Improving Workplace Accessibility
Based on the Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) study, lack of workplace accommodation is one of the main employment barriers faced by post-secondary youth with disabilities between the age of 17 and 29.
The process of asking for accommodations is heavily dependent upon the employer and their understanding of disability. The YLI focus group participants indicated that employers offer accommodations when they understand their employees. In the case of employers who lack that understanding, the process of asking for accommodations is difficult, and the likelihood of receiving accommodations is low. Focus group participants expressed concerns about their colleagues’ perception of them when they get accommodations, such as taking longer breaks than others, so they need to balance their privacy with a positive relationship with their colleagues.
Disclosing a disability and asking for accommodation come hand-to-hand. Both require building mutual trust, having open communication, and being empathetic and understanding.
Asking for an accommodation requires being transparent about the condition and any limitations a person may have due to their disability. This can create an uncomfortable experience for young employees with disabilities. To make the request smooth, the YLI Advisory Committee members suggested that youth gain a better understanding of the type of accommodation(s) they need. A possible option is to have a conversation with medical practitioners beforehand. If employers are well informed about suitable accommodation options, discussing the accommodation needs will be more comfortable and effective.
Building a rapport with employers also helps build mutual trust that employers believe employees can achieve the same outcomes even though they approach the work differently. Although there’s a human rights obligation around accommodation, there is also an empathetic approach young employees can take. When having the conversation about accommodation, youth are advised to make it an educational moment and see it as an opportunity to break down any bias around providing accommodation.
To encourage dialogue around accommodation and accessibility, employers can send a message of inclusion by making it part of the culture within the organization. Employers should embrace the uniqueness of each individual and let the person with the disability control the narrative, allowing them to be the owner of their own story. It’s also important to foster a supportive environment and have the person aware of the disability be a spokesperson to make the environment safe and accessible.
There are myths that accommodations are costly to provide. In fact, many accommodation requests are free or low-cost, simply requiring flexibility and adaptability. Providing accommodation to employees not only improves their health condition but also increases their productivity, improves performance, and decreases the cost of losing and rehiring an employee. Ultimately, implementing a universal design in the workplace will create a more inclusive and barrier-free work environment, and it’s a concept that we encourage organizations to explore further.
The YLI Toolkit has included a reference on identifying “duty to accommodate,” as well as guides for employers and employees to discuss accommodations and an introduction to “Universal Design”. To disprove the myths of accommodations being a burden to employers, the toolkit will also provide information on the types of accommodations, which may be free or include some costs, and programs that assist people with disabilities in acquiring assistive devices
The YLI Toolkit is a constant work in progress; we’ll always be adding and updating resources as new information is found. Please enjoy what we have so far and stay tuned for more updates coming soon! If you know of resources that you think would benefit others, share them with us by completing the YLI questionnaire.
Are you curious about how universal design helps foster workplace accessibility?
Also known as inclusive or barrier-free design, universal design allows people, regardless of their age, size, and ability, to understand, access, and use the product, service, and environment to the greatest extent possible. Learning the principle helps equip us to understand and create a truly inclusive society where everyone can enjoy and participate.
Are you wondering how to ask for accommodation but unsure about your rights?
Are you looking for provincial programs that support you in acquiring assistive technology?
- Programs Assisting People with Disabilities to Acquire Assistive Technology
- What is the Duty to Accommodate? (CUPE)
Are you looking for ways to create a more accessible work environment in your organization?
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This toolkit is a collective effort between the YLI team and you.
We invite you to explore the YLI Toolkit, use it, and let us know your thought by submitting your suggestions or feedback. We appreciate your continued support!
Resources on the YLI Toolkit webpages, including, but not limited to, the text, graphics, images, links, and other materials are intended for informational and educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. The Disability Foundation and Affiliates do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the linked websites. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk. The information provided on YLI Toolkit webpages are designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your care team. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking medical attention because of something you read or see on YLI Toolkit webpages.
The YLI Toolkit does not offer specific medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call emergency personnel (911) to receive medical attention.