Accounting for accessibility: Does your organization budget for accommodation requirements?
Large and small provides alike face challenges in accommodating tenants under the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC). As tenant populations age and as providers see an increase in vulnerable tenants with complex needs, accommodation is top of mind for ONPHA members.
To start with it is important to understand what accommodation means. Accommodation, simply put, is making special arrangements for some people so they have the same opportunities as everyone else. In addition, these arrangements must be made with the following principles in mind: respect for dignity, individualization, integration and participation, and barrier-free design.
Many providers are worried that accommodation means huge costs and logistical challenges. They also wonder where the line is between reasonable accommodation and undue hardship for the provider. The OHRC considers three main measures of undue hardship: cost, outside sources of funding and health and safety requirements.
In tackling the issue of accommodation it is important to remember the following:
- Respect for the person, as a guiding principle, will assist with finding the right solution
- It is a shared responsibility; both the tenant and the provider need to look at the best possible solution for everyone
- Solutions don’t need to be costly
How can providers plan for accommodations in advance?
While it is hard to plan for every eventuality, providers know that good planning makes their work easier and reduces costs in the long run while meeting the needs of their tenants. There are some considerations that can be built into planning that will assist in meeting accommodation requirements. These include:
- Keep up to date with changing legislative requirements like the latest Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) – Integrated Accessibility Requirement Standards
- When reviewing policies and procedures keep accessibility in mind. Consider clear language and design principles
- Consider how accommodating one tenant can make things better for everyone.
- For instance, clear information is easier to understand for all tenants and requires less staff time to explain. Or, a ramp built next to a building’s front steps will also accommodate tenants with strollers and delivery people using dolleys.
- Consider budgeting for accommodations that may have costs in your annual budget
- Work with tenants who make accommodation requests to understand what is needed. In some cases a tenant might request an accommodation that is quite costly but can easily be accommodated in another way.
- For instance if a tenant requests hardwood floors for mobility purposes, an alternative, more affordable flooring option likely meets the accommodation requirement
- Or, if a tenant requires help to prepare for pest treatment they can be connected to a local support agency to provide home care assistance
- Keep ONPHA apprised of accommodation trends so we can help with solutions
While addressing accommodation requests from tenants takes some creativity and work, in most cases these can be addressed without reaching the point of undue hardship. Addressing accommodations often makes things better for all tenants and can make your work easier in the long run.