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Accommodation for Employees with Disabilities

Implementing individualized accommodation plans for emergencies

For employees with disabilities

Employees are responsible for identifying accommodations needed in the event of an emergency related to a disability that may not be apparent, such as a mental health or chronic condition. However, employees do not need to disclose the particulars of their disability or condition.

This information is discussed between the employee and their leader. Discussion is also required if the working location or job changes, or if an employee experiences any temporary or permanent changes to their accommodation needs.

For leaders of employees with disabilities

Leaders have an important responsibility to discuss emergency information and procedures with all new employees (including internal transfers and promotions), as soon as possible after their start date as part of the onboarding process (see the Leaders' Guide to Onboarding (PDF) for further details).

As part of this discussion, employees with disabilities and their leaders should work together to identify any individualized needs related to emergency information and procedures.

Discussion is also required if the working location or job changes, or if an employee becomes disabled, whether temporarily (e.g., broken leg) or permanently. To respond to any changing needs, leaders need to review and document individual emergency plans at least once a year.

What you need to do
  • Step 1: Discuss university information and procedures, including how employees find out about emergency situations and what actions are expected in specific types of emergencies. See the Environmental Health and Safety site on Emergencies and Reporting for more information.
  • Step 2: Review any department-specific emergency and evacuation plans. Consult your department safety officer or fire warden.
  • Step 3: For each employee that requires accommodation in the event of an emergency, work together to complete the Individualized Accommodation Plans for Emergencies Form (PDF). Below is information on what you need to discuss.
  • Step 4: Make sure information is available in a format that is accessible for the employee, for example in an electronic format that is accessible using software such as JAWS, MAC VoiceOver, ZoomText, etc. For maps, consider tactile formats or arrange for the services of an Orientation and Mobility Instructor through BALANCE for Blind Adults. These services are funded by the government, so there is no cost to Ryerson.
  • Step 5: Provide the employee with a copy of the completed and signed Individualized Accommodation Plans for Emergencies Form. Keep a copy for your files.
  • Step 6: Provide copies of individualized emergency plans, with the employee’s authorization, to the Fire Warden and any other individuals who have been designated to assist in an emergency. This is so they can take appropriate action in the event of an emergency or when an employee may be working alone, and advise emergency response teams appropriately (e.g., firefighters, paramedics).
  • Step 7: Review the individualized accommodation plan on an annual basis as well as when there are changes to the employee’s work location, job or disability, etc. Changes must be documented.
Completing the Individualized Accommodation Plans for Emergencies Form
What you need to discuss
Emergency information and procedures specific to an employee’s work location(s)

For example, classrooms, labs, cafeteria, meeting rooms.

Accommodation requirements in order to be alerted of an emergency situation

For example, for an audible-only alarm that does not alert someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Accommodation requirements to alert others of an emergency situation

For example, can the alarm pull station be reached and activated? Can security be contacted by telephone? Note that it is not necessary to be able to speak with Ryerson Security when “80” is dialed from a Ryerson landline phone. Security will be able to identify where the call is coming from once it is placed.

Accommodation requirements in order to respond to specific types of emergencies

For example, evacuation of a building, power outage or being stuck in an elevator.

Involvement of others

Discuss whether anyone else needs to be involved to work with the employee during an emergency.

For employees with mobility disabilities

Options may include identifying where to wait safely for help during an emergency if elevators cannot be used; having fire wardens wait for evacuation with an employee during an emergency; and advising emergency response teams such as Ryerson Security and Emergency Services, building security in non-Ryerson buildings, firefighters and paramedics, that assistance is required for evacuation.

For employees with visual disabilities

Options may include having a fire warden, leader or an Orientation and Mobility Instructor provide an orientation to the work location and its emergency features (e.g., location of alarm pull stations and emergency exits). Also consider asking volunteers and/or fire wardens to account for and guide the employee during an emergency. Emergency information should be accessible using JAWS, ZoomText, etc.

For employees who are deaf or hard of hearing

Options may include installing visual/vibrating alarms; asking a lab manager, floor fire warden and/or co-worker to volunteer to provide individualized alerts during audible alarms or announcements and communications that would be accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, such as written instructions and/or clearly marked updated maps that are readily available in a portable format; arranging for fire wardens and/or other emergency response teams to communicate instructions electronically, including using text message, Twitter or email, or communicating in writing using paper and a pen during an emergency.

Fire wardens should not assume all individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can lip-read or use voice to express themselves in spoken English. Ask the employee who is deaf or hard of hearing their preferred method of communication and if there is a preference for who to work with in emergency.

For employees who have disclosed a non-apparent disability

Options may include orientation to evacuation routes to become familiar in advance, having a fire warden accompany the employee for the first few fire drills, or having another employee volunteer to accompany the employee in emergency situations.

Other considerations

Also consider the following:

  • Someone with asthma may need help walking long distances or with stairs, especially if there is smoke, dust, fumes or chemicals in the air.
  • An employee may have a condition such as arthritis, weak knees/hips, or a temporary disability (e.g., a broken leg) that may make it difficult to move quickly down stairs.
  • An employee with a disability that limits manual dexterity may not be able to pull a fire alarm.
  • A person with a speech disability may need different ways to communicate in an emergency.
  • A person with a mental health condition may have trouble dealing with high anxiety, panic or stress in an emergency.
  • It is important to build awareness in your department that we can not assume that everyone can quickly hear or see an alarm or emergency and is able to quickly leave the location when necessary. Practice evacuations and the accommodations listed above in advance and during fire drills.

Questions?

Leaders and employees can contact their HR consultant or Heather Willis, accessibility coordinator, at hwillis@ryerson.ca or (416) 979-5000, ext. 4144.