Breaking Down Barriers: Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities
When it comes to liveability, Canada is certainly not lagging behind. According to the Economist’s global rankings of the most liveable cities in the world, Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary are in the top 10 for obtaining high scores in five key areas; stability, infrastructure, education, health care, and environment.
An important factor to have stability is, of course, consistent employment or steady employment opportunities, something that Canada has certainly achieved. However, while the country’s employment rate is consistently strong, it isn’t safe to say that there are equal employment opportunities for those who are differently abled.
In fact, according to Statistics Canada, people with physical or mental limitations still fall behind their physically or mentally abled counterparts when it comes to gainful employment. In 2011, it was revealed that in the age group 25 to 64, only 49% of the population with limited physical or mental capabilities were employed as against 79% of the population without a disability.
While it is true that some people have severe physical or mental restrictions that they can’t be expected to perform certain tasks to the full extent as their abled counterparts, the government should be more active in implementing programs and policies that will allow people with disabilities to secure employment. Not only that, they should also be more involved in imposing more streamlined practices for companies to provide more accessible environments for these individuals. Fortunately, the Canadian government are indeed on the right track when it comes to these things.
A Step in the Right Direction
Accessibility strategies are currently the top item to gain a higher job rate for differently abled individuals. As of February this year, only Ontario and Manitoba have provincial accessibility legislation, although Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland are open to address this issue.
Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, believes having accessibility strategies in place will have a big impact. With them, people with disabilities can better integrate themselves in the workforce.
“If you don’t have a building environment that’s accessible, you can’t work there. If you don’t have the transportation that gets you there, you can’t work there. If you don’t have technology that’s accessible, you can’t work there. All roads lead back to employment in some way. So in that regard, absolutely employment will be impacted quite significantly by this law,” she says.
Government Can Only Do So Much
Joe Dale, executive director of the Ontario Disability Employment Network, believes that there is much to be done for the full integration of differently abled individuals in the workforce, and the responsibility should not solely fall on the government’s shoulders.
Dale believes that it is up to the community to end the stigma that people with physical or mental limits face in terms of their competence in work environments. Discriminatory hiring practices is one thing, but attitudinal and bias among employees themselves is another.
Heads Up! Business Owners
Business owners can make their contribution to breaking down the barriers that people with disabilities experience with employment. A good example is Mark Wafer who owns several Tim Horton’s locations. Having a disability himself, Wafer understands exactly what the situation is, which is why he’s been determined to provide employment for people with disabilities and the result has been amazing so far.
For instance, in one of his locations, Wafer had 46 employees with disabilities out of 250 employees, and the 46 employees’ absenteeism rate was a staggering 85 percent lower than those of the abled employees.
“In some labour markets across Canada, including where I live in Ontario, where we have a tremendous shortage of workers, that we start to work very seriously at the disability community. That is going to solve your problem,” says Wafer.
There is a lot to be done for differently abled people to completely escape underemployment, but for sure Canada as a whole is on the right track.