The number of Canadians with a disability is higher than many realize.
In 2017, Statistics Canada found that 22% of working-age Canadians had at least one disability. These individuals with untapped talent are ready and able to work. By learning more about your duty to accommodate, you can find the perfect inclusive hiring strategy for your company. 
We’ve gathered everything employers need to know about the duty to accommodate.
As an employer, part of your legal obligation is to make accommodations and adjust the workplace to ensure equal opportunity for a potential candidate’s employment, ability to work effectively, or even access the workplace.
Accommodation vs. Modification
But first, let’s discuss the phrase “Duty to Accommodate” and what it really means. The saying goes hand in hand with responsibility. You will likely come across the term in job postings and when scheduling interviews. However, many people are unsure of what qualifies as an accommodation or might confuse the phrase with modifications.
Most of the confusion comes from the difference between whom the change benefits; accommodations are purposefully enacted to create an equal opportunity for a particular individual (though they can often benefit many), whereas a modification is made for an entire group of people.
For example, example; an accommodation would be to provide a standing desk for a particular employee, while a modification would be ordering a standing desk for everyone’s use. You can find more examples of accommodations at the end of this article. So, as an employer, how do you start?
Here are three steps that employers can take to fulfill your Duty to Accommodate effectively.
STEP 1: Create A Workplace Policy
If you’re just beginning your journey to becoming a more inclusive workplace, establishing a workplace policy for managing accommodation requests is a great place to start. If you need a helping hand, The Canadian Human Rights Commission has provided an accommodation policy template for companies that don’t “have [the] time or resources to develop their own.”
STEP 2: Manage Requests
The idea of implementing these accommodations can be overwhelming, but most accommodations cost little or only require minor changes. They can be as simple as reserving a parking spot, restricting fragrances, or moving cubicles to allow better access. However, there is a limit to the duty to accommodate. If an employer will have undue hardships, such as putting the health or safety of anyone at risk, or if the cost related is too high, the request can be denied. These instances are situational.  Before Undue Hardship can be claimed, alternatives to the accommodation request must be explored; otherwise, employees who are denied accommodations can file with the Canadian Human Rights Commission . Before you deny any request, make sure you complete Step 3.
STEP 3: Working Together to Find a Solution
Making accommodations is about finding a solution that works for both employers and employees to ensure all workplaces are safe and comfortable. If an accommodation request has been made and the initial request isn’t feasible for the employer, then it's time to explore alternative options. Employees are expected to accept offers of reasonable accommodations. These can be alternatives to the ones initially requested on the condition that they:
address the needs and concerns
maximize “dignity, autonomy, privacy and integration into the workplace”
Accommodations can be overwhelming, but we can all work towards creating more inclusive workplaces with some learning and understanding. Remember, there is untapped potential waiting to fill the gap in your organization. Explore this potential by fulfilling your duty to accommodate and develop an inclusive hiring process.
Want to learn more?
You can learn more about accommodations by contacting your local business bureau or looking up your province or state policies on the duty to accommodate for more specific guidelines.
Explore the Policy on Accommodations here:
United States: Office of Disability Employment Policy
Canada: Human Rights Act
Ontario: Duty to Accommodate
More examples of accommodations can be found here.
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Canadian Human Rights Commission. "A Template for Developing a Workplace Accommodation Policy." 1 January 2011. August 2022. <https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/en/resources/publications/a-template-developing-a-workplace-accommodation-policy>.
Government of Canada. "The Fundamentals - Accomodation Options." 21 September 2011. Canada.ca. August 2022. <https://www.canada.ca/en/government/publicservice/wellness-inclusion-diversity-public-service/health-wellness-public-servants/disability-management/fundamentals-accommodation-options.html>.
—. "The Fundamentals - Duty to Accommodate: Roles and Responsibilities." 21 September 2011. Canada.ca. August 2022. <https://www.canada.ca/en/government/publicservice/wellness-inclusion-diversity-public-service/health-wellness-public-servants/disability-management/fundamentals-duty-accommodate-roles-responsibilities.html>.
Morris, S., Fawcett, G., Brisebois, L., Hughes., J. "A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017." 28 November 2018. Statistics Canada. August 2022. < (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2018002-eng.htm)>.