Here’s an eye-opener: about one out of every seven people in Ontario has a disability. That number will grow as the population ages.
All provinces will increasingly depend on a workforce that includes people with disabilities and employees working beyond retirement age. Ontario’s Accessibility Standard for Employment is about making accessibility a regular part of human resources practices, including hiring and supporting employees.
This Standard was created under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), deadlines for Ontario organizations with 1 or more employees are approaching. Make sure you’re ready by incorporating accessibility into your recruitment and selection processes.
During the recruitment and selection process, there are three things the Standard requires Ontario employers to do:
• Recruitment. Let job applicants know you’ll provide accommodation during the hiring process.
• Selection. Inform applicants you invite to take part in the selection process that they will be accommodated, and discuss how you can best meet their needs.
• Notice to Successful Applicants. When making an offer of employment, include a notice about your policies for accommodating employees with disabilities.
Deadlines For Compliance
The timing for meeting legal obligations under the Standard varies according to size and type of employer. Public sector organizations in Ontario (government agencies, hospitals, municipalities, colleges and universities) with 50+ employees had until January 1, 2014. Similar organizations with 1-49 employees were given until January 1, 2015.
Ontario non-profits and private sector companies with 50+ employees have until January 1, 2016. Those with 1-49 employees are allowed an extra year, until January 1, 2017.
You must let job applicants know that you will provide accommodation during the hiring process. Consider including a statement when posting jobs in a newspaper or on your website. You could also let applicants know directly by email, in-person, or by phone.
Here is some sample wording to use in your notification:
[Name of Your Organization] welcomes and encourages applications from people with disabilities. Accommodations are available on request for candidates taking part in all aspects of the selection process.
When you invite an applicant in for an interview (or other part of the selection process), let them know that accommodations relating to the assessment are available on request. As well, consult with the candidate on how you can best meet their needs.
Not sure how to proceed? Remember that candidates with disabilities usually know which accommodations will be most suitable for them. For example, if an applicant who is Deaf asks for accommodation for a telephone interview, first ask them how best to proceed. They may ask you to conduct the interview via email or through a TTY line. For a candidate with vision loss, you may find that some computerized tests are accessible using screen reader software.
Make sure to minimize bias in the interview process. It helps to use standard interview scripts, questions and scoring for all candidates. In addition, offer pre-employment training programs to prepare people with disabilities to enter your workforce successfully.
Notice to Successful Applicants
When making an offer of employment, let successful applicants know about your policies for accommodating employees with disabilities. Speak directly to applicants to tell them about what you’re able to provide. Include the information in the offer letter or in a separate email.
The following is some sample wording you can use:
[Name of Organization] has an accommodation process in place that provides accommodations for employees with disabilities. If you require a specific accommodation because of a disability or a medical need, please contact [Company Representative, Title] at [Telephone Number] or by e-mail at [Email]. This ensures that the appropriate accommodations are in place before you begin your employment.
To learn more about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and to find free tools and templates, visit these resources:
• AccessON, part of the Ontario government’s website.
Look at the Ontario Handbook for Accessible Employment. It’s a guide to the employment requirements in the AODA that gives practical examples on how to comply (templates and tips included).
You’ll find a Compliance Wizard, updates and relevant news. Also a free webinar, and a downloadable Employers’ Toolkit: Making Ontario Workplaces Accessible to People with Disabilities. Then there’s the Harold Jeepers video series – six funny videos that deal with the AODA Employment Standard requirements (in English, French and described video).
Provides more information on making accommodations and disability employment issues.
Get Going On Accessibility
Making workplaces accessible to people with physical or mental disabilities is not just good business, it’s the law. Get up to speed on your obligations. And open your doors to a more diverse group of candidates with their own special qualities.