Creating an accessible workplace

There are many misconceptions around hiring people with disabilities. As we've seen, the benefits often outweigh the costs of creating an inclusive and accessible workplace for all employees. Here are some frequently asked questions about hiring and accommodating people with disabilities. 

If you have any questions we haven't answered, please contact us.

How can I create an accessible and welcoming environment for students with disabilities?

What types of jobs can students with disabilities do?

All Waterloo co-op students, including those with disabilities, have the skills, intelligence and academic background you need for your co-op positions. It is how a co-op student gets that job done that may need consideration.

Like all people, some people with disabilities have strengths that make them better suited to some positions and industries. University of Waterloo students with disabilities provide the same benefits and potential as any other candidate. The availability of workplace accommodations, where required, and the willingness of organizations to remove barriers and create an inclusive environment are the only things most people with disabilities require.

Can people with disabilities work in positions requiring physical labour?

Less than 1 in 10 people with disabilities have mobility-related disabilities. Even if a person has a mobility-related disability it does not necessarily mean that they cannot work in a physical labour position.

When developing a job description and posting, ensure that job requirements are reasonable and assess what accomodations might enable an individual to fulfill those requirements.

For more information on your rights and responsibilities, read the Ontario Human Rights Commission's policy on abelism and discrimination based on disability.

Are people with disabilities reliable employees?

Yes. Studies show that people with disabilities have lower absenteeism and stay with employers longer than their non-disabled counterparts. Waterloo's co-op students are exceptional employees - regardless of disability.

Will hiring people with disabilities increase safety incidents at my workplace?

No. In fact, people with disabilities have lower rates of safety incidents and lower overall costs associated with workplace accidents.

How do I accommodate an individual with disabilities? Is it difficult or expensive?

The majority of people with disabilities do not require special workplace accommodations, and most accommodations are inexpensive and easy to implement - from flexible work modes or hours to assistive technologies.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, every employer and employee has responsibilities to accomodate disabilities, to the point of undue hardship.

Approximately one-third of employees require a one-time accommodation, with a typical cost of around $500, which often pays for itself through productivity and morale.

Work with your co-op student to create an accommodation plan that you both agree on. Co-op students registered with the AccessAbility Services can meet with a consultant to discuss what might need to go into their individual accommodation plan.

What is undue hardship?

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, there are only three considerations when determining whether an accomodation creates undue hardship:

  • Quantifiable and substantial costs that would affect the organization’s viability.

  • Expenses that exceed available resources after both the organization and individual seeking accommodation have applied for any available government or other funding opportunities.

  • Creates significant health and safety risks to any individual within the organization.

Is it true that people with disabilities cannot be terminated once they are hired?

You cannot terminate an employee for reasons related to a disability, and you have a duty to provide necessary and adequate accommodations when requested. When adequate accommodations are in place, employees with disabilities should be held to the same performance standards as other employees.

If any employee is not meeting performance expectations, follow your usual performance management procedures, such as: discuss any issues with the employee, look for solutions together, document and, if necessary, terminate employment.

When working with a co-op student for four months, be sure to determine what the essential requirements of the job are before posting, and consider what accommodations can be made to help individuals meet those requirements - with the appropriate supports in place, chances are they can.