At this point in time, after having seen the release of the Mayo Moran review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act(AODA), it is important to center our focus on how accessibility is created within a market place. From the outset there have been organizations and businesses that had a tepid response to the AODA because it automatically brings to mind the mythical beast that is the concept of undue hardship.
From the perspective of a consultant working within the field for past number of years, I like to think of it as not being dissimilar to when women fought for and obtained the right to vote. When the legislation passed allowing the vote there was no automatic switch in the mindsets of those who held power about the possibility of reframing assumptions about the intelligence of women or their right to work for equal pay in equal standing with their peers. As I had said earlier in an article, assumptions are powerful things, and there still exist assumptions about women that are only now being questioned by men.
For people with disabilities the assumptions are within the same wheelhouse, except people with disabilities are at the starting point of a long journey. Looking at the current position, it is the fear of undue hardship that acts as a mirror which can reflect systemic barriers in policy that exclude equal participation. There are trademark signs that a business is inflexible with regards to the idea of onboarding policy structures that create inclusive environments. In instances like these, the principle of accommodation as sole measure outweighs the integral role of creating accessibility from within to reach the end goal of being inclusive.
There are three parts to the equation that should be looked at equally in order to become organizations that are accessible, accommodating and inclusive.
- Accessibility is more of a mechanism that anything else. It should be viewed as being a vehicle for reflexive thinking regarding business practices that might pose barriers to the equal participation of people with disabilities. If an organization is built with accessibility in mind the very make up of that business will already have thought through some of the ways that it can resolve barriers.
- Accommodation is a specific tool that creates an individualized response to accessibility where there was a barrier before. Policies that are responsible for overseeing accommodation should be seen as being part of the tool set that creates inclusion.
- Inclusion should be seen as the end goal of applying accessibility and accommodation within an organization’s processes and structures. Inclusion represents way more than just disability but without creating accessibility and a structure for accommodating the concept of inclusion can never be met.
If these items are not on the radar there is a larger chance that undue hardship will present itself as a Jabberwocky instead of a what it is, the actual furthest extent of the duty to accommodate for which an organization is responsible. Much the same, if there is not a sense how these three mechanisms work there is a danger of constantly spinning the wheel as a business attempts to redo accommodations.
I do not like that the fact that people are still, in this day and age, excluded from work, are paid less, and are not viewed as being equal. Inclusion is a general term that should apply to an organization when accessibility and accommodation are just foregone conclusions of the work environment.