Accessibility Awareness

Celebrate and learn about ability in the workplace.

What is disability?

Approximately 6.2 million Canadians--that's nearly one in five--have one or more disabilities.

Among those aged 25 to 64 years, persons with disabilities were less likely to be employed (59%) than those without disabilities (80%).

Change your conception of disability

Disability can be visible or invisible; of varied level of severity, permanent; temporary or episodic; present at birth or begin during a lifetime. More familiar categories of disability include: Physical and mobility disabilities; Intellectual differences, or neurodiversity (including learning differences); Sensory related disabilities; and Mental health. What do all these categories have in common? The ability of the person!

According to the World Health Organization, "disability is part of being human, almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life."

The environment and processes a person with a disability interacts with influences their successful participation in society. What barriers exist in your workplace? What changes are needed to improve the accessibility of the space and processes in your workplace? Improved accessibility = maximized ability!

Check out the great resource about Universal Design from!

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Speak and Think Ability

Eliminating systemic stereotypes and bias means building your knowledge around disability.

Consider what words you are using

Bias, negative attitudes and stereotypes around disability can be linked with the words used in conversation and are potential barriers for persons who identify as having a disability. There are a wide range of preferences around many of the terms and words used to communicate around disability. It is important to select wording that is respectful, and were possible reflective of the choice of the person with a disability. Using the right wording can be take thought and education, taking some time to learn about language and disability is one way to examine your own unconscious bias. In general; words that categorize, words that equate disability with illness, or words that equate disability with inferiority are not acceptable. For example, using the term "handicapped parking" has a negative connotation, consider using "accessible parking".

The Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at Western created a comprehensive Inclusive Language Guide to provide practical tools for using inclusive language in written and verbal communication, promoting inclusivity and respect for diverse identities, cultures, and experiences.

How you say it is important too!

When speaking with a person who is using the services of an interpreter, it is important to look at the person you are speaking with, not the interpreter.

When you are having a conversation with a person using a mobility aid, remember that the mobility aid is considered an extension of the individual using the aide. Just as you would not reach out and touch their leg, do not touch their mobility aid without asking.

Visit the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Decolonization information on our hirewesternu website for more information on understanding EDID, Evolving Workplace Culture and Connecting with Equity Deserving Students.

Check out the great tips on building an inclusive workplace from and these suggestions for the portrayal of people with disabilities from the Government of Canada. The National Center on Disability and Journalism has a comprehensive style guide on disability terminology in North America, a great resource for business.

For more detailed learning, use these training modules from a learning series on building capacity for disability inclusion at work. Talent with disabilities can be your organization’s competitive edge. Hone in on specific skills or work through all courses for in-depth knowledge. An engaging mix of media drives learning and action in three key ways:

Bite-sized, self-guided learning with story-telling videos to "make it real" for learners.

A training toolkit to tailor group sessions for your staff, managers, leaders or business clients.

A repository of tools to take action on disability inclusion and "make it real" for your business.

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Accessibility Makes Business Sense

Your support matters!

Creating a more inclusive workplace not only addresses EDI systemic changes, it makes good business sense! There are clear benefits for inclusive hiring practices.

Increased access to a skilled and motivated labor pool

Inclusive companies attract and retain superior talent and are more diverse, reflective of the Canadian population. Your brand as an inclusive employer can increase your ability to attract and retain talent.*

Increased productivity, engagement, employee satisfaction, profitability, and organizational resilience while reflecting the population of your customers

Diverse teams show increased engagement and productivity and research supports the link between diversity and positive organizational financial health.

Enhanced employee engagement, brand building, and enhanced new talent acquisitions were found to be the top reasons Canadian companies support diversity and inclusion.

Legal and Ethical Case for Accessibility

Doing business in Canada means doing the right thing is founded in legislation protecting human rights including employment. People are protected from discrimination in the workplace including, job postings, applications, interviews, work assignments, work environment, training, promotions, discipline, termination, etc. Legislation exists at federal and provincial levels, but most businesses fall under provincial/territorial legislation. Multiple legislation addresses issues relating equity and disability including the Canadian Human Rights Act, Employment Equity Act, Ontario Human Rights Commission, and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Want to be a more inclusive employer? Use this self-assessment tool from for a picture of what your organization is doing well and areas for growth.

See why inclusion is good for business from and 7 tips for making sure your business is disability inclusive from ODEN.

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AODA in the Workplace

Ontario legislation, developed in 2005, is aimed at making Ontario completely accessible for individuals with disabilities. AODA includes employment accessibility standards that require companies to create and implement policies, procedures, and training around accessible recruiting, hiring, retention, and accommodation.

What does this look like?

ALL companies MUST address requirements in the following four categories:

  • Hiring
  • Workplace information
  • Talent and performance management
  • Communicating accessibility policies

These involve:

  • Adopting accessible hiring practices
  • Providing accessible workplace information to workers with disabilities
  • Creating individualized workplace emergency response plans for all workers with disabilities
  • Practicing accessible processes for workplace performance management, career advancement, and redeployment

Businesses with over 50 employees MUST ALSO address requirements in the following categories:

  • Hiring
  • Workplace information
  • Talent and performance management
  • Communicating accessibility policies
  • Accommodation plans
  • Return to work process

These involve:

  • Creating individual accommodation plans for workers who disclose a disability
  • Creating return to work plans for workers who have been absent due to a disability
  • Creating an accessibility policy and put it into place with training for employees

More detailed information is available at or


According to the Western Equity Census Report 2022, nearly ten percent of students, staff, and faculty respondents self-identify as living with a disability.

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Statistic Canada (2018). Canadian Survey on Disability Reports: A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017 (No. 89-654-X). Ottawa, ON. 

World Health Organization (WHO). (2022). Disability

Universal Design (

Discover Ability Network. (2020). Tips for Employers: Language and Disability.

Government of Canada (2022).  A Way with Words and Images, Suggestions for the portrayal of people with disabilities. Ottawa, ON.

Disability Language Style Guide (National Center on Disability and Journalism)

Deloitte (2010). The road to inclusion: Integrating people with disabilities into the workplace.  

7 tips for making sure your business is disability inclusive (ODEN)

Disability Inclusive Employer Self-Assessment (

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Accessible Workplaces (Government of Ontario)

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