It is your right to be able to access a work environment where you are able to fully participate, and it’s your employer’s responsibility to create such an environment.
This is called the “duty to accommodate” and is outlined in the Canadian Human Rights Act. If you’re unable to do your job to the best of your ability because of the work environment, then the work environment must be changed to accommodate you.
Keep in mind that the duty to accommodate is based on grounds of discrimination, which includes different treatment based on qualities such as: race, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status and disability.
Any organization or business in Canada that is federally regulated is legally required to make any necessary accommodations to ensure equality in the workplace.
While you have rights, you also have responsibilities. If you need to be accommodated at work based on any grounds of discrimination (check out the full list here) then you need to cover the following points.
What: Inform your employer about the circumstances that relate to the grounds of discrimination.
How: Talk with your employer about how changes can be made to accommodate your needs.
Why: You don’t need to share every personal detail with your employer, but make sure they are informed enough to be able to fully account for making any changes you require.
Everyone has the right to be treated equally in the workplace, but they also have the responsibility to make sure they request that accommodations be made for them.
As an employee you can also do your part to help accommodate your fellow workers. Here are some ways that you can help meet the needs of your co-workers.
If you work with someone who is visually impaired: when speaking in a group setting, be sure to name the person you are speaking with. Indicate if you’re moving from one place to another. If you offer to act as a guide, then invite the person to take your arm and walk about a half step ahead of them. Listen carefully and be ready to take, or ask for, instructions.
If you work with someone who has a hearing impairment: if your co-worker uses a sign language interpreter, then speak clearly and pace yourself so that the interpreter has enough time to communicate what you are saying. Speak directly to the person and not their interpreter. If your co-worker can lipread then keep all objects (i.e. pens, hands) away from your mouth while you’re talking. If you can, try to reduce background noises to make sure that communication can happen as smoothly as possible.
If you work with someone with a physical disability: only push someone in a manual wheelchair when you’re asked to do so. When you’re giving directions then let the person know of the distance and any potential obstacles. Familiarize yourself with what is accessible and non-accessible in your office if your co-worker uses a mobility aid.
If you work with someone with a developmental or psychiatric disability: speak directly to the person and make sure you’re listening to everything they’re saying. Offer or provide assistance when it’s needed. Repeat any information if necessary.
Change your focus
It’s also important to keep in mind that some disabilities are not always visible. Dietary requirements, allergies, sensitivities, learning disabilities or mental health issues are some examples of invisible disabilities. A good rule of thumb is to never use any discriminatory or hurtful language and to always remain open to accommodating your co-workers.
This a short introduction to a complex and sensitive topic, one that is vital to creating an enabling and inclusive workforce. Make sure to explore any resources your employer has to offer to help you understand the role you play and any ongoing learning opportunities your employer provides.
Want to learn more about creating an enabling and inclusive workplace? Check out TalentEgg’s Diversity Career Guide, presented in partnership with RBC!
Sources: Creating a Welcoming Workplace for Employees with Disabilities, Duty to Accommodate: A General Process for Managers.