As a student, faculty member, or staff member of the University of Waterloo, you have rights and responsibilities that are guided by various policies, regulations and legislations
Below, is information about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Within the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the University of Waterloo is seen as a service provider, and thus is committed to the implementation of the underlying principles of the Act. Below you will find resources and information about your rights under the AODA, and how you can learn more about disability related accommodations at the University of Waterloo.
The Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) is legislation that protects people in Ontario from discrimination and harassment, and that includes within organizations like the University of Waterloo. As a student, faculty member, or staff, you have the right to be free from discrimination. Below are resources about your rights under the OHRC, and you will also find information about additional resources, learning tools, and supports.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
What is the AODA?
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is legislation that is designed to develop, implement and enforce standards for accessibility across several sectors across Ontario.
The University of Waterloo is considered a service under the AODA, and is committed to the ongoing implementation of the underlying principles of the Act: respecting the dignity of our campus community members, prioritizing independence, full integration of all people and ensuring that everyone has access to equal opportunities.
If you're interested in learning more or receiving a refresher, the University of Waterloo offers AODA training for all campus community members.
What are my rights as a person with a disability?
- You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- You have the right to use your service animal on campus.
- You have the right to be provided information in format that’s accessible for your needs (for example readable by a screen reader, in braille, in large print etc.). This includes classroom materials.
- You have the right to receive accommodations that meet your individual needs, both academically and in the workplace.
- You have the right to use your assistive devices on campus.
- You have the right to use a support person when accessing goods or services.
- You have the right to be notified in a timely fashion if a facility or service that you rely on to access or use your goods/services are temporarily disrupted.
What might an accommodation look like?
Accommodations should always respect your dignity, independence, full integration, participation and provide you access to equal opportunities.
Some examples of accommodations include:
- Job application forms in the format you require.
- Accommodations for job interviews and any tests that are a part of the application process.
- Modification of job duties.
- Alterations to your workstation that meet your accessibility needs.
- Flexible work hours or break times.
- Use of assistive devices.
- Provision of printed materials in alternative formats.
- Sign language interpreters or real time captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Installation of automatic door openers.
What is undue hardship?
Undue hardship is the only legal reason an organization can deny an accessibility related accommodation. Undue hardship refers to activities, impacts or effects that would:
- Alter the essential requirements of a course, program of study, or academic milestone such that the fundamental nature of the course, program, or academic milestone is compromised;
- Result in undue or excessive costs, or
- Unreasonably interfere with the health and safety of other members of the University community.
Undue hardship is considered individually, within the full context of a particular request for reasonable academic accommodation. The evidence required to prove undue hardship must be objective, real, direct and, in the case of cost, quantifiable. Costs will be considered in relation to the University as a whole, and not in relation to a single course instructor/faculty member, department or Faculty. A mere assertion of undue hardship, based on impressionistic views or stereotypes, is not sufficient.
What are some more resources to explore the AODA and disability related accommodations at UWaterloo?
- What is the AODA?
- UWaterloo AODA Act Toolkit
- UWaterloo Student Academic Accommodation Guidelines
- UWaterloo Multi-Year Accessibility Plan
What do I do if I think my rights have been violated?
Resources on Campus:
If you are an undergraduate or graduate student registered with AccessAbility Services, contact your Accommodations Consultant.
Connect with Conflict Management, to explore your options related to Policy 33 [Ethical Behaviour].
Connect with the Workplace Accessibility Specialist in Human Resources.
Connect with the Equity Office to understand available resources and potential next steps.
Resources off Campus
The AODA sets minimum accessibility standards for organizations operating in Ontario, whereas the Ontario Human Rights Commission addresses and protects the rights of individuals.
For human rights policies, guidelines, or to understand your options in filing a complaint visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission website.
Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC)
What is the Ontario Human Rights Code?
The Ontario Human Rights Code is legislation that protects people in Ontario from discrimination and harassment. You have the right to be free from discrimination as you work, study or live on campus.
The Ontario Human Rights Code recognizes the important role that education plays in a person’s personal, social and academic development and outlines the rights of all students, staff and faculty.
It is important to note that organizations must comply with the Code before other laws, unless there is a specific exception. When there is a conflict between the Code and another Ontario law, the Code prevails unless that law specifically states it applies despite the Code.
What are my rights?
You have the right to work and study in a place free from harassment, discrimination and offensive “jokes” or slurs related to your identit(ies). The OHRC outlines the following protected grounds:
- Ancestry, colour, race
- Ethnic origin
- Place of origin
- Creed (sometimes known as religion or spirituality)
- Family status
- Marital status (including single status)
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)
- Record of offences (in employment only)
- Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
- Sexual orientation
You have a right to:
- The usage of the correct/your chosen name and pronouns;
- Accommodation of your religious or spiritual beliefs, practices and observances;
- Accommodation for your disabilit(ies);
- A classroom and workplace free from ageism, racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, sexual harassment; and any discrimination based on your identit(ies).
What constitutes discrimination?
Discrimination is defined as any action or behaviour that results in adverse or preferential treatment related to those grounds prohibited under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The criteria to establish discrimination under Ontario’s Human Rights Code is:
- That the claimant has an identity/characteristic protected by the Code (e.g. is a racialized person)
- They have experienced adverse treatment/impact within a social area (for example, in accessing a service, housing or employment)
- The protected characteristic was a factor in the adverse treatment or impact.
The OHRC outlines on their website specific examples of how discrimination may manifest differently for each protected ground. The Code equally acknowledges discrimination that is direct, indirect, subtle (e.g. microaggressions), in the form of harassment, and discrimination that leads to the creation of a “poisoned environment”.
A poisoned environment is created by comments or conduct that ridicule or insult a person or group protected under the Code and cause them to feel that the environment is hostile or unwelcoming. Under the OHRC, the employer is responsible for making sure that a poisoned environment does not exist in the workplace, and university faculty, staff and senior administration must ensure that a poisoned environment does not exist for students.
All forms of discrimination are unacceptable.
This guide explores your rights and responsibilities under the OHRC in more detail.
For more information review this helpful OHRC Fact Sheet.
Where can I find support if I think I’m being discriminated against?
On Campus Resources:
- Connect with the Equity Office who can offer confidential services to help you understand your available resources both on and off campus and provide assistance in navigating next steps.
- Connect with the Conflict Management & Human Rights Office who can provide information about pursuing informal or formal resolutions relating to Policy 33 - Ethical Behaviour.
- Connect with Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Office if the nature of your concern pertains to sexual violence or harassment.
Off Campus Resources:
Visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission website to obtain the most up to date contact information for the OHRC, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.