December 3 was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for 2018 is empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1992. The aim is to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of the importance and positive outcomes of integrating persons with disabilities into all aspects of life, including employment.

Limited results from the Canadian Survey on Disability (2017) were recently released, including updated information on employment for persons with disabilities. Here are some of the results:

  • The employment rate for persons with disabilities is 59% compared to 80% for persons without disabilities.
  • 28% of persons with severe disabilities in Canada live below the poverty line, compared to 14% with mild disabilities, and 10% without disabilities.
  • Lower wage rates and lack of progression in jobs continue to be barriers for persons with disabilities.

Also, According to Canadian Survey on Disability (2012), 41% of persons with disabilities who are working reported that they had at least one accommodation need that was not met. Others indicate that they are not working because of lack of accommodation. Lack of accommodation and perceptions are identified as top reasons persons with disabilities are not working

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities presents an opportunity to shift perceptions and practices. Employment greatly narrows the income gap between persons with disabilities and those without disabilities but not completely. Workplaces can do a lot more to help persons with disabilities reach their potential in terms of both skills and wages. Research shows that individuals living with a disability are as, if not more, qualified, reliable, loyal, and productive than their colleagues who do not have a disability.

The most important change identified to make positive strides in this direction is a shift in workplace culture. A culture that encourages open dialogue between employers, employees and potential employees with disabilities, and coworkers is key. Workplaces should embrace a culture that is open to disclosure, is flexible with accommodations and modifications, and reduces stigma. In essence, create a culture of overall well-being.

Agilec has been providing vocational and employment services for persons with disabilities for over 30 years. The services we provide to individuals, as well as our internal practices for hiring and supporting employees with disabilities, are a priority for us. Our values – Person Centred, Empowering, Excellence, Inclusiveness, Team, and Integrity – very closely align with the theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018, and we embrace a culture of openness and acceptance.

We encourage everyone to take a greater role in empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality, in workplaces and in every aspect of life.

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