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Hiring disabled employees? Make sure you know what 'reasonable accommodation' really means

by , 12 December 2013
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) says you have to reasonably accommodate disabled employees. But what exactly does reasonable accommodation mean? Read on to find out...

You're legally obligated to provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that's safe and without risk to the health of all your employees. This includes disabled employees.

Reasonable accommodation for disabled employees explained

To provide reasonable accommodation means you must make reasonable adjustments to the job to enable the disabled employee to perform to the best of his ability.

The Health & Safety Advisor explains that unless the accommodation is significantly difficult or expensive for you, making it un-practicable, this will involve any necessary adjustments to the job requirements or work environment that allow the disabled employee to perform the essential functions of the job.

A simple example would be providing a vibrating pager linked to a fire-alarm system to ensure your hearing impaired employee is able to respond to an emergency warning.

This would entitle him to the same benefits of employment as that of any of your employees without disability since they're now able to perform their duties successfully.

Here are four tips you can use to accommodate a disabled employee

#1: Adjust your premises. Make your workplace accessible and usable. For example, install ramps for an employee confined to a wheelchair.

#2: Provide personal support. For example, readers for employees with impaired vision, interpreters for the hearing impaired.

#3: Provide or modify equipment or devices. You can, for instance, provide a large monitor for a person with deteriorating vision.

#4: Adjust or change policies, training materials, examinations. For example, let's you have an employee with a neurological motor disorder working in your abattoir. You can adjust your policy to accommodate her disability by making all employees wear knife-proof gloves, arm guards and aprons for protection.

Warning: You're not allowed to discriminate against disabled employees. Now that you know what reasonable accommodation means, make sure you accommodate disabled employees to the best of your abilities.

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