March 2021

4.3 Exceptional Work-Related Disability Supports

Summary of Directive

To describe the goods and services that may be funded under exceptional work-related disability supports to remove or reduce disability-related barriers to competitive employment.

Legislative Authority

Sections 32 (1) of the ODSP Act 1997
Section 4 of the Regulation

Intent of Policy

To recognize the varying levels of client support needs and help clients with more complex barriers receive the goods and services they need to prepare for, obtain and retain competitive employment.

Application of Policy

Prior to issuing exceptional work-related disability supports, service providers must first confirm if the item is eligible.

(See Directive 4.5 Non-eligible Goods and Services)

ODSP employment supports helps people with a wide range of disability-related employment barriers and support needs. Some people will require intensive, high-cost supports or may need greater levels of support over an extended period of time to become and remain employed. Funding is available for exceptional work-related disability supports for people who have more complex employment barriers.

Exceptional work-related disability supports can include:

  • assistive devices and adaptive technical equipment;
  • job specific communication skills training to address disability-related needs (e.g., ASL, Braille, remedial writing for learning disabled, etc.); and,
  • on-the-job supports such as sign language interpreter, intervener, reader and note-taker services.

Employer Obligation to Accommodate under the Ontario Human Rights Code

Service providers must be familiar with employer obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Before providing goods or services to a person who is employed, the service provider should determine whether the employer is able and willing to meet their obligation to accommodate the employee under the Ontario Human Rights Code and provide the identified good and/or service. Employers have obligations to accommodate under the Ontario Human Rights Code, unless the needs of the employee cannot be accommodated without undue hardship to the employer.

It is recognized that for some employers (e.g., small business owner or non-profit organization), the provision of the required accommodation may result in financial hardship.

If the employer indicates that they are unable or unwilling to accommodate, the client and/or service provider should attempt to negotiate a solution that is acceptable to all parties. This could include sharing the costs of the accommodation between the employer and the service provider.

The employer should be encouraged to seek advice about governmental tax deductions that may be available to assist with the costs of providing accommodations to employees with disabilities.

If the employer indicates they are unwilling or unable to accommodate and no other solution is identified, the service provider can then determine if the good and/or service is eligible for exceptional work-related disability supports funding.

While it is recognized that an employer cannot be forced to document the reasons in writing why they are unwilling or unable to accommodate, ODSP staff should request a letter of the employer indicating the reasons for being unable or unwilling to provide accommodations. Whether or not the employer provides a letter, the service provider will make an appropriate notation in the clients file to demonstrate the rationale for the decision to provide the employment support(s).

Eligible "Exceptional" Goods and Services

Assistive Devices and Supplies, and Adaptive Technologies

ODSP employment supports funding may be provided for a broad range of assistive devices and supplies, and adaptive technology required for employment.

Assistive devices are used to replace, compensate for, or improve the functional abilities of people with disabilities and include items such as mobility devices, visual hearing aids, orthotics/prosthetics, speech devices, dentures, environmental controls, and portable respiratory devices.

Adaptive technology involves modifying standard technical systems for use by people with disabilities and would include computers with access devices, adapted information systems and accessible communication networks.

ODSP employment supports will not provide funding toward assistive devices or supplies required solely for activities of daily living or health maintenance (e.g., diabetic supplies, oxygen, etc.).

ODSP employment supports funding may only be provided for work-related assistive devices and supplies, and adaptive technology where these items are not fully funded through the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Assistive Devices Program (ADP). Clients must access the maximum funding available through ADP before receiving ODSP employment supports funding.

More information on the Assistive Devices Program can be found at:
Assistive Devices Program- Public - MOHLTC


Computer equipment and software may be purchased as an assistive device for communication purposes if necessary for the client to participate in job placement and retention activities or self-employment.

ODSP employment supports funding may be used to pay the difference between the market value for a regular computer and the cost of a computer with disability-related adaptations and/or software.

In addition, employment supports may also be used to cover any outstanding client costs including assistive devices or adaptive technology assessments, the difference between ADP approved amounts and actual cost, additional features or upgrades, maintenance/repairs, installation and set-up, training and user support.

Service providers should first determine whether the required computer equipment and software is eligible for funding under ADP. Clients who need to use a computer as a communication device because of their disability may be eligible for funding through ADP if the device is also needed for activities of daily living.

Technology Training

Training on adaptive technology in the use of hardware and software, assistive devices, etc. is essential for clients to derive maximum benefit from the equipment. Approved costs should also cover training and set-up of the equipment.

Job Specific Communication Skills Training

Job specific oral and written communication skills training may be funded for people with sensory, cognitive or learning disabilities to bring their functional communication skills to a level where they are able to perform the essential job duties.

Interpreter/Intervener/Reader/Note-taker Services

Interpreter and intervener services may be funded to assist people who are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or deaf-blind to apply for ODSP employment supports for assistance on how to undertake job preparation and training activities, participate in employment interviews, and to receive time-limited on-the-job support. Interpreter and intervener services may also be provided for clients to participate in the internal review and dispute resolution process.

Service providers will take into consideration the level of qualifications of interpreters and interveners and the degree of complexity of each assignment. Funding for preparation time, team interpreters, travel costs and written materials may be required.

Instead of interpreter or intervener services, alternate means of communication may be more appropriate in certain situations. Some examples are:

  • paid trained note-takers;
  • a personalized FM system (device that uses radio transmissions to send sound from the speaker's microphone/transmitter directly to the hard of hearing person's listening device e.g., hearing aids, headphones, etc.);
  • captioning services; and
  • transcription of recorded material.

Readers and note-takers may also be required by people with other types of disabilities (e.g., cognitive, visual or physical disabilities) for work-related activities. The use of adaptive technology should also be explored as a means of addressing these needs.

Provision of Exceptional Work-related Disability Supports

Service providers will consider the following factors when determining what exceptional work-related disability supports are required:

  • if the item is eligible as an exceptional work-related disability support;
  • the client's functional abilities and need for disability supports;
  • the specific requirements of the workplace training or employment position;
  • the environment in which the workplace training or employment will take place (e.g., co-workers, information systems, workplace culture, availability of supports, etc.); and
  • whether it is more economical to rent or purchase based on the duration of the workplace training or work situation.

Service providers are required to keep records of all expenditures for exceptional work-related disability supports purchased for clients including the amount spent, the type of support and frequency of supports provided to clients. Regional office staff will conduct random reviews/audits to ensure the funding is used appropriately and to assist regional office staff to negotiate future contracts with service providers.

Recycled Equipment

If a client withdraws or terminates participation in ODSP employment supports, the service provider may require the client to return the good(s). In making this decision, the following factors will be considered:

  • whether the item is transferable and may be used by another client;
  • whether the person is no longer using the item for its intended purpose;
  • whether the person is using the item to participate in activities which will help them to work towards an employment goal; or,
  • whether the return of the item would create hardship for the client.

Where appropriate, the returned goods may be used by another client. In some cases, if the item is still new, the service provider may choose to return it to the original supplier for a refund or credit. In some regions, community agencies have equipment pools where used equipment is returned/donated and loaned out to another client. Regional offices may want to coordinate the recycling of any unused/returned items with these community agencies.

Related Directives

4.1 Job Development and Placement
4.2 Job Retention and Advancement
4.4 Self-Employment Supports
4.5 Non-eligible Goods and Services
5.1 Employment Supports Funding
6.4 Performance Measures and Information Reporting