All people are equal in dignity and rights according to the Ontario Human Rights Code (1990). Each person, as part of the whole Canadian community, has a rich contribution to make to the development and well being of our province.
The Human Rights Code (Part 1) provides every person the right to freedom from discrimination and harassment regarding services, accommodation and employment. Discrimination based on any grounds, including physical disability or handicap, is prohibited.
Types of discrimination:Expand Types of discrimination: Section
- Direct discriminationis discrimination by a person acting on his or her own behalf.
- E.g. A landlord refuses accommodation to a person because of that person’s disability.
- Indirect discrimination is carried out through another person
- E.g. A landlord instructs his/her superintendent not to take tenants with a certain disability.
- Discrimination because of association occurs when a person who associates with a member of a particular race, colour, disability, etc. is denied equal treatment because of that association.
- Constructive discrimination is also prohibited.
- E.g. An employer requires that employees be clean shaven, and refuses to hire an applicant whose religion requires that he wear a beard.
Epilepsy as a Disability
A handicap is any degree of physical disability caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness [Part II, Section 10(1-a)]. This includes epilepsy!
Unless a disability renders a person incapable of performing the essential duties of a job, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person because that person has (or used to have) a disability, or because someone thinks s/he has or used to have a disability.
Like people with other disabilities, people with epilepsy face everyday barriers:
- in getting an education,
- in finding employment,
- in finding housing, and
- in gaining respect from others because of stigma and prevailing myths about this condition.
When is epilepsy considered a disability?Expand When is epilepsy considered a disability? Section
Some people with epilepsy do not consider themselves to be persons with a disability. It can apply when a person has frequent seizures which affect mobility, co-ordination, or ability to perceive risk of physical danger, but it is difficult to apply to those with seizure control and no treatment-related side effects.
Some literature describes epilepsy as an invisible disability. It is difficult to detect a person living with a seizure disorder without having been told first or having witnessed a seizure. Regardless of how well their seizures are controlled, many people with epilepsy or a seizure disorder encounter the same attitudinal and environmental barriers felt by people with other disabilities.
Moreover, some people have seizure disorders because of a brain injury. This may produce other challenges such as a physical disability, a cognitive deficit or a learning disability.
The ExceptionExpand The Exception Section
If a person’s disability (including epilepsy) prevents him/her from fulfilling essential duties or requirements of a job however, it is not considered an infringement of rights if the employer denies that person a job.
For example, if a person cannot use a photocopier because of photic epilepsy, s/he may be denied a job where using the photocopier is an essential duty (e.g. in a copy shop). However, photic epilepsy would not prohibit a person from performing the essential duties of a job such as accounting. In that case, the employer could not use photic epilepsy as a reason to deny that person a job as an accountant.
As with most disabilities, epilepsy can have a negative or positive connotation depending on the words and images you use. Epilepsy Ontario is working with other epilepsy agencies across the province and country to increase public knowledge and awareness of the abilities and needs of persons with epilepsy.
We must work together to order to break down barriers stemming from unacceptable outmoded attitudes and lack of understanding. Find out how you can help empower people with epilepsy and put a stop to discrimination today.