Key Concepts

Legislation prohibiting discrimination is now regarded as an essential element of the response to employment discrimination. This is based on the supposition that disability is frequently used as a ground to exclude people with disabilities from the workplace and their communities. Effective non-discrimination law combats this exclusionary practice and provides certain rights to a protected class of people. Discrimination can take many forms including both direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment, instruction and incitement. Some would state that discrimination potentially exists when we do not seek to accommodate and embrace diversity in the workplace. Reasonable accommodation is not a new concept. Why do people use a chair to reach dishes on a high shelf? Why do people use electric pencil sharpeners? Why do people use ergonomically designed office chairs and work stations? Simply put, these adaptations make a task easier and may help save time. These are examples of simple accommodations that people may make to be more productive and ease their workload. Reasonable accommodation is defined as modification or adaptation of a job, employment practice, or work environment, that makes it possible for a qualified person with a disability to apply for a job, perform an essential function of the job, or access a benefit of employment. The concept of reasonable accommodation is in line with the functional supports or social construct model we have been discussing. It recognizes that if certain conditions exist, the experience of disability can be minimized. There are times, though, when even with the existence of accommodations, discrimination can still occur. In the case of discrimination, the burden of proof is typically placed on the individual alleging the discrimination, although many countries have shifted the burden of proof away from the claimant and onto the entity or person who allegedly discriminated.