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I have a disability. How do I ask for accommodations at work?
Employers are required by law to do what they can to remove barriers in the workplace attributed to the differences that are listed in the Human Rights Code. The legal word for the process of removing these barriers is called accommodation.
What kind of accommodations can I ask for?
You can ask for reasonable accommodations at any point during your employment once you know that you need a change in your job due to your disability. A disability can occur at any time in your life. You could have been born with a disability, it may have been caused by an accident, or developed over time as you age.
There are many types of accommodations you can ask for. You may want to discuss this with your healthcare provider before you talk to your employer. Some examples of accommodations are:
- Making your current workspace accessible - phones, chairs, desks, lighting, keyboard, mouse, installing software on your computer
- Providing alternative forms of communication - ASL interpretation, Closed Captioning on virtual meetings, note taking
- Job restructuring - modifying the tasks in your job description
- Flexible schedules - allowing you to come early or stay later
- Adapting training materials, or policies - providing additional training
- Working from home
There are disabilities that you can see and others that are less obvious or even “invisible”. Your employer may not know you have a disability or need accommodations unless you tell them. You may find this Template for Accommodation Request from the Ontario Human Rights Commission helpful when writing your request.
How do I submit my request?
Make requests for accommodation to your direct manager and if you have human resources, include them as well. The Ontario Human Rights Commission suggests that accommodation requests should, whenever possible, be made in writing.
What does my employer need to know?
You are not required to tell your employer what your disability or diagnosis is. Your employer needs to know the following information when you make your request:
- That you have a disability or diagnosis that needs accommodation
- How it affects your ability to do the essential duties of your job
- What accommodations you need from your employer
Do I have to provide proof?
You will need to give some information about your disability and accommodation request in order for your employer to explore options. Usually, a letter from your healthcare provider is enough. The letter doesn’t need to identify your exact disability but it should confirm that you do have a disability, how it affects your ability to do the essential tasks of your job and what you would like your employer to do to help you. If there is a fee for this medical documentation, your employer must cover the cost.
If your employer requests more information from your doctor, ask them to put their questions in writing. This will help your healthcare provider provide only the essential details while protecting your privacy.
What if I am part of a union?
Your right to accommodation is still protected whether or not your workplace is unionized. Accommodations will be unique to each person making the request so there will not be a clear policy on how things will be adjusted.
According to Steps to Justice, “your employer or union can't refuse to accommodate you for reasons like seniority or collective agreement entitlements. But they might use seniority to decide how you can be accommodated.”
Your employer is required to provide an environment free of discrimination and harassment, where everyone is treated with respect and dignity and can contribute fully.
Your right to privacy and confidentiality will be respected throughout the process.
For More Information
- Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) - was established as an arm’s length agency of government in 1961 to prevent discrimination and to promote and advance human rights in Ontario.
- Human Rights at Work - Many articles and resources about how your human rights are protected in the workplace. From Steps to Justice.
- Workers’ Action Centre - This is a worker-based organization committed to improving the lives and working conditions of people in low-wage and unstable employment.
- Disclosing your Disability - This is a legal guide for people with disabilities in BC, but much of the infomation is relevant to Ontario. From British Columbia, Disability Alliance BC (DABC)
June 7, 2023