An elec­tion is­sue worth the work

Em­ploy­ment for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Cam TAIT [email protected] @cam­tait

One of the golden rules in busi­ness needs to be shared with the folks run­ning in the up­com­ing fed­eral elec­tion.

You have to spend money to make money, it says.

Cana­di­ans have a har­vest golden op­por­tu­nity to make a se­ri­ous at­tempt at chip­ping away at is­sues pre­vent­ing Cana­di­ans with dis­abil­i­ties: Oc­to­ber is not only host­ing the na­tional vote, it’s Dis­abil­ity Em­ploy­ment Aware­ness Month.

Em­ploy­ment: it re­mains a chal­lenge for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in Canada, some­thing that has lin­gered on for decades … and, hon­estly, there have not been any sug­gest­ing signs to speed things up.

Yet, it’s a tremen­dous un­tapped re­source. A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber — and, we’re talk­ing sig­nif­i­cant as in hun­dreds of thou­sands — of skilled, ded­i­cated, loyal and ea­ger un­em­ployed Cana­di­ans.

Be­cause of one rea­son: they live with a dis­abil­ity.

A ma­jor mind­shift is most cer­tainly re­quired. As Cana­di­ans — and, let’s re­mind our­selves we are, alas, a first­world coun­try — we have yet to build a con­ducive cul­ture which views Cana­di­ans with dis­abil­i­ties as cit­i­zens who can con­trib­ute.

Tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to whiz and zoom by. It has en­hanced the in­de­pen­dence and pro­duc­tiv­ity of Cana­di­ans liv­ing with a dis­abil­i­ties … ab­so­lutely, it has. Yet, not even the lat­est gizmo at 5K speed can di­min­ish or re­place the solid re­solve of the drive in the hu­man spirit.

I am of­ten re­minded of at­tend­ing a na­tional re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion con­fer­ence in 1985. Fax ma­chines had yet to squeal and the in­ter­net was a good decade away. One of the speak­ers was an em­ploy­ment consultant from the United States. He shared the won­der­ful story of a young man who sus­tained a spinal cord in­jury and was in bed all day in his home in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Through suck and blow tech­nol­ogy — some­thing that was state-of-the-art back then — the young man had a full-time job with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.,

Such an in­spir­ing tale could be shared be­cause all the im­por­tant check boxes were checked off in deep, rich felt pen.

The de­sire to work. An em­pathic em­ployer. A will­ing­ness to cre­ate new ways to get the job done.

But the naysay­ers, the peo­ple who have yet to pre­scribe to a phi­los­o­phy of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties as em­ploy­ees, have their rea­sons why this won’t work.

In­stalling ramps, grab bars and el­e­va­tors are seen in the ex­pense side of the ledger.

But they are, in fact, in­vest­ments. Not only in a mon­e­tary sense, but giv­ing peo­ple a sense of pur­pose and mis­sion.

The fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign is the per­fect place for such de­bate. But, as his­tory blows a strong fall wind, can­di­dates, it seems, do not seem to grasp 22 per cent of Cana­di­ans have some sort dis­abil­ity, or 6.2 mil­lion. A 2012 Stats Canada re­port said the un­em­ploy­ment rate of Cana­di­ans with dis­abil­i­ties was 47.3 per cent.

As a coun­try we can do bet­ter. With re­sources, cre­ativ­ity and en­cour­age­ment let’s change that.

Let’s make it an elec­tion topic, right now, and get work­ing on it.

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