Toolkit

Your Rights and How to Use Them - Disability Rights Toolkit

AIDE Canada
What are my rights? Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because of my disability? What should I do if I think someone has acted against my rights? This toolkit answers commo questions about human rights in Canada. It also gives you practical steps that you can take if your rights have not been respected, and it has a list of resources where you can go for help for every Canadian province and territory.

AIDE Canada - Disability Rights Toolkit

* Please note that the answers to these questions differ by province and territory. Be sure to review the law in your area. Links to more resources are provided at the end of this toolkit.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction.

What does “the duty to accommodate” mean?.

What is undue hardship?.

Frequently Asked Questions.

Employment.

Housing..

Shopping for GOODS AND Services.

Health Care.

Human Rights Laws by Province and Territory.

 

Introduction

People with disabilities are protected by human rights laws. These laws can be different in each province and territory in Canada. Human rights laws protect Canadians from being treated differently because of disability, race, sex, and other traits.

Human rights laws in Canada protect people in many different ways. This toolkit will talk about three ways that human rights laws can protect a person with disability:

  • At work. (This section is called Employment)
  • When looking for a place to live.  (This section is called Housing)
  • When shopping at a store or using a service like a hospital or school. (This section is called Goods and Services)

Human rights laws say that a “disability” can be visible or it can be invisible. Here is the difference:

  • A visible disability is a disability you can see almost right away. For example, if someone must use a wheelchair you can see their chair right away. This is a visible disability.
  • An invisible disability is a disability that you can’t see right away. For example, if someone has a learning disability you probably can’t see their disability. This is invisible disability.   

People with disabilities are not all the same. Each person with a disability has had their own experiences. The point of Human Rights law is to help people feel safe and secure. These laws say that some people, like landlords or store owners have “the duty to accommodate”.

 

What does “the duty to accommodate” mean?

Human rights laws set rules for places like businesses, hospitals, schools, and workplaces in Canada.  The laws say that in these places, people with disability have a right to be “accommodated” because of their disability when using shops or services. This is true when a person with a disability is:

  • looking for a place to live
  • going to work or school
  • in the hospital
  • shopping for things or using services in the community (like malls, grocery stores, restaurants, and movie theaters)
  • Accommodation is when someone finds a way for a person with a disability to do the same things as other people in the community. Accommodation can look very different based on the situation.

Accommodation can be:

  • Having a ramp that leads into a store so that people who use wheelchairs can shop there
  • Letting people work at the hours and times that are easiest for them
  • Hiring a person who knows sign language to help people who do not hear well
  • Letting someone use a service animal in a store
  • Letting someone pay rent by mail, even if the landlord wants the rent to be paid in person.

 

The “duty to accommodate” has a limit. The duty does not apply if it causes “undue hardship” for the business or service provider.

 

What is undue hardship?

Human rights laws say that landlords, store clerks, employers, and other service or housing providers must accommodate people with a disability up to a limit. The limit is called “undue hardship.” Undue hardship is when a service provider cannot work around (or accommodate) a person’s disability. Undue hardship needs to be something that is too expensive for the service provider or something that would create health and safety risks for other people.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Employers, landlords, and service providers (like store clerks or cashiers) have a duty to accommodate people with disability at work, where they live, and when they are in the community.  Next we will answer some questions about human rights laws in these three areas: employment, housing, and goods and services.

 

Every person in Canada has the right to be treated equally at work. This means that employers cannot treat people with a disability differently.  This protection applies to the job interview, the time they leave job, and every step in between.  

Employers must make sure the work and workplace are accessible for people with a disability. If employers don’t already give their staff an accessible workplace, they must accommodate the employee with a disability. This can mean many different things. Some examples include:

  • Giving an employee who has a physical disability parking closer to the building
  • Letting staff use items in the workplace that help with sensory differences (like headphones or sunglasses)
  • Letting a person work at the hours and times that are easiest for them
  • Letting an employee move or make noises that help them stay calm (sometimes this is called “stimming”)
  • Adjusting the lights or sounds in the workplace for staff with sensory differences

Employers should also accommodate for important things like:  

  • rate of pay
  • benefits
  • discipline
  • overtime.

Remember these rules for employers have limits. Employers do not have to accommodate staff with a disability if it is too expensive for them, or if there is a risk to the health and safety for other staff.

 

Do I have to tell my employer about my disability?

Telling an employer about a disability can be very nerve-wracking for many people. People may want to tell their employer about their disability for many reasons. Some people may want to keep that information to themselves.

 

People with a disability have the right to choose whether or not to tell their employer about their disability:

  • When they apply for a job
  • During or after an interview
  • After being hired
  • After working for a long time.

People may choose to tell their employer about their disability to get an accommodation at work. Remember, the employer is not allowed to treat an employee differently because of their disability. Employers cannot refuse to hire someone just because of their disability. They cannot make or allow improper or offensive jokes about someone’s disability. They cannot refuse to accommodate a person because they feel it is unfair to other staff.

Employers cannot ask an employee for a medical diagnosis as proof of their disability. Instead, they must ask how an employee plans to perform a specific job. The employer must also ask what accommodations they should put in place to help their employee continue to work. Employers must keep the employee’s information confidential. This means that an employer is not allowed to talk about their employee’s disability or accommodation needs with anyone except that employee.

The law says that once an employer is aware of a disability and the accommodations that are needed, they must try and accommodate their employee, unless it causes “undue hardship.”

If the employee is not sure about the benefits and drawbacks of telling their employer about their disability, they should think about speaking to a lawyer.

 

What if my rights have been violated?

If you think your employer has discriminated against you or treated you differently because of your disability, these are some of the steps you can take:

  • Report what happened to your supervisor, or if your supervisor was the one who discriminated against you or treated you differently, report what happened to their boss.
  • Write down everything that you remember. Include the names of the people who were involved, the date and time, what happened, and how you reacted.
  • Find out if your employer has an accessibility or accommodation policy. You can use this policy to show how it was not followed in your case.
  • You can try to find a lawyer to help you with this situation, there may even be a free legal clinic in your area which assists people with employment law issues

 

People with disabilities have a right to be treated equally when looking for a place to live, when they are renting a house, condo, or apartment, and when their rental agreement ends. This right is protected for:

  • rental housing
  • co-operative housing
  • social housing
  • and supportive or assisted housing.

Remember that these rights also have limits. This means that landlords and other housing providers do not always have to accommodate people with disability. They do not need to make accommodations that are too expensive. They do not need to make an accommodation that creates a risk to the health and safety of others. Some examples of things that might be out of limits are:

  • letting a person with a disability choose which apartment they want to rent, especially if someone already lives there, or
  • building or installing a new, expensive elevator in a building.

 

Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because of my disability?

Most human rights laws say that a landlord cannot treat someone differently or refuse to rent to them because they have a disability. People have a right to be accommodated for their disability. This means that landlords must try to make the building accessible if they can. If the accommodation will be too expensive, or if it will create “undue hardship” for the landlord, then the landlord might not have to make the accommodation.

Examples of providing housing accommodations for people with disability can include:

  • Fixing an elevator
  • Fixing a buzzer system
  • Allowing a person to live with a service animal
  • Giving a person a parking spot that is close to the building’s entrance.

 

What if my rights have been violated?

If you think your landlord or housing provider has discriminated against you or treated you differently because of your disability, here are some of the steps you can take:

  • Write a complaint and send it to your landlord or housing provider. This way you will have a record of what happened.
  • Write down everything that you remember about what happened. Include the names of people who saw what happened, people who were involved, the date and time, what happened, and how you reacted.
  • Find out if your landlord has an accessibility or accommodation policy. This could be included in your rental agreement. You can use this policy to show how it was not followed in your case.
  • Write a letter to your landlord or housing provider explaining the situation and asking for a solution.
  • You can try to find a lawyer to help you with this situation, there may even be a free landlord-tenant legal clinic in your area.

 

People with a disability have the right not to be treated differently when they buy goods or services or when they use facilities in their community. This means that they cannot be treated differently:

  • When they are buying items like groceries, food, clothing, or other items
  • At the hospital, dentist or doctor’s office, or medical clinic
  • At schools, universities, and colleges
  • At public places like community centers, public washrooms, malls, or parks
  • When they are using buses, ferries, subways, or taxis.

 

 

This also means that people cannot be turned away or refused service because of their disability. A person with a disability has a right to be accommodated. They should get the same services as people without that disability. Examples can include:

 

  • a restaurant cannot refuse to take a person’s order because that person needs a phone or tablet to help them talk
  • a store cannot refuse to serve a customer because they are making movements or noises
  • a customer who uses a walker cannot be stopped from getting help because the building does not have an accessible ramp.

Human rights law says the service provider must help and accommodate the customer with a disability. This means they must:

 

  • Let service animals into buildings and serve customers with service animals
  • who need help from a support person
  • Give customers information in a way the person can understand (for example using large letters, braille, or pictures for people who can’t read)
  • Make it possible for people who use walkers and wheelchairs to move around in their buildings
  • Adjust the music or lighting for a person with sensory differences.
  • It is important to remember that these laws have limits. This means that service providers do not have to accommodate people with disability if it is too expensive, or if it creates a risk to the health and safety of others. Examples include:
  • Having staff help a person with a disability try on their clothes
  • Making sure all staff are trained in sign language.

Health Care

 

People with disabilities cannot be treated differently when they are getting services or support from hospitals or health care centres.

 

Can my support person be turned away at the hospital?

 

People with a disability have a right to accessible healthcare. This means that health care providers like doctors, nurses, and hospital staff cannot treat a person differently because of their disability. They must make sure healthcare services are accessible. They must accommodate patients with disability. For example, some people with a disability need a support person to help them talk, or to help them feel safe. If this is the case, doctors must let the support person stay during hospital visits and medical appointments.

 

But, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals would not allow visitors inside the hospital. A person with a disability is allowed to have a support person when going to the hospital, as long as the support person follows the public health measures that the hospital has in place. This may include things like wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet away from others.

 

What if my rights have been violated?

 

If you think a service provider has discriminated against you or treated you differently because of your disability, these are some of the steps you can take:

 

  • Report what happened to a manager, or if the manager was the one who discriminated against you or treated you differently, report what happened to their boss.
  • Write down everything that you remember. Include the names of people who were involved, people who saw what happened, the date and time, what happened, and how you reacted.
  • Find out if the service provider has an accessibility or accommodation policy. You can use this policy to show how it was not followed in your case.
  • Make a complaint to the company explaining the situation and asking for a solution.
  • You can try to find a lawyer to help you with this situation, there may even be a free human rights legal clinic in your area.

 

Human Rights Laws by Province and Territory

 

Use the resources below to find the human rights laws in your area:

 

 

 

Jurisdiction Human Rights Legislation Resources
British ColumbiaHuman Rights Code, RSBC 1996, c 210 British Columbia’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner
BC Human Rights Tribunal
Tel: 604 775-2000
Toll Free: 1 888 440-8844
TTY (for hearing impaired): 604 775-2021
 
Human Rights Protection in British Columbia Fact Sheet
Discrimination: Key Issues
Alberta Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000, c A-25.5 Alberta Human Rights Commission
Confidential Inquiry Line:780-427-7661
Tribunal Office: 780-638-4635
Website: www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca
 
Human Rights Guides
Human Rights in the Workplace
Human Rights in Providing Goods, Services, Accommodation, or Facilities
Human Rights and Rental Housing
SaskatchewanThe Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, SS 1979, c S-24.1 Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
Phone: (306) 933-5952
Toll free: 1-800-667-9249
 
Accessibility Rights of Persons with Disabilities-General Overview
Policy on Service Animals
Policy on Support Animals
Guideline for Accommodating Hotel Patrons with Working Dogs
Landlords, Housing and Tenant Discrimination
Employment Discrimination and the Duty to Accommodate
Accessibility Rights of Persons with Disabilities-Public Transportation
ManitobaThe Human Rights Code, CCSM c H175 Manitoba Human Rights Commission
Phone: 204) 945-3007
Toll-free: 1-888-884-8681 (in Manitoba)
 
Fact Sheet: Discrimination & COVID-19
Fact Sheet: Service Animals
Fact Sheet: Requesting Medical Information at Work
Fact Sheet: Discrimination and Condominium Housing
Fact Sheet: Discrimination and Rental Housing
Reasonable Accommodation in the Workplace Info
OntarioHuman Rights Code, RSO 1990, c H.19  Ontario Human Rights Commission
Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario:
Toll Free: 1-866-598-0322
TTY Toll Free: 1-866-607-1240
Website: www.hrto.ca
 
Human Rights Legal Support Centre:
Toll Free: 1-866-625-5179
TTY Toll Free: 1-866-612-8627
Website: www.hrlsc.on.ca
 
Disability and Human Rights Brochure
Discrimination based on Disability and Duty to Accommodate: Employment
Discrimination based on Disability and Duty to Accommodate: Housing
Discrimination based on Disability and Duty to Accommodate: Services
Policy on Ableism and Discrimination based on Disability
Policy on Preventing Discrimination based on Mental Health Disabilities and Addictions
QuebecCharter of Human Rights and Freedoms, CQLR c C-12  Quebec Human Rights Commission
 
Rights of People with Disabilities in Quebec
Frequently Asked Questions: Hiring and Employment
Frequently Asked Questions: Housing
Frequently Asked Questions: Public Services, Transportation and Places
New BrunswickHuman Rights Act, RSNB 2011, c 171  New Brunswick Human Rights Commission
 
Frequently Asked Questions: Employment
Frequently Asked Questions: Services
Guideline on Housing Discrimination (2021)
Guideline on Accommodating Physical and Mental Disabilities at Work
Guideline on Accommodating People with Service Animals
Further Resources in New Brunswick
Nova ScotiaHuman Rights Act, RSNS 1989, c 214 Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission
Toll-free in Nova Scotia: 1-877-269-7699
Local in Halifax: 902-424-4111
Fax: 902-424-0596
TTY services available via 711
 
Frequently Asked Questions
Complaint Self-Assessment Tool
Free Online Training Courses
Prince Edward Island Human Rights Act, RSPEI 1988, c H-12 Prince Edward Island Human Rights Commission
Phone: 902-368-4180
 
Guide for Employers and Employees
Service Animal Fact Sheet
Duty to Accommodate
NewfoundlandHuman Rights Act, 2010, SNL 2010, c H-13.1  Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission
Phone: 709-729-2709
Toll-Free: 1-800-563-5808
 
Guidelines Regarding Responsibilities of Service Providers
Guideline on Rental Housing
Employers Guide to The Human Rights Act
Northwest TerritoriesHuman Rights Act, SNWT 2002, c 18 NWT Human Rights Commission
 
Duty to Accommodate: Employers and Employees
YukonHuman Rights Act, RSY 2002, c 116 Yukon Human Rights Commission
 
Duty to Accommodate
Frequently Asked Questions
Nunavut Human Rights Act, SNu 2003, c 12 Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal
Phone: 1-867-925-8447
Toll Free Fax: 1-888-220-1011
Toll Free Across Canada: 1-866-413-6478
 
A Guide to Filing a Notification with the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal


Load more reviews
How helpful was this resource?
Comment by from
Rating