In an accessibility context, accommodations refer to adjustments made in the interviewing process and in the work environment that allow a person with a disability to apply for employment and fully perform the duties of a position.
Employers are required by law under the Ontario Human Rights Commission to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, except when such accommodation would cause an undue hardship. Undue hardship means that the cost would be too great and that a business would suffer as a result. Reasonable accommodations are broadly defined as those that “level the playing field” for all employees, including those with disabilities.
Accommodation strategies are most effective when organizations are committed to accommodating the employee through an ongoing collaborative process, the employee commits to performing the job duties to the best of their abilities with the agreed upon accommodations, and the job expectations and needs of the employee are clearly understood by all parties involved.
Keep in mind that both physical and non-visible disabilities (such as mental health or learning disabilities) may require accommodations. An excellent guide to help facilitate the planning and implementation of accommodations is the free Supporting Employee Success tool. If you’re unsure of how to accommodate a certain disability, the Job Accommodation Network provides specific examples and information.
Here are some examples of what accommodations in the workplace can look like:
Situation: An employee with diabetes needs to eat several small snacks throughout the day to keep their blood sugar levels up. However, the employee handbook prohibits eating and drinking at the workstation.
Solution: The policy was modified, allowing the employee to have the necessary food items at their desk.
Situation: A job applicant for a software testing position has an autism spectrum disorder that affects their ability to do well in interviews due to their difficulty with abstract thinking and understanding conventional interview questions.
Solution: The applicant disclosed to the interviewer ahead of time and asked to be evaluated through a performance test or strictly knowledge questions as opposed to typical behavioral questions. The employer agreed to adjust the format of the interview and provided the applicant with a skills test and avoided asking questions such as, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” As a result, the applicant performed above average on the test, proved their suitability to the position and was offered the job.
Situation: An employee with vision loss was experiencing difficulty reading their computer screen after increasing the font size stopped being helpful.
Solution: The employer purchased screen magnification software that enlarged computer applications and allowed the employee to adjust the magnification and contrast to their needs.
Situation: An employee with a sensory processing disorder is sensitive to environmental stimuli and finds elements around their work station (noise from coworkers, harsh fluorescent lighting) to be distracting.
Solution: After discussing the specific distractions with their employer, the employee’s work station was relocated to a quieter location in the office with increased natural light and the employee was permitted to wear headphones or earplugs.
Situation: As part of the application process for a library tech position, a library required applicants to take a timed written test identifying the Dewey Decimal numbers for books and then writing the responses. Due to a fine motor difficulty that limited their handwriting ability, the job applicant asked for an accommodation of extended time to get the lists written.
Solution: Since the actual work of shelving books is not done under a particular time constraint, the library would not be reducing a qualification standard by extending time for this applicant and agreed to accommodate with extended time during the test.
Review our document on Academic Accommodations Translated into Employment Settings to see how students' academic accommodations may translate into the workplace.
Further Reading: Mental Health Accommodations in the Workplace