Advocating for yourself in the workplace can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be by informing yourself about what you’re entitled to ask for and what your employer needs to do to accommodate you, it puts yourself in a good position to advocate for what you need. Here are a few areas to educate yourself on before you need to self-advocate.
The AODA or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act gives legal coverage for the rights of disabled people this covers areas such as housing discrimination, public access, service animal rights, and much more. This act is all-around important to know about as a disabled person in Ontario and contains employment standards that ensure that disabled people have fair access to recruiting, hiring, and maintaining a job. In the area of recruiting employers to have to let applicants know that workplace accommodations are available for interviews. Once someone gets a job, typically when the discussion around accommodations starts, the AODA makes it so employers legally need to accommodate their disabled employees. In the past, if you get hired and disclose that you have a disability and need accommodation, employers could fire you for the “inconvenience.” Thanks to the AODA this legally can’t happen in Ontario (it still does sometimes, and that’s why you can contact the Province to report AODA workplace violations). I high recommend carefully reading all parts of the AODA but that can be overwhelming as it is a big act so here is the direct link to the employment standards:
Ontario Worker Rights
The Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is part of the Ontario government and public service. This ministry put in place rules that employers must follow for the benefit of all workers. But reading up on the rules will help you understand when they are being broken in relation to accessibility or discrimination in the workplace. Some things that are important to note is the minimum wage in your area, if you are receiving less than the minimum wage after you’ve disclosed a disability that is a direct violation of worker rights. There are also rules about harassment and discrimination if you’re coworkers or managers are being mean or treating you differently because of your disabilities. That is also a direct violation of worker rights and your employer has a legal obligation to do something about it. There are rules about breaks during your work days for example employees are entitled to a 30-minute uninterrupted break during a 5-hour shift, however, if you require accommodation of multiple breaks or “emergency” breaks these do not get included in your 30-minute break. You can read about everything in the 2022-2025 multi-year accessibility plan from the ministry of labour here.
Your Employer’s Policies
Another area I recommend learning about is your employer’s direct policies, companies are legally required to make their accessibility policies public, and while it may take a bit of digging to find it’s a powerful advocacy tool. When you can directly call up their policies it makes employers more likely to respond well to your requests. If part of your employer’s accessibility policies include an individual accommodation plan and you did not receive one you should request it.
Knowing your rights and having a good understanding of laws and policies puts you in a good position to advocate for what you are invited to.