The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) protects people from discrimination on the basis of disability. Under the Code, workplaces, landlords, and other services must not discriminate on the basis of disability. In other words, all people must have equal opportunities to benefit from employment, housing, and other services. However, the Code allows organizations to provide more opportunities for protected groups. These opportunities in work, housing, or service lessen the disadvantages of discrimination that people may experience.
Lessening the Disadvantages of Discrimination
Under the Code, organizations can develop special programs to support members of a group that the Code protects. For example, an agency can develop a program to support job-seekers with disabilities. This program could address employment concerns specific to people with disabilities, concerns that non-disabled job-seekers do not have. For instance, some of these concerns are:
- When and how to disclose disability to an employer
- How to request workplace accommodations
Similarly, this program could give job-seekers the chance to practice job-readiness skills they may not have had a chance to learn through mainstream education or employment agencies, such as:
- Using computers with accessibility hardware or software
- Applying for employment grants specific to disability, or other budgeting concerns
Therefore, the agency can limit its clientele and only serve job-seekers with disabilities. Usually, limiting clientele to only one group of people would constitute discrimination. However, since this limit would lessen a disadvantage of discrimination, the Code allows it.
Similarly, some organizations may serve only people with disabilities. For example, some of these organizations may be:
- Social clubs
- Sororities or fraternities
Under the Code, these organizations can limit their membership to people with disabilities. In addition, they can also give hiring preference to qualified applicants with disabilities.
For example, a school can serve students who are deaf, and teach classes in American Sign Language (ASL). Moreover, when hiring staff, if applicants who are deaf and hearing are equally qualified, the school can choose to hire teachers who are deaf.
These exceptions benefit people who may lose other opportunities because people have discriminated against them.