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Accommodation

Accommodation is a means of preventing and removing barriers that impede full participation and access based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination. It is not a courtesy or a favour, neither is it a lowering of standards. Rather, accommodation is a recognition that individuals may require some adjustments in order to support their performance on the job or in the class room.

The provision of an accommodation is based on 3 principles:

  • Dignity
  • Individualization
  • Inclusion

Providing an accommodation is a shared responsibility between the individuals requesting and providing the accommodation. While the stated principles above apply in all cases, the nature of an accommodation is specific to the individual and should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The duty to accommodate arises most frequently in relation to

  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Sex (pregnancy) and/or
  • Family Status
  • Gender identity/gender express

For the purposes of this website, accommodation is addressed in relation to disability.

Duty to Accommodate

The goal of accommodation is to allow equal benefit from and participation in services and programs such as education and in the workplace. The Duty to Accommodate is enshrined in human rights legislation in every jurisdiction in Canada (e.g. Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Human Rights Act).

The Duty is intended to further society's commitment to equality and implies a duty of fairness so that disadvantaged groups can participate in society. Organizations such as McMaster are obliged to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship.

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, there are only 3 factors that can be considered regarding undue hardship:

  • Costs - A cost is "undue" when it is so high that it effects the survival or changes the essential nature of the organization. However, in the case of a large organization such as McMaster University, it is unlikely that costs will be determined a reasonable consideration for not providing an accommodation.
  • Outside sources of funding - Organizations should explore the availability of external sources of funding, such as government grants or loans which could offset accommodation  costs, when assessing "undue hardship",  
  • Health & Safety - if the accommodation puts the individual and/or others at risk, it may not be provided

If the University fails to accommodate, the burden of proof is on the University to explain why. An internal mechanism for addressing the failure to accommodate is the McMaster Anti-Discrimination Policy which is administered by the Office of Human Rights & Equity Services (HRES). For more information about this process, please visit the HRES website here.

*The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination on the following grounds: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, citizenship, ethnic origin, family status, marital status (including same-sex partnership status), sex/gender, sexual orientation, creed/religion, receipt of public assistance, disability, age, and record of offenses.

McMaster's Anti-discrimination policy expands upon the grounds of discrimination in the Code to include the following: Language, accent, dialect, political belief, membership or non-membership in a political organization, membership or non-membership in a trade union, or employee or employer organization.