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OHRC’s mental health policy and targeted legal action

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The OHRC’s 2014 Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions[7] (mental health policy) outlines the medical information to be provided when seeking accommodation. It states that a person is generally required to provide confirmation of a disability, limitations and types of accommodations being requested. The accommodation provider does not generally have the right to know a person’s confidential medical information, including a diagnosis. The mental health policy states that a diagnosis should only be requested in rare circumstances such as where a person’s needs are complex, challenging or unclear and more information is needed, or where the information clearly relates to the accommodation being sought. In such situations, the accommodation provider must be able to clearly justify why the diagnosis is needed.

In July 2015, the OHRC intervened in an Application before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), which raised issues related to medical documentation that the OHRC had been monitoring. The Application alleged that a university’s requirement that students disclose their DSM diagnosis to register for academic accommodations was discriminatory.

The OHRC intervened in this Application to address some of the systemic barriers facing students with mental health disabilities in the post-secondary sector. In particular, the OHRC sought to bring institutions’ approaches to medical

documentation and accommodating mental health disabilities in line with the Code, the OHRC’s mental health policy and the recommendations in the Academic Accommodations Report.

The OHRC worked with the university and the student who filed the discrimination claim to develop new documentation guidelines to access academic accommodations.[8] The revisions addressed potential barriers experienced by students with mental health disabilities while ensuring that the university receives the appropriate medical documentation to help determine academic accommodations.

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