Liam Walshe, an autistic adult, is engaged in an ongoing discrimination case against the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman. Autism Ontario is concerned by the situation, particularly given Walshe's accommodation request during the employment process.
It is regrettable to observe an organization entrusted with upholding principles of fairness, accountability, and respect of human rights respond in a manner that may have inadvertently overlooked Walshe's accommodation needs. Autism Ontario believes that organizations, especially those such as the Ombudsman's Office, need to take proactive measures to accommodate all candidates during the interview process and exercise understanding when addressing accommodation requests from autistic individuals.
Walshe’s paralegal states that Walshe has provided evidence of his medical records as requested by the Ombudsman's Office, demonstrating a willingness to comply with their requirements. However, discrepancies in communication arose, with Walshe asserting that he never received a follow-up email from the office.
While the Ombudsman's Office stated it interpreted Walshe's silence as a withdrawal of interest, Autism Ontario believes there could have been more efforts made to clarify the situation before making such assumptions. This case underscores the importance of thorough and empathetic communication, especially in matters concerning accommodation for autistic individuals.
“The contrast with the Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability is evident from the outset,” expresses Stacey Feldt, Youth Transition Resource Specialist at Autism Ontario. “Section 8.6 of the policy highlights that expert opinion (i.e., medical documentation) of the need for accommodation should be sought ‘where needed but not as a routine matter.’ It raises significant questions whether expert opinion was necessary for 30 extra minutes to complete a test. Such a contrast is troubling, particularly from a public agency tasked with investigating complaints about provincial organizations and whose mission, vision, and values emphasize fair treatment, responsible administration, and respecting rights.”
As Walshe's complaint is currently before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), Autism Ontario encourages both parties to collaborate towards a fair resolution that respects Walshe’s fundamental right to be free from discrimination based on disability.
“As someone who often struggled over the years, I’m most grateful to have received considerable accommodations and wise guidance,” comments David Moloney, Board Member of Autism Ontario. “These measures have played a crucial role in the person I am today, reaching my full potential while advocating for the equality of all people on the spectrum.”
Autism Ontario offers resources to support employers in understanding hiring practices and accommodations through a free employer module available on Autism Career Connections – For Employers & Hiring Managers.
Recognizing the prevalence of autism, with approximately 1 in 66 Canadians diagnosed , Autism Ontario remains dedicated to advocating for the rights and inclusion of autistic individuals.
For more information, please email Autism Ontario’s media team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Autism Ontario:
Autism Ontario is the province’s leading source of information and referral on autism whose mandate is to build a supportive and inclusive Ontario for autism. It provides autistic individuals and families across their life course with community-based access to meaningful supports, social learning opportunities, information, and connections. The organization’s commitment to significantly and positively impacting the autism community is driven by its vision: Best life, better world, making autism matter!
1. Public Health Agency of Canada (2019). Autism Spectrum Disorder in Canada: Canadian Health Survey of Children and Youth. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder-canadian-health-survey-children-youth-2019.html#a3.1 (Accessed: 08 February 2024).