Nearly 2 million people in Ontario have a disability, which is about one in every seven individuals. Canadians with a disability face high rates of unemployment and struggle hard to find a job. Over 400,000 disabled working-age Canadians are currently unemployed despite being able and willing to work.
Ontario is one of the first jurisdictions in the world that established goals and time frame for accessibility through legislation. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) came into effect in 2005 and the goal is to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025. All levels of public, private and non-profit organizations are bound to meet the AODA standards. According to AODA every organization must meet the below five accessibility requirements.
- Information and communication.
- Design of public spaces.
- Customer service.
Ontario Human Rights Code also promotes equality and accessibility. The code states that the people with disability must be free from discrimination and their needs must be accommodated. If a disabled person needs accommodation then an organization is bound to provide an individualized response to the request. This code applies to all public, private and non-profit organizations in Ontario.
Benefits of employing people with disability
Disabled workers present a pool of talented workforce in the job market that has not been utilized.
Below are a few benefits of hiring people with a disability:
- Increases productivity.
- Improves organizations culture and job morale.
- Reduces employee’s turnover.
- Responding to government guidelines (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act).
- Builds organization’s reputation.
- Tax Benefits.
- Increases consumer market and revenue.
- Brings diverse perspective and unique skills set.
Creating an accessible workplace is the first step towards employing more qualified disabled candidates. Some changes are required to make the workplace more accessible.
Below are few tips on how to make your workplace more accessible to disabled employees.
1. Make workplace physically accessible
Ensuring that all the public spaces within an organization are physically accessible to people with a disability is the first step in creating a disabled-inclusive workplace. Below are few things that can be done to create a more physically accessible workplace.
- Accessible restrooms.
- Wheelchair ramps.
- Wheelchair accessible doorways.
- Braille signage.
- Wide corridors and easy access to workstations.
- Disabled-friendly parking lots.
- Minimum clutter.
2. Including Assistive digital technologies
In this day and age, accessibility is not only limited to physical utilization but also includes digital accessibility. Assistive technologies empowers disabled employees to work independently. Assistive technologies include but are not limited to
- Color-coded keyboards.
- Speech recognition.
- Screen readers.
- Sign language apps/browsers.
- Assistive listening devices.
- Screen enlargement applications.
- Closed captioning.
- Color contrast.
- Alternative text for images.
Employers should also focus on accessibility while posting jobs online. Major concerns that should be addressed are pages timing out, keyboard accessibility, proper captioning, screen reader compatibility etc.
3. Attitudinal awareness
The biggest barrier to workplace accessibility is awareness. Attitudinal awareness barriers emerge due to lack of knowledge and understanding which can lead people to judge, have misconceptions and ignore people with disability. Examples of attitudinal awareness barriers include.
- Employees may avoid people with disability because of fear of offending them
- Assuming people with a disability are inferior.
- People consider them to be “special” because of taking care of themselves independently.
- People believe that they are being given an unfair advantage because of disability.
- People make both positive and negative generalization about disabled employees.
- Because of disability the employee is dismissed as incapable.
Training should be provided to remove these attitudinal barriers and to improve employees’ perspective and knowledge.
4. Provide natural support
To make disabled employees feel more integrated quickly there are variety of natural supports that an organization can bring into the workplace. This will benefit the entire staff. Natural support includes anything that help employees with a disability to be more independent in the workplace. Some examples of natural support includes.
- Office supplies with labels.
- Refresh able braille displays.
- Posted calendar.
- Digital Clocks.
- Braille in elevators.
At an accessible workplace, all employees feel valued and accommodated which boosts morale and as a result increases productivity. An inclusive workplace is where principles of equality, respect, fairness and dignity are promoted and become part of the organization’s culture.