Support Persons Law in Ontario
Support persons assist people who have disabilities with a variety of tasks, such as:
• Daily living needs
• medical care
A support person can be a paid personal support worker (PSW), a volunteer, a family member, or a friend. Service providers should always look at and speak directly to a customer with a disability, not their support person, even if the customer is communicating through the support person.
Welcoming Support Persons
All service providers that operate premises open to the public, or to third parties that serve the public, must welcome support persons. They must allow customers with disabilities to keep their support persons with them anywhere they need to go. For instance, a customer may need a support person with them at times when other people receive service alone to maintain privacy, such as a doctor’s or lawyer’s office. In situations like these, providers of confidential services may require support persons to sign confidentiality agreements to ensure that everyone in the room will respect client-provider privacy.
Can organizations require support persons?
Providers can only require that a customer has a support person with them if the support person’s absence would create health or safety risks for the customer or for others. Providers cannot decide to require a support person unless they first consult with the customer whom they believe should not receive service without personal support. Some service providers may not understand how people with various disabilities accomplish tasks. As a result, they may feel that most customers with disabilities should have support persons with them. However, this belief is false. As a result, organizations cannot usually require that customers with disabilities bring support persons with them. Likewise, organizations usually cannot deny service to customers who do not have support persons.
Nonetheless, support persons are sometimes necessary. Providers wishing to require support persons should consult with many people who have different disabilities. The providers and the people with disabilities should talk about whether activities would be more risky for customers with disabilities than for customers without disabilities. Providers may sometimes falsely believe that every-day activities are more risky for people with disabilities than they truly are. In addition, if risks do exist, customers with disabilities may have ways of reducing them that the provider has not thought of. Each customer will know how they can best accomplish tasks. They will also know whether or not they need a support person in different situations.
Reduced or Waived Fees for Support Persons
Moreover, many Ontario venues have policies allowing support persons to attend events for a reduced or waived fee. These policies are not support persons law, but they remove barriers for customers who cannot attend events without support persons. Otherwise, such customers would need to pay double what others pay. All venues must let customers know whether or not they reduce prices for support persons and what the reduction is. Furthermore, if a service provider requires support persons to accompany customers with disabilities, the service provider must waive any fees for those support persons.
Service providers who follow support persons law are showing their commitment to serving all customers.