Revised version approved by the OHRC: June 27, 2016
Accessible version: PDF format recommended
This document replaces the Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate (2001)
In Canada and around the world, people with disabilities have always faced violence, neglect, exclusion, marginalization and discrimination. Negative treatment suffered includes restrictive immigration policies aimed at preventing people with disabilities from entering the country, forced sterilization of people with disabilities to prevent them from having children, institutionalization, restraint and isolation harmful and inappropriate, as well as significant barriers to education, employment and positions with equitable remuneration.
This unfortunate aspect of Canadian history still reverberates today. People with disabilities report ongoing negative experiences stemming from the effect of ableism on societal attitudes and structures. “Ableism” refers to societal attitudes that place a lower value on the potential of people with disabilities and limit that potential. The Law Commission of Ontario stated the following:
[Ableism] can be defined as a belief system, similar to racism, sexism, or ageism, that a person with a disability is less worthy of being treated with respect and consideration, less able to contribute and participate in society or less intrinsically important than the others. Ableism can operate consciously or unconsciously and be embedded in the institutions, systems or culture of a society. It can limit opportunities for people with disabilities and reduce their participation in the life of their community.
Ableist attitudes are often based on the idea that disability is an “abnormality of the normal,” rather than an inherent and anticipated variant of the human condition. Ableism can also take the form of paternalistic and condescending behavior towards people with disabilities.
Although people with disabilities have made significant gains in recent years, significant barriers to their equality persist in society. According to Statistics Canada, Ontarians with disabilities continue to have lower levels of education and higher unemployment rates than people without disabilities. They are also more likely to have low income and less likely to live in adequate and affordable housing. It is clear that people with disabilities continue to face challenges accessing employment, housing and a variety of other services across Ontario. “Disability” remains the ground of discrimination under the Codemost frequently cited in applications filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).
The situation of people with disabilities can be further complicated when discrimination based on their disability is combined with discrimination based on other prohibited grounds under the Code , such as race, sex , sexual orientation, age or other type of disability. People with disabilities are also more likely to have low incomes than the rest of the population, and many are chronically poor.
In Ontario, the Human Rights Code ( Code ) protects people with disabilities from discrimination and harassment on the basis of “disability”. This protection covers five social areas:
- Obtaining goods and services , and using facilities . The "service" category is very broad and can include services that are owned or administered by private companies or public bodies, particularly in the insurance, education, catering, law enforcement, healthcare and shopping malls.
- Access to housing . This includes private rental housing, cooperative housing, social housing, subsidized housing and supportive housing.
- The conclusion of contracts . This includes the offer, acceptance, price and even rejection of a contract.
- Employment . _ This includes full and part-time work, volunteer work, student internships, special employment programs, work on probation, and temporary or contract work.
- Association or membership in a trade union, professional or other association . This applies to membership in unions and registration in self-regulated professions, including membership and other terms and conditions.
People with disabilities are a diverse group and respond in different ways to their disability and related social barriers. Disabilities are often “invisible” and episodic, as people sometimes alternate between periods of well-being and illness. All people with disabilities have the same right to equal opportunity under the Code , whether their disability is visible or not.
Organizations and institutions operating in Ontario are required by law to take steps to prevent and resolve violations of the Code . Employers, housing providers, service providers and other responsible parties must work to maintain accessible and inclusive environments that respect human rights and are free from discrimination and harassment.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is an independent statutory body. Its mission is to promote, protect and advance human rights throughout the province, as set out in the Code . To achieve this, the OHRC identifies and monitors systemic human rights trends, develops policy, educates the public, conducts research, conducts public interest investigations and uses its legal powers to implement solutions. affecting human rights that are in the public interest.
The OHRC develops policies that reflect its interpretation of the Code and provide standards, guidelines and best practices for how individuals, service providers, housing providers, employers and other parties should act to ensure the equality for all Ontarians. The OHRC's Policy on Ableism and Discrimination on the Basis of Disability provides practical information on rights and obligations under the Code relating to disability. The policy specifically addresses the following issues:
- a person's rights under the Code , particularly in the areas of employment, rental housing and obtaining services
- the right to live free from reprisal (revenge) for exercising your rights under the Code
- different forms of discrimination (e.g. direct, indirect, subtle, “adverse effect”, harassment, maintaining a poisoned environment, systemic discrimination)
- the need for organizations to ensure an inclusive design of the environment, taking into account the needs of people with disabilities
- the principles underlying the duty to accommodate (respect for dignity, individuality, integration and full participation)
- how the duty to accommodate applies to the needs of people with disabilities
- duties and responsibilities related to the accommodation process (e.g. duty to inquire about accommodation needs, medical information to be provided, confidentiality)
- aspects to consider when determining whether the undue hardship criteria have been met (cost, external sources of funding, health and safety issues)
- other possible limits to the duty to accommodate
- the responsibilities of organizations to prevent and eliminate discrimination, and how to create environments that are inclusive and free from discrimination.
Employers, housing providers, service providers and other responsible parties covered by the Code are responsible for maintaining an environment free from discrimination and harassment. It is not acceptable to choose to ignore situations of discrimination or harassment against a person with a disability, whether or not a human rights complaint has been filed.
The OHRC's Policy on ableism and discrimination on the basis of disability is intended to provide clear and easy-to-understand information on how to assess, address and resolve human rights issues relating to disability. When people with disabilities are empowered and encouraged to participate in the community at all levels, society as a whole benefits.