Professional Perspective: Accommodations in the workplace – Part 2

Welcome to today’s Professional Perspective, where industry professionals share their insights regarding various employment-related topics, Disability Employment Awareness Month edition!

To tackle the complex topic of accommodations, this 3-part series features professional perspectives from a community agency project coordinator, a post secondary institution counsellor, and a Manitoba employer.


Today’s Disability Employment Awareness Month question is:

What should students and new graduates do if they need accommodations in the workplace?

Part 2 of this series – Andrea Johnston is sharing her professional perspective regarding accommodations in the workplace. Andrea has worked with students with disabilities for over fifteen years in various community agencies and post-secondary settings.  For the past six years she has been a Counsellor at Red River College in Counselling and Accessibility Services. Andrea is passionate about inclusive education and supporting students in achieving their academic and professional goals.

Andrea’s Professional Perspective

As a person with a disability, you have a right to accommodation in the workplace in Canada. The law is clear; employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations. But what does that mean exactly? And why is it that disclosing the need for accommodations can still feel like a difficult conversation for new graduates looking for work?

The truth is that if you are a person with a disability, the journey to meaningful employment can be difficult. In 2011 Statistics Canada released a study stating that the employment rate of Canadians aged 25 to 64 with disabilities was 49%, compared with 79% for Canadians without a disability. The stigma and barriers that people with disabilities can face in the workplace are unfortunately still very real.

As a graduate breaking into a potentially new industry you may feel especially vulnerable; it is important to reflect on what you need, be educated on your rights and to be strategic in your search.

Respect your needs

The first thing to understand is that your concerns and worries about whether or not to disclose the need for accommodations are both valid and understandable. Be compassionate with yourself, but try to remember that you are lawfully deserving of a safe and inclusive workplace. When speaking with an employer about your needs avoid framing any requests for accommodation as an apology. An accommodation is not something to apologize for and it doesn’t mean you can’t do the job. Requesting an accommodation ensures that you are setting yourself up to work in an environment that allows you to be the best at what you have been hired to do. Think of requesting accommodation as a sign of respect for the job, your supervisor, the workplace and most importantly for yourself.

Know your rights

As part of the job search process, it is always important to educate yourself on what your rights are. I echo Millie Khan’s thoughts from last week’s Professional Perspective post. The Manitoba Human Rights Code protects those with disabilities from employment discrimination. Candidates are to be given the opportunity to disclose and request an accommodation throughout the hiring process and employment relationship to be able to perform duties safely, efficiently and reliably. You are not required to disclose your disability needs, but you need to be prepared to respond with the specific accommodations you require when asked “Do you require an accommodation?”.

Understand disclosure

It is always important to reflect on how having or not having access to an accommodation will impact you on the job and during the hiring process. For persons with disabilities the reality is that for a variety of valid reasons, not disclosing the need for accommodation feels like the right choice. However, there are situations where the lack of accommodation can have a negative impact on hiring, workplace safety, job satisfaction, performance, and interpersonal relations with colleagues and employers. It is always important to consider your decision carefully. When deciding for yourself whether or not to request an accommodation reflect on the following questions:

  • Does going without an accommodation impact your safety or others on the job? If the answer is yes, you are required to tell your employer.
  • Is there a reason to disclose, will your health be impacted by going without an accommodation?
  • Does your disability impact your ability to participate fully in the hiring process or perform aspects of the job?
  • Do your coping strategies allow you to meet the job requirements?
  • Many companies have equity standards and hire for diversity and inclusivity; would identifying as a person with a disability increase your chances of being hired?

Identify employers invested in inclusivity

More and more industries and companies are embracing the benefits of inclusive hiring practices and an understanding that there is strength in diversity. Be strategic in your job search and look for companies that promote diversity and inclusivity as part of their hiring practices.  Information interviews, networking and finding a mentor in your field can help you learn as much as you can about a company and its culture and will allow you to make an informed decision regarding disclosure.


References:

Canada, G. O. (2015, November 27). Persons with disabilities and employment. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2014001/article/14115-eng.htm

Families | Province of Manitoba. (n.d.). https://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/imd/hr.html

Samuels, J. (2017, March 29). To disclose or not disclose: http://abilities.ca/disclose-not-disclose/

The Disclosure Dilemma, talking about disability at work [Audio blog post]. (n.d.). http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/cbc-radio-specials/episode/13949702


Red River College Counselling Services offers counselling support to students struggling with a variety of different challenges. Students frequently come to counselling to get help with personal/relational challenges, managing mental wellness, and to receive support through times of crisis. Red River College Accessibility Services works collaboratively with students, faculty and support staff to identify and implement strategies to ensure that all students can have an equal opportunity to achieve their educational goals. For more information, visit Red River College websites: Counselling Services and Accessibility Services.


Stay tuned for the last installment of Professional Perspective: Accommodations in the workplace – Part 3, featuring a Manitoba employer!

To read past editions, click here:
Professional Perspective – What employers are really thinking

Manitoba leads the way by declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM). DEAM is an annual opportunity for Manitoba businesses, industry associations, community organizations, educational institutions, government bodies, and other groups to take proactive steps to increase employment success for Manitobans with disabilities. For more information on why you should get involved and how you can get involved visit www.deam-mb.ca.

For additional job searching tips, visit Student Employment Services’ Online Employment Resources or book an appointment with an RRC Employment Advisor at 204.632.3966 or JobCentre@rrc.ca.