What is reasonable accommodation?



TRINIDAD and Tobago signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on September 27, 2007 and it was subsequently ratified into national law on June 25, 2015. Even before the ratification of this convention, the law Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) Chap 22:03 imposed a duty on employers to make reasonable accommodations for their staff to help them overcome disadvantage resulting from any impairment.

According to the UNCRPD, reasonable accommodation is defined as “the necessary and appropriate modification or adjustments, where appropriate, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The basis of reasonable accommodation as explained in the EOA can be seen and conceptualized from the key notions of the UNCRPD definition of reasonable accommodation. Here are some examples :

* Necessity – Reasonable accommodation is not about catering to the personal preferences or whims of people with disabilities; it is about providing what is necessary to ensure that they can participate on an equal footing with others. For example, offering sugar-free meals is a reasonable accommodation for someone with diabetes, but you don’t need to provide them with smoked salmon or lobster because that’s their favorite meal.

* Relevance – It’s not about making changes just for themselves; it is about doing what is necessary to ensure that people with disabilities can participate on an equal footing with others. For example, building a ramp to allow a disabled worker to access the restroom or cafeteria in the workplace, while installing new windows does not.

* Modification and adjustments – Reasonable accommodation consists of tweaking what currently exists. For example, an organization that has premises, services, programs and activities that are equally accessible to people with disabilities and others may not need to provide additional reasonable accommodations. It is undoubtedly the best option and can result from the integration of the handicap.

* Disproportionate or Undue Burden – No person or entity has to provide reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, disruptive, and cause financial hardship to their business operations. Although the above statement is echoed in the EOA, there should be a balance between the accommodations required by the employee and the ability of the employer. Interestingly, studies have shown that reasonable accommodation costs most employers little or nothing, but each issue should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

* In a specific case – Reasonable accommodation is an individual requirement to enable people to participate fully and fairly in their working lives. Accessibility, which is covered by Article 9 of the UNCRPD, is a general requirement that applies to all workplaces and other environments.

* All human rights and fundamental freedoms – Reasonable accommodation applies to all aspects of the lives of people with disabilities.

Notwithstanding this, employers have a duty to provide the necessary reasonable accommodations. The EOA states that it would be reasonable for an employer not to hire a person with a disability if they could demonstrate that an unreasonable risk of injury to others or a substantial risk of injury to themselves may occur. In addition, the person with a disability seeking possible employment must ensure that the job functions essential to qualifying for the position can be performed. Essential duties are duties that are fundamental to the position and the primary reason the position exists.

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) continues to receive and investigate all complaints, including those relating to disability-related illnesses and denial of reasonable accommodation. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your disability, you can file a complaint via the EOC website:
https://equalopportunity.gov.tt/ or email [email protected]


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