Accommodation Policy for Residents with Disabilities

In the Woodsworth Housing Co-op Accommodation Policy for Residents with Disabilities (“the Accommodation Policy”), the term “accommodation” refers to adapting or adjusting policies, procedures, structures, etc. for a resident with a disability, and not to its more common usage as lodging or housing. 1

Approved at a General Members’ Meeting on September 25, 2017.

1. Statement of Commitment

Woodsworth Housing Co-operative (“the Co-op”) commits to addressing residents’ needs in a manner consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code that is inclusive and free of barriers based on disability, unless to do so would cause undue hardship to the Co-op.2 This Accommodation Policy applies to all residents of the Co-op, as required by the Human Rights Code.

Accommodation will be provided in accordance with the principles of dignity, individualization, and inclusion. The Co-op will work cooperatively, and in a spirit of respect, with all partners in the accommodation process. 3

2. Appropriate Accommodations

The aim of accommodation is to remove barriers and ensure equality. Accommodations will be developed on an individualized basis. An accommodation will be appropriate where it results in equal opportunity to enjoy the same benefits and privileges experienced by others, and where it respects the principles of dignity, inclusion and individualization. Appropriate accommodations may include:

a) Unit adjustments
b) Transfer to a more appropriate unit;
c) Modifications to organization policies and practices;
d) Technical aids;
e) Provision of materials in alternative formats;
f) Building modifications;
g) Modification to membership criteria.

This list is not exhaustive.
Accommodation may take many forms. What works for one individual may not work for another. Each person’s situation must be individually assessed. In each case, the Co-op will implement the most appropriate accommodation, short of undue hardship.

3. Application of the Accommodation Policy

This Accommodation Policy applies to all residents of the Co-op. Residents include Members, Long Term Guests, the children of Members and Long Term Guests, and anyone else who may legitimately be permanent residents.

It applies at all stages and to all aspects of residence in the Co-op, including but not limited to participation in Co-op events, meetings and committees, access to and use of common and private areas of the Co-op, and termination of membership.

The Accommodation Policy also applies to the procedures associated with applying for Membership or Long Term Guest status with the Co-op.

New members will be informed of the Accommodation Policy and all residents will be able to access it electronically through the Co-op’s website, and in hard copy form at the Co-op management office.

Decisions under the Accommodation Policy will be made by the manager of the Co-op within his/her spending authority. If the requested accommodation will cost over the manager’s spending limit, the request will be referred to the Board of Directors for a decision.4

4. Requests for Accommodation

Requests for accommodation must be made, preferably in writing, to the Co-op management office and directed to the manager. 5
Accommodation requests should indicate:

a) The reason why accommodation is required; and

b) The specific needs related to the accommodation seeker’s disability.

All accommodation requests will be taken seriously. No person will be penalized for making an accommodation request.

5. Provision of Information6
The manager of the Co-op (or Board of Directors in more complex accommodation requests) may require further information related to the accommodation request in the following circumstances:

a) Where further information related to the individual’s limitations or restrictions is required in order to determine an appropriate accommodation; or

b) Where there is a demonstrable objective reason to question the legitimacy of the person’s request for accommodation.

In particular, the manager may request documentation from an appropriate health practitioner detailing the nature of the individual’s disability (a diagnosis is not required), any restrictions resulting from the disability, the expected duration of the restrictions, and the basis for the medical conclusions.7

Where further information is needed in order to identify accommodation needs or potential solutions, the accommodation seeker is required to cooperate in obtaining that information. Any costs associated with obtaining such information will be borne by the Co-op.

Failure to respond to such requests for information may delay the provision of accommodation.

The Co-op will maintain information related to:

a) The accommodation request;
b) Any documentation provided by the accommodation seeker or by health practitioners;
c) Notes from any meetings;
d) Any accommodation alternatives explored;
e) Any proposed accommodations that were refused; and
f) Any accommodations provided.

This information will be maintained in a secure location, separate from membership files, and will be shared only with those persons who need the information.

6. Privacy and Confidentiality 8

The Co-op will maintain the confidentiality of information related to an accommodation request. It will only disclose this information with the consent of the person who requested accommodation.

7. Accommodation Planning

Accommodation requests will be dealt with promptly. When required, an interim solution will be provided while long-term solutions are developed.

The manager of the Co-op, the accommodation seeker and, where appropriate, the Board of Directors and any necessary health practitioners will work together cooperatively to develop an Accommodation Plan for the individual.  9

The Accommodation Plan, when agreed on, will be put in writing and signed by the accommodation seeker and an officer of the Co-op. A signed copy of the Accommodation Plan will be maintained by the Co-op.

An Accommodation Plan may include the following:

  1. A statement of the accommodation seeker’s relevant limitations and needs, including any necessary assessments and information from health practitioners, bearing in mind the need to maintain the confidentiality of medical reports;
  2. Arrangements for necessary assessments by health practitioners;
  3. Identification of the most appropriate accommodation short of undue hardship;
  4. Clear timelines for the provision of identified accommodations; and
  5. Criteria for determining the success of the Accommodation Plan, together with a mechanism for review and re-assessment of the Accommodation Plan as necessary.

8. Monitoring Accommodations 10

The manager of the Co-op and the person receiving accommodation will monitor the success of the Accommodation Plan, and shall promptly address any deficiencies or relevant changes in the Co-op or the individual’s needs.

9. Undue Hardship

Accommodation will be provided to the point of undue hardship, as defined by the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination Based on Disability. A determination regarding undue hardship will be based on an objective assessment of costs, outside sources of funding, and health and safety. 11 The standard for undue hardship is high, and the burden of proof is on the Co-op.

A determination that an accommodation will create undue hardship may only be made by the Board of Directors of the Co-op.12

An individual making a request for accommodation may be encouraged to offset the costs of accommodation by applying for outside funding or programs that are only available to individuals. The manager of the Co-op may assist in identifying these funding sources.

Where a determination is made that an accommodation would create undue hardship, the person requesting accommodation will be given written notice, including the reasons for the decision and the objective evidence relied upon. The accommodation seeker shall also be informed of his/her recourse under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Where a determination has been made that an accommodation would cause undue hardship, the manager of the Co-op will work with the accommodation seeker to develop and implement the next best accommodation short of undue hardship, or will consider phasing in the requested accommodation.


FOOTNOTES:

1. This policy is intended to be consistent with and complement Human Rights By-Law #70.

2 For more information on undue hardship, please see section 8.

3 The “Duty to Accommodate” under the Human Rights Code is not limited to needs related to a disability, but applies to all enumerated grounds under the Code, including race, age, sex, gender identity, family status, creed (religion), place of origin and citizenship, and the receipt of public assistance. While the focus of this policy is accommodating the needs of residents with disabilities, the principles apply equally to all enumerated grounds.

4 See Spending By-Law #47 and Human Rights By-Law #70, subsection 2.7.

5 It is important to note that some individuals may be unable to disclose or communicate accommodation needs, due to the nature of their disability. For example, persons with some mental disabilities may be unaware of their accommodation needs, or may be reluctant to disclose them because of fear of stigma or stereotypes. The Co-op may offer assistance and accommodation to persons who are clearly unwell and in need of assistance, or who are perceived to have a disability, even where no accommodation request is made.

6 The Co-op will be careful to collect only information that is necessary. A careful approach to the collection of documentation not only protects the privacy of the accommodation seeker, it protects the Co-op from potential complaints. All parties must exercise good faith in seeking and providing information.

7 An appropriate health practitioner is a member of a regulated health care profession such as a medical doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist or social worker who is qualified to provide an opinion on a request for accommodation. In some cases, the need for accommodation is obvious and there will be no need for supporting medical information.

8 Requests for accommodation may involve the disclosure of private or highly sensitive information. In order for individuals to feel comfortable when making accommodation requests, they must feel confident that the information they provide will be treated confidentially, and shared only as necessary for the accommodation process.

9 A formal accommodation plan ensures that the parties clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, and facilitates accountability and regular monitoring.

10 Accommodation needs and the Co-op’s realities may change over time. As well, accommodation may require adjustments during and after implementation in order to improve effectiveness or efficiency.

11 A detailed explanation of these three factors can be found in the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination Based on Disability (2016) at section 9, available online at: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-ableism-and-discrimination-based-disability.

12 The determination that an accommodation will cause undue hardship is a complex decision, with potentially significant legal consequences, and should therefore be made by the Board of Directors of the Co-op. The basis for this conclusion should be thoroughly documented, and the accommodation seeker provided with clear reasons for the decision.

New procedure for Woodsworth’s accommodation policy

The purpose of this procedure is to provide detailed steps to ensure the Woodsworth Housing Co-op Accommodation Policy for Residents with Disabilities is appropriately implemented.

https://www.woodsworthcoop.ca/index.php/by-laws/procedure-for-accommodation-policy-for-residents-with-disabilities/

 

Information on requesting an accommodation for a disability

In September 2017 the membership approved the Accommodation Policy for Residents with Disabilities. The policy is available here:

https://www.woodsworthcoop.ca/index.php/by-laws/accommodation-policy-for-residents-with-disabilities/

The Strategies for Staying (S4S) committee is currently developing a procedure for how to handle requests for accommodations.

In the meantime, here are a few points about how to go about making a request for accommodation and what to expect:

– Requests for accommodation should be made to the OFFICE STAFF, preferably in writing.

– Requests for accommodation are a private matter and members have the right to privacy in all communications

– The definition of disability is broad. As defined in section 10 of the Human Rights Code it includes:

• Any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device;

• A condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability;

• A learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language;

• A mental disorder; or

• An injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.

– It is important to remember that not all disabilities are noticeable.

– The member will be asked to submit documentation from a medical practitioner. Documentation will include:

• the nature of the disability (e.g. mobility impairment);

• restrictions resulting from the disability (e.g. the member cannot climb stairs)

• the expected duration of the restrictions (e.g. permanent)

• the basis for the medical conclusions (e.g. any tests or assessments conducted by the healthcare practitioner)

– These documents will be kept in a private and secure location.

– All requests should be processed in a timely manner.

– The MANAGER is authorized to handle all accommodation requests, unless they determine that it will result in undue hardship to the co-op. In such cases the request will be referred to the Board of Directors.

– If the Board of Directors determines that a request will result in undue hardship for the co-op, the Board of Directors will work with the member to determine a possible solution, or will phase in the requested accommodation.

Co-ops and the Duty to Accommodate – a info session (2014)

Wednesday, November 12, 7 pm

Woodsworth strives to be an inclusive community, accessible to people of all ages and abilities. What role does the Ontario Human Rights Code play in ensuring co-ops, such as Woodsworth, respond to the needs of members with disabilities?

Woodsworth’s board of directors is pleased to sponsor Co-ops and the Duty to Accommodate under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, a presentation by our own John Fraser. Everyone is welcome, but we would strongly suggest that anyone on a core committee attend, or anyone who is thinking of running for the board or a committee. This is going to be a hot topic as members are aging. Please join us on Wednesday, November 12 @ 7:00 in the penthouse.

Update:
Missed the meeting? The presentation is on our website – The Duty to Accommodate in Housing Co-ops in Ontario