A social approach to disability tells us that the disability is not the problem; it’s the surrounding environment, activity or other people that can create attitudinal barriers, discrimination and other challenges. We might think that the diagnosis will tell us everything we need to know about a person, but that’s far from true. What we really need to know is what that person needs in terms of accessibility.
Start by creating opportunities for individuals to share their accessibility or accommodation needs. Bear in mind that every individual has different needs and may require different solutions or strategies. What works for one person may not work for another. And remember: Asking about accessibility or accommodation needs is different and more important than asking for details of someone’s disability or medical condition.
When brainstorming accessibility strategies consider how you might modify the environment or activity involved – not the person! For example, if someone is finding work deadlines challenging due to their mental health disability, consider changes to their environment by allowing them to work from home, or changes to the activity by extending the deadline.
Did You Know?
Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code, employers, landlords and service providers must make efforts to accommodate disability-related needs and provide accessibility supports.
As an employer, landlord or service provider, ask people if they require an accommodation or accessibility support is needed – not whether they have a disability. Don’t be afraid to ask, but make sure the conversation happens privately.
Because of the real issue of stigma and discrimination, people may hesitate to disclose mental health-related disability needs. It can be helpful to publicly post or advertise that disability accommodations are available and tell people where to direct their requests. For example, during a hiring process, employers could state that they value employee success and offer examples of disability accommodations that have been provided in the past, such as flexible work hours to accommodate appointments.
Resource: Not sure how to what language to use when you talk to people about mental health disabilities? Find out what language to use when talking about mental health disabilities.