An election issue worth the work
Employment for people with disabilities
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.