Hiring a new employee is an exciting time for any business owner. In most cases, a new employee brings fresh perspectives, strengthens teams and enhances the capabilities of the business. On the other hand, the new employee benefits from a sense of security, improved well-being and a higher quality of life.
However, many jobseekers continue to face barriers to employment – negatively impacting their quality of life. Unfortunately, persons with disabilities face some of the most significant challenges.
According to the Government of Canada’s 2022 Disability Inclusion Action Plan, an estimated one in five Canadians over the age of 15 has at least one disability. To help the growing number of persons with disabilities access the workforce, we need more programs and supports that enhance their confidence, skills and independence. In the process, employers can better understand and experience the benefits of hiring persons with disabilities.
If you’re an employer that hasn’t tapped into this highly capable yet severely underrepresented talent pool, now is your chance to learn more about the perks and make a positive leap forward.
Barriers to employment result in reliance on financial supports
According to the Government of Canada, a person with a disability is more likely to work a low-paying job – even if they possess the skills and education for an advanced role. This can make it challenging to achieve financial security, leading to reliance on support programs like Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) to meet basic needs.
While these programs provide much-needed assistance, they don’t address the root issue of higher unemployment rates among persons with disabilities.
Employers should know that persons with disabilities are highly skilled, motivated and reliable employees. Unfortunately, some businesses continue to use discriminating and non-inclusive hiring practices.
It may sound surprising, but many workplaces still aren’t accessible for people with physical disabilities. Some employers aren’t sure how to provide appropriate accommodations, whether for a person with a physical disability or a person experiencing mental health challenges.
“Employers should know that persons with disabilities are highly skilled, motivated and reliable employees.”
In some cases, employers aren’t willing to hire persons with disabilities due to their own misconceptions and biases. This results in an exclusive rather than inclusive labour market, which discourages many persons with disabilities from seeking employment.
The power of individualized supports and resources
Persons with disabilities benefit from resources that support their self-sufficiency. Examples of good resources include specialized job and skills training, or improved access to assistive technology and transportation options. Without these resources, it can be difficult for persons with disabilities to find work that pays a living wage and promotes career advancement.
Through the federal government’s Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, organizations like The Career Foundation facilitate programs such as the Empowering Abilities Program (EAP). Offered in Hamilton, Scarborough and west Toronto, Ontario, all EAP services and supports are tailored to the individual needs of each participant to ensure they have the resources to succeed in the workplace. Participants also receive counselling on how to request accommodations from an employer.
Many of these specialized programs also partner with employers to develop job opportunities for participants and to educate them on inclusive hiring practices. Recently, Canada has seen an increase in working groups and associations dedicated to education, advocacy, and civic engagement to create supportive work environments for persons with disabilities.
Benefits for businesses hiring persons with disabilities
According to Ontario Disability Support Network (ODEN), “businesses hiring people who have a disability experience a 72% increase in productivity.”
In addition, persons with disabilities offer unique perspectives and experiences that can help businesses better understand and serve their customers. For example, a person with vision loss may have valuable insights concerning the accessibility of products, websites, communications materials and more.
Finally, hiring persons with disabilities and fostering a diverse workforce brings economic advantages through improved collaboration and problem-solving, an increased customer base, reduced turnover and a positive brand image. Embracing diversity is not only socially responsible but also strategically beneficial for businesses seeking long-term success in Canada’s diverse and inclusive labour market.
The path to more inclusive workplaces
Employers, government programs and community organizations must continue advancing and promoting accessible, inclusive workplaces. This can be achieved through the delivery of customized employment services and supports for both jobseekers and employers – to help give every person with a disability an equal opportunity to succeed in Canada’s workforce.
Organizations like ODEN continue to organize events and awareness campaigns like “Light it Up! For National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)” to ignite conversation about disability inclusion in employment.
Building on the work of ODEN, The Career Foundation convened other organizations who specialize in serving people with disabilities and together founded the Hamilton Disability Employment Network (HDEN). Such groups help build a supportive community that enable persons with disabilities to navigate the complex and often intimidating labour market.
Finally, employers can seek out and attend disability-focused networking events and hiring fairs organized by these groups and employment services provides to broaden their hiring practices to include jobseekers with disabilities.
To learn more about what Canada is doing to achieve the full and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities, read the feat.