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Human Rights – The Ultimate Guide

What is Human Rights? Everything you need to know about Human Rights

In this guide, you are going to learn about Human Rights and specifically you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are human rights?
  • What is discrimination?
  • Your rights and responsibility in terms of human rights
  • Examples of Human Rights best practices
  • Human Rights principles and concepts

Human rights are for everyone, and it can help us to build a healthy workplace. We can treat everyone fairly and equally for our friends and family from around the world, whether they are getting older or have one or more disabilities.

Human Rights Best Practices

Best human rights practices offer protection of rights, equal opportunity, and freedom from discrimination. The best human rights practices can be applied in many situations including housing, jobs, services, and states that employers, landlords, and others much accommodate people with disabilities to the point of undue hardship.

In terms of employment, employers must accommodate employees when they cannot perform some or all duties of the job because of their disadvantages. For example, someone who has challenges walking the stairs may need help to be able to allow her to reach the person’s job location. or someone who can’t hear clearly and the job requires her to communicate with clients on the phone, the employer needs to accommodate her accordingly. Accommodations might include supplying appropriate technologies. In today’s world, the development of Artificial intelligence would make many accommodations much easier.

Employment Accommodation and Discrimination Avoidance

Accommodation means not denying people jobs or services in the first place if they can be accommodated to the point of undue hardship Changes to an organization’s policies and practices or staff training so that discrimination doesn’t recur may be required. When discrimination happens, it is more important to fix the situation to provide equal opportunities rather than punishment.

The best practice to fix any discrimination situation is to promote and educate the organizations to be able to make changes to prevent harassment and discrimination. Physical disabilities are the most noticeable disability, such as someone using a walking stick or using a wheelchair. Not all disabilities are visible though, for example mental disability or disability that is related to depression or mental health.

Types of disabilities

a) Physical limitations

b) Learning disabilities

c) Vision

d) Substance addictions

e) Environmental sensitivities

f) Mental health

g) Cognitive or intellectual development

h) Hearing

i) Epilepsy

j) Workplace injuries

Less noticeable disabilities

Disabilities can include physical limitations, and also include non-physical or mental limitations. Examples of invisible disabilities are mental health, cognitive or intellectual development, learning, hearing, vision, epilepsy, substance addictions, environmental sensitivities, and workplace injuries.

Accessibility Barriers

Accessibility barriers are things that prevent people with disabilities from taking part in social and economic life fully. Disability itself is not a barrier, but accessibility barriers exist to exclude people with disabilities. An example of physical barriers is elevated entrances with no ramp or elevator for wheelchair access.

Systemic Barriers of accessibilities

Another type of accessibility barrier is systemic barriers. They are the stereotypes or established practices such as working hours, or location that cannot be accessible with para-public transportation.

What is ableism?

Ableism is a tendency to see people with disabilities as less worthy, underestimating their potential, or excluding them from decisions that affect them.

There are stereotypes, generally inaccurate, associated with either disability in general, or with specific disabilities (for instance a presumption that all disabled people want to be cured, that wheelchair users necessarily have an intellectual disability, or that blind people have some special form of insight). These stereotypes in turn serve as a justification for ableist practices and reinforce discriminatory attitudes and behaviors toward people who are disabled. Labeling affects people when it limits their options for action or changes their identity.

In ableist societies, people with disabilities are viewed as less valuable, or even less than human. The eugenics movement of the early 20th century would be considered an example of widespread ableism. The mass murder of disabled people in Nazi Germany’s Aktion T4 would be an extreme example of ableism. Ableism often makes the world unwelcoming, and inaccessible to people with disabilities—especially in schools. An ableist would assert that children with disabilities need to assimilate to normative culture. For example, a student who experiences a disability needs to read text instead of listening to a tape recording of the text. In the past, schools have focused too much on fixing the disability, but due to progressive reforms, schools are now focused on minimizing the impact of a student’s disability, and giving support, skills, and more opportunities to live a full life. Moreover, schools are required to maximize access to their entire community. In 2004, Congress made into law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which states that free and appropriate education is eligible to children with disabilities with insurance of necessary services. Congress later amended the law, in 2015, to include the Every Student Succeeds Act, which guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities full participation in society, and the tools for overall independent success.

Organizations should try to identify and remove barriers before problems arise instead of waiting to answer individual accommodation requests or complaints.

source: Ontario Human Rights Commission

Disability Accommodations

Accommodating the individual needs of people with disabilities is a legal duty under the Code. This allows people to benefit equally and take part fully in the workplace, housing, and other services. The most appropriate accommodation is the one that best meets the individual needs of the person with a disability. You are only exempt if it would cause undue hardship – a very high test.

Accommodations are sometimes referred to as “productivity enhancers”. Reasonable accommodations should not be viewed as “special treatment” and they often benefit all employees. For example, facility enhancements such as ramps, accessible restrooms, and ergonomic workstations benefit more than just employees with disabilities. Examples of reasonable accommodations include making existing facilities accessible; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; changing tests, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters. Here are some more examples. Many job accommodations cost very little and often involve minor changes to a work environment, schedule or work-related technologies:

  • Physical changes
    • Installing a ramp or modifying a rest room
    • Modifying the layout of a workspace
  • Accessible and assistive technologies
    • Ensuring computer software is accessible
    • Providing screen reader software
    • Using videophones to facilitate communications with colleagues who are deaf
  • Accessible communications
    • Providing sign language interpreters or closed captioning at meetings and events
    • Making materials available in Braille or large print
  • Policy enhancements
    • Modifying a policy to allow a service animal in a business setting
    • Adjusting work schedules so employees with chronic medical conditions can go to medical appointments and complete their work at alternate times or locations

There is no set formula for accommodation. Some accommodations can benefit many people, but what works for one person may not work for others. You must consider individual needs each time a person asks to be accommodated. Many accommodations can be made easily and inexpensively. But if it’s not possible to put the best solution in place, or if doing so results in undue hardship, you still have the duty to take the next-best steps.

What is Undue Hardship?

Accommodation doesn’t have to be provided if it causes undue hardship. Undue hardship is the legal limit of the duty to accommodate. It refers to situations where severe negative effects outweigh the benefit of providing accommodation.  For example, employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities, but when accommodation becomes too taxing on the organization it is classified as an undue hardship and is no longer required. These hardships include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s operation.

Three factors are used to determine undue hardship:

  1. Costs. Renovating an older building to make it accessible may be too costly for a small business. If the business must reduce staff or hours to provide the accommodation, then it may be able to claim undue hardship.
  2. Are there external funding sources, such as grants or tax breaks, to reduce the accommodation costs?
  3. Health and safety considerations. For example, there may be undue hardship if the accommodation violates occupational health and safety regulations. Employers must try to keep all workers safe and still accommodate the needs of the worker with a disability.
  4. If a significant risk remains for others, it will be undue hardship. If a significant risk remains only for the worker with a disability, they might have the right to accept the risk.

What to do if you need human rights accommodations?

  1. Tell your employer, union, landlord, or service provider about any needs related to your disability and your job duties, tenancy, or the services being provided.
  2. Provide supporting information about your disability-related needs, including medical or other expert opinions where required.
  3. Get involved in seeking accommodation solutions to the best of your ability.

How should the employer response to an accommodation request?

  1. Accept requests for accommodation in good faith.
  2. Act promptly, even if it means creating a temporary solution before a long-term one can be put in place.
  3. Ask only for information needed to provide the accommodation
  4. Actively seek appropriate accommodation solutions and ask for expert help if needed.
  5. Respect the dignity and privacy of the person asking for accommodation, and make sure the accommodation process doesn’t lead to reprisals against that person.
  6. Cover the costs of accommodations, such as any needed medical or other expert opinions or documents, to the point of undue hardship.

Employers must:

  • be willing to enter into a mutual agreement in offering accommodations;
  • be willing to explore all the options in the types of accommodation needed for the particular interview the candidate is undergoing; and
  • make sure that the accommodation and/or solution is mutually satisfactory.

Human Rights Principles

Here are some examples of Human Rights Principles:

  • Involve those who need accommodations in exploring solutions: They often know what works best for them. Make sure the process and solutions meet the individuals’ needs and promote privacy, dignity, and respect.
  • Equal outcomes: sometimes require different treatment: Different or separate accommodations may be necessary to help people do their jobs or access services.
  • Favour integration over segregation: Usually the best accommodations allow people with disabilities to participate in similar ways with everyone else.
  • Design inclusively: Make choices that work for as many people as possible, especially those with disabilities, while meeting individual needs.
  • Don’t create new barriers: Don’t make changes to facilities, services, goods, technology, or procedures that reinforce or create new barriers.
  • spread out accessibility costs: People with disabilities should not face extra costs for accommodations they need to do their job or receive a service.

I hope the guide provides you with a basic understanding of human rights and how accommodation works. Please note different countries or cities have different requirements for accommodation. you should check the legal requirements in your country such as Canada, USA, Australia, UK, Ireland, New Zealand.


Frequently asked questions(FAQ) about Human Rights

Here are different types of disability:

a) Physical limitations

b) Learning disabilities

c) Vision

d) Substance addictions

e) Environmental sensitivities

f) Mental health

g) Cognitive or intellectual development

h) Hearing

i) Epilepsy

j) Workplace injuries

Examples of accommodations are:

  • Providing printed material in alternative formats such as electronic files, large print or Braille.
  • Providing sign language interpreters or real-time captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Offering flexible work hours or break times
  • Modifying job duties, retraining, or offering alternative work
  • Installing automatic door openers and accessible washrooms
  • Building a wheelchair access ramp
  • Flexibility in work hours or break times
  • Providing sign language interpreters for persons who are deaf so they can participate in meetings
  • Job restructuring, retraining or assignment to an alternative position
  • Allowing an employee to wear a hijab even though the employer wants all employees to wear the same corporate attire
  • Allowing a pregnant employee to attend doctor appointments
  • Allowing an employee to not work on certain holidays

Ableism is a tendency to see people with disabilities as less worthy, underestimating their potential, or excluding them from decisions that affect them.

“Undue hardship” is defined as an “action requiring significant difficulty or expense” when considered in light of a number of factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s operation.

  1. Accept requests for accommodation in good faith.
  2. Act promptly, even if it means creating a temporary solution before a long-term one can be put in place.
  3. Ask only for information needed to provide the accommodation
  4. Actively seek appropriate accommodation solutions and ask for expert help if needed.
  5. Respect the dignity and privacy of the person asking for accommodation, and make sure the accommodation process doesn’t lead to reprisals against that person.
  6. Cover the costs of accommodations, such as any needed medical or other expert opinions or documents, to the point of undue hardship

Everyone is responsible for improving human rights. Usually, a Chief Diversity Officer is the champion of human rights in an employee organization.


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About the author

Jess Man

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diversity Advisor at Diversity Social. Jessica has over 10 years of working with and advising employers to be more diverse and create an inclusive working environment.
Jessica's experience spans private and non-profit sectors in multiple industries.
Jessica's expertise experience is beyond Diversity & Inclusion, she is also a certified professional IT recruiter in Data & Analytics, Database administration, Artificial Intelligence area.