Disability Employment Awareness Month

People with visible and invisible disabilities stand in a row holding hands with the words national disability employment awareness month behind them

In October, many organizations and provinces celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM). It is a time to recognize the 1 in 5 Canadians who experience disability and the incredible contributions they make to our labour force. Despite the positive outcomes associated with inclusive hiring, approximately half of Canadians with disabilities are underemployed or unemployed (which is about 10x the national average).

The DEAM initiative is supported by all levels of government and organizations across Canada to support disabled workers gaining and establishing themselves within industry – and within any industry.

People with disabilities often face huge barriers to employment, such as adequate work environment, transportation to work, flexible hours or other accommodations. 

The pandemic brought forth an interesting opportunity – the ability to work from home for many many industries, the ability to accommodate sick days, child care, flexible hours, and building custom work environments. 

With many pandemic measures now being reverted, many disability advocates are pushing for the flexibility to stay working from home – it opens so many doors for greater recruitment pools, and is also embodying universal design.

Universal design is creating environments that are accessible for the multiple needs of communities. The classic example is having ramps into buildings. While they also allow people in wheelchairs to get into spaces, they also are used by people with strollers, delivery people with carts, the elderly, etc. One accessibility feature can positively impact a diverse group of needs within the community, or workplace.

In the Last Census, 59 per cent of working-age Canadians who identified as having a disability were employed, compared with 80 per cent of people aged 25 to 64 years without disabilities. Having quality employment allows disability communities dignity and the ability for greater independence and quality of life. 

Employment is for everyone. What does this mean to you? Help us celebrate DEAM by telling us in the comments below.

Brooke Leifso is Associate at MT Consulting Group, focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

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