers that colleagues or customers with disabilities may face, including:

All workers, including organizational leaders, should learn as much as they can about the barriers people experience and the accommodations they use. In this way, people have the knowledge to start removing the barriers and improving the accommodations. Workers will be less likely to discriminate or act on ableist beliefs if they have accurate knowledge about the daily lives of real people who have disabilities.




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Avoiding Discrimination on the Basis of Disability


In our last article, we discussed how the leaders of an organization may be held responsible for any discrimination or poisoned environments within the organization. In this article, we explore how organizational leaders can educate themselves about avoiding discrimination on the basis of disability.

Avoiding Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

Organizational leaders must create an environment that respects the dignity and equality of all workers, tenants, and clients. For example, an organization’s leaders should create, implement, and enforce strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Moreover, they must also follow the AODA mandate to create and implement policies and plans to remove and prevent accessibility barriers. In addition, organizational leaders should educate themselves, and the workers they supervise, about forms of discrimination and harassment that people may experience. These policies, plans, and training experiences should help all workers recognize and avoid behaviours that discriminate against someone or poison their environment.

Preventing and Removing Accessibility Barriers

Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), organizations must create and implement multi-year accessibility plans. This requirement applies to large private sector organizations, as well as small and large public sector organizations. An organization’s plan must outline the steps it will take to:

  • Identify, prevent, and remove accessibility barriers, including:
  • Meet other requirements under the IASR, such as:

Organizations must review and update their plans at least every five (5) years.

In addition, when public sector organizations develop their plans, they must consult people with disabilities. Organizations with accessibility advisory committees must consult those committees when developing accessibility plans.

Consulting People with Disabilities

To create these plans, organizational leaders must first identify accessibility barriers within their organizations. Similarly, to develop anti-discrimination or anti-harassment policies, leaders must learn about the forms of discrimination that people with disabilities face. Leaders can accomplish both these goals by consulting with people who have lived experience with disability.

For example, organizations can request anonymous feedback from workers, tenants, or customers who have experienced barriers. For instance, they can ask people to describe any instances of discrimination that impacted their dealings with the organization, including:

In addition, organizations could enter short-term or on-going contracts with people who have disabilities, who could find and point out barriers in their structures or services. Alternatively, organizational leaders could request the services of professional companies that specialize in assessing accessibility. In either case, an accessibility assessor with lived experience of disability could give organizational leaders valuable experience interacting with people who have disabilities. In turn, this interaction could dispel common myths or stereotypes about people with disabilities. As leaders learn more about the real capabilities and needs of people with disabilities, they may become more committed to preventing discrimination and accessibility barriers.

In our next article, we will explore how organizational leaders can educate their workers about preventing discrimination and providing accessibility.




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Duty to Prevent Discrimination


The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are. In addition, these policies outline how to prevent and respond to different forms of discrimination. According to the OHRC’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination based on disability, organizations have a duty to prevent discrimination. Employers, landlords, and service providers must create environments that discourage discrimination and harassment.

Duty to Prevent Discrimination

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) does not distinguish between intentional or unintentional discrimination. As a result, organizations should develop policies and practices that are welcoming to people of all abilities. Otherwise, they may find that they have discriminated without meaning to.

Similarly, organizations must prevent harassment and poisoned environments, and support any person who has experienced these conditions. The OHRC expects people to be aware that certain comments or actions could be harassment, or poison the environment. Even if someone does not know that harassment has happened, or that the environment is poisoned, they should know. In other words, people in charge of workplaces, housing, or services have the responsibility to know when harassment or discrimination has poisoned their environment. They also have a duty to respond when their environment has been poisoned.

Furthermore, the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), holds the leaders of an organization responsible for that organization’s discrimination. In other words, leaders of an organization are responsible if workers or agents discriminate or poison an environment. This responsibility is called “vicarious liability”, and liable leaders are called the “directing mind” of the organization. For instance, people who may be responsible for discrimination, as part of an organization’s directing mind, include:

  • Managers
  • Workers responsible for making decisions on behalf of the organization
  • Supervisors
  • Members of bargaining units within unions

Preventing and Responding to Discrimination

Therefore, members of an organization’s directing mind should do everything they can to prevent instances of discrimination or harassment. Likewise, they should also prepare procedures and resources to respond to claims of discrimination or harassment. They should take these claims seriously and respond to them quickly. Similarly, they should stop any ongoing instances of discrimination that they become aware of. Leaders of an organization must show their workers, tenants, and clients that they do not condone any discriminatory or harassing comments or actions that take place within their organization.

In addition, organizational leaders must also create and promote a workplace culture that respects all people. Even if they respond to instances of discrimination, they may still be liable if the workplace culture condones discrimination. As a result, members of an organization’s directing mind should promote behaviour that respects the dignity and equality of all workers, tenants, and clients.

For example, an organization’s leaders should create, implement, and enforce strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Moreover, they must also follow the AODA mandate to create and implement policies and plans to remove and prevent accessibility barriers. Finally, organizational leaders should educate themselves, and the workers they supervise, about forms of discrimination and harassment that people may experience. These policies, plans, and training experiences should help all workers recognize and avoid behaviours that discriminate against someone or poison their environment.

In our next article, we will explore how organizational leaders can educate themselves about avoiding discrimination on the basis of disability.




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Competing Rights to Accommodation


Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. However, the accommodations that people need may sometimes conflict with each other. Accommodation providers must find ways to meet the needs of people with competing rights to accommodation.

Competing Rights to Accommodation

For instance, an employer may hesitate to hire an applicant who is deaf, because the department manager is blind. The employer may be unsure that these two professionals would be able to work together easily. However, the employer, department manager, and applicant could work together to find solutions. For instance, the applicant would likely use accommodations to communicate with other colleagues, including:

  • Sign Language interpretation
  • Speechreading
  • Text or email

All these accommodations would promote communication with the department manager, as well as other colleagues. For example, the applicant and manager could communicate through text or email, if the department manager uses a screen reader or Braille display. In contrast, other methods of communication, such as pen-and-paper notes, would not work for these colleagues. Nonetheless, they have many ways to communicate and form a strong collegial relationship.

In this situation, though the employer fears that rights may conflict, both workers can easily become strong colleagues.

Finding Solutions for Competing Rights Claims

Alternatively, other situations may create conflicts of competing rights. For example, someone with a service animal, and someone with a severe allergy to dogs could register to take the same class. Both potential students have the same right to take the class. On one hand, the service-animal handler has the right to have their service dog with them anywhere the public is allowed to go. On the other hand, the person with the allergy has the right to a safe environment. As a result, these two people may not be able to take the class at the same time. In other words, these two people’s rights compete with each other. Therefore, the organization running the class must find ways to allow both potential students access to the class.

For instance, if the same class is offered at different times, one student could register at another time. In contrast, if there is only one class, the organization could hold the class in a large room. This location change would allow the two students to stay as far from each other as possible.

In cases of competing rights to accommodation, the accommodation provider and the people needing accommodation must do their best to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs and respects everyone’s dignity.




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Health and Safety Concerns about Accommodating People with Disabilities


Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. Accommodation providers must implement accommodations unless they would cause the provider undue hardship. There are only two reasons a provider can have to claim undue hardship. One is the cost of accommodation for people with disabilities. The other is health and safety concerns about accommodating people with disabilities.

Health and Safety Concerns about Accommodating People with Disabilities

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are. In addition, these policies outline how to prevent and respond to different forms of discrimination. According to the OHRC’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination based on disability, accommodation providers do not have to make accommodations if doing so will cause undue hardship. However, it is the responsibility of the accommodation provider to prove that making an accommodation would cause them undue hardship.

To prove undue hardship, an employer, a landlord, or a service provider must show that an accommodation would negatively impact the health and safety of the accommodated person, or of other people. However, they cannot prove undue hardship simply by stating that they believe an accommodation would negatively impact health and safety. In other words, an accommodation provider cannot use stereotypes about people with disabilities in statements about health and safety.

For example, a landlord may try to prove that they cannot rent to a family if one of the parents is blind. The landlord might believe that people who are blind cannot move around safely. As a result, the landlord might feel that a blind tenant would be a health and safety risk. However, people who are blind can move around safely, maintain homes, and care for families. As a result, the landlord cannot claim undue hardship due to health and safety concerns. Instead, the landlord should learn more about how people who are blind, or have other disabilities, perform every-day tasks. In addition, the landlord could start a discussion with the prospective tenant and implement any accommodations they may need. For instance, the tenant could place Braille labels on the buttons of appliances, such as the oven or washing machine.

Minimizing Health and Safety Risks

On the other hand, some situations may pose real health or safety risks for people with disabilities. In these cases, accommodation providers should discuss these risks with the person needing accommodation. Some activities pose risks for everyone, and each person accepts the possibility of risk. In these situations, someone with a disability has the same right that non-disabled people have to accept the possibility of health and safety risks.

For example, sports may pose a risk to all players. However, a sports program coordinator may feel that someone with a disability should not be part of their program, because a player with a disability could be taking a larger risk. Nonetheless, a player with a disability may be willing to take the risks involved in the sport. For instance, they may sign a waiver stating that they take responsibility for any risk to their health and safety. In this way, someone with a disability can be part of many integrated sports, such as:

Alternatively, there may be ways for accommodation providers to minimize real risks that an accommodation poses, either to the person needing it, or to others. Before claiming undue hardship, accommodation providers must assess how likely or severe these risks will be. Then, they must create plans or rules to prevent risk or reduce its impact.

Finally, if the organization finds evidence that a health and safety risk is severe and will impact many people on a regular basis, even after all possible accommodations are in place, the organization may be able to claim undue hardship.




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Cost of Accommodation for People with Disabilities


Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. Accommodation providers must implement accommodations unless they would cause the provider undue hardship. There are only two reasons a provider can have to claim undue hardship. One is the cost of accommodation for people with disabilities. The other is health and safety concerns about accommodating people with disabilities.

Cost of Accommodation for People with Disabilities

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are. In addition, these policies outline how to prevent and respond to different forms of discrimination. According to the OHRC’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination based on disability, accommodation providers do not have to make accommodations if doing so will cause undue hardship. However, it is the responsibility of the accommodation provider to prove that making an accommodation would cause them undue hardship.

To prove undue hardship, an employer, a landlord, or a service provider must show that they cannot afford the accommodation. For instance, they can show that an accommodation is too costly by comparing the cost of the accommodation to their annual financial statements and budgets. However, they cannot prove undue hardship simply by stating that they believe they cannot afford to implement an accommodation.

Furthermore, grants, tax incentives or deductions, and other funding sources may be available to help a business or a landlord improve the accessibility of structures and services. For example, a business or landlord could apply for funding from:

These sources of financial support can assist employers, landlords, or service providers to fund costly accommodations, such as:

As a result, an accommodation provider must attempt to find funding from all possible sources before they can claim undue hardship.

In our next article, we will explore how health and safety considerations may cause undue hardship.




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Undue Hardship


Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. Accommodation providers must implement accommodations unless they would cause the provider undue hardship. There are only two reasons a provider can have to claim undue hardship. One is the cost of accommodation for people with disabilities. The other is health and safety concerns about accommodating people with disabilities.

Undue Hardship

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are. In addition, these policies outline how to prevent and respond to different forms of discrimination. According to the OHRC’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination based on disability, accommodation providers do not have to make accommodations if doing so will cause “undue hardship”. In other words, if the cost of making an accommodation would prevent an organization from functioning, the organization does not need to provide that accommodation. Similarly, organizations do not need to provide accommodations that would cause health hazards. However, organizations have a duty to provide all other accommodations, even if they cause some hardship for the provider.

For example, many accommodations cost under five hundred dollars ($500). These accommodations include:

  • Scheduling accommodations, such as:
    • Brief but frequent breaks
    • Shifts at specific times
  • Extensions to deadlines, such as:
    • Rent payments, if someone is in the hospital for disability-related reasons
  • Moving clutter or furniture, to widen aisles
  • Work station accommodations, such as raised or standing desks
  • Communicating with people in a variety of ways, such as:
    • In person
    • By telephone, teletypewriter (TTY), or Video Relay Service (VRS)
    • By email or text
  • Assisting people to fill out forms or navigate buildings

Likewise, other accommodations cost less than one thousand and five hundred dollars ($1500). For instance, these accommodations include:

  • Computer hardware or software, such as:
    • Large monitors
    • Alternative keyboards
    • Speech recognition software
    • Screen reading or screen magnification software

Hardships of Convenience or Morale

Although these accommodations may require some administrative changes, they will not have a large financial impact on a workplace, landlord, or service. Therefore, organizations must provide these accommodations for people who need them, even if staff feel that making these changes or purchases is inconvenient.

For example, an employer may hesitate to provide the accommodation of a private office. The employer may want to avoid resentment from other workers, who wonder why one of their colleagues has privacy and quiet while they do not. Alternatively, the employer may want to avoid the inconvenience of changing schedules to meet someone’s accommodation needs. However, employee morale and inconvenience are not valid reasons for refusing to meet the accommodation needs of a worker, tenant, or client. Instead, the organization providing the accommodations should educate their staff about the mandate to accommodate. As a result, overall morale may improve, as staff recognize that their organization aims to meet the needs of all workers, tenants, and clients.

Our next article will explore some of the costs that can lead to undue hardship, and how to provide more costly accommodations.




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Involving Medical Professionals or Other Consultants in the Accommodation Process


In our last article, we discussed how employers, landlords, and service providers sometimes need to involve others in the accommodation process. In this article, we explore involving medical professionals or other consultants in the accommodation process.

Involving Medical Professionals or Other Consultants in the Accommodation Process

A person needing accommodation often begins the process by disclosing that they have a disability. In some cases, they approach their employer, landlord, or a service provider with a letter from a professional who states that the person has a disability. For instance, professionals who can offer proof of disability include:

  • Family doctors
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Psychologists, psychological associates, or psychiatrists
  • Physiotherapists or occupational therapists
  • Audiologists or speech-language pathologists
  • Optometrists or ophthalmologists
  • Neurologists
  • Chiropractors

Alternatively, the employer, landlord, or service provider may ask for information about a person’s disability or accommodation needs. For example, an employer may request that a worker ask for a second medical opinion. However, the employer is required to cover the cost of any testing or other proof they request. Moreover, organizations have a duty to provide accommodations while they wait for the results of these tests.

For instance, a worker may be waiting for a test to diagnose whether they have a learning disability. In the meantime, they have requested to record meetings as a workplace accommodation. The employer must accommodate the worker, even though they do not yet have an official diagnosis.

Likewise, some workers, tenants, or clients may never have a firm diagnosis. However, they may have written confirmation from a professional describing their functional limitations and their needs. Therefore, employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate, even in situations when the person being accommodated does not know precisely why their supports are needed.

For example, a diner may experience extreme sensitivity to certain foods. However, medical professionals may not be able to determine exactly what the diner’s medical condition is. Nonetheless, the diner may require service accommodations from restaurants, such as detailed lists of ingredients, or meal preparation in environments free from certain foods.

Questioning Professional Opinions

In most cases, accommodation providers will not need to question the information that professionals provide about someone’s disability-related needs. For instance, an employer may try to avoid providing accommodations for a worker with a mental health disability by questioning whether the worker truly has a disability. Moreover, the employer may use stereotypes and stigma about people with mental health disabilities to make this argument. However, the assessment of a professional, such as a psychologist, is more important than the opinions of people who have little personal experience of disability. As a result, the employer should not question the doctor’s assessment that the worker needs disability-related accommodations.

In contrast, accommodation providers may sometimes ask for more information about a person’s abilities and needs. For example, a worker who experiences chronic pain may ask for the accommodation of frequent breaks. When requesting the accommodation, the worker may not want to mention disability, because of the potential for stigma. However, the employer may need the worker to confirm that they have a disability, and that this disability is the reason for the accommodation request. Nonetheless, the employer does not need to know exactly what the worker’s disability is before they provide the accommodation.

Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)

In addition, employers, landlords, and service providers can also ask for an independent medical examination (ime) to receive a second professional opinion about someone’s accommodation needs. For instance, as a tenant’s disability changes over time, a landlord may wonder whether a different housing accommodation may enhance the tenant’s independence. If two professionals differ in their assessment of the functions someone can perform, or the accommodations they need, the accommodation provider and the person needing the accommodations must determine which assessment to follow. This decision could be based on factors such as:

  • The professionals’ levels of experience
  • Familiarity with the person they are assessing
  • Assessment methods

Involving medical professionals or other consultants in the accommodation process is not always needed. However, it can help organizations providing accommodations to recognize and fulfill their duties under the Ontario Human Rights Code.




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Involving Others in the Accommodation Process


Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. The right to accommodation ensures that people can work productively, live independently, and access services open to non-disabled people. In some cases, colleagues, neighbours, or others may be involved in the accommodation process. Involving others in the accommodation process requires collaboration and confidentiality.

Involving Others in the Accommodation Process

Implementing some accommodations may require the assistance of colleagues or neighbours. For example, some workers with disabilities may need assistance during workplace emergencies. Therefore, the worker and employer may invite colleagues to be part of an individualized workplace emergency response plan.

Similarly, a tenant may need to move to a different apartment in the same building. For example, a university student who gains a physical disability while living in residence may need to move to an accessible room or apartment. However, in a full residence building, some non-disabled students may live in rooms that have accessibility features. Therefore, the residence manager may require a non-disabled student to exchange rooms with the student who needs these features.

The person receiving the accommodation, or the accommodation provider, may need to disclose that the person has a disability. However, colleagues or neighbours providing assistance do not need to know exactly what the person’s disability or diagnosis is. Instead, they simply need to know what the person’s needs are, and how to provide appropriate support.

In addition, the employer, landlord, or service provider needs the permission of the person receiving accommodations before disclosing their disability.

Some other third parties who may be involved in the accommodation process include:

  • Human Resources personnel
  • Building managers or superintendents
  • Housekeeping staff or building caretakers
  • Volunteer representatives from unions
  • Medical professionals or other experts, consulted at the expense of the accommodating organization

In our next article, we will discuss how medical professionals or other consultants can also be part of the accommodation process.




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