December 23rd, 2015

Disability Rights Need To Be Addressed In The Workplace According To Study

Although many employers are encouraging diversity in the workplace, there is one group who continues to be ignored when it comes to human rights in the workplace.

In 2012, just around four million ‘working-age’ Canadians identified themselves as disabled – covering everything from visible disabilities such as being in a wheelchair to invisible disabilities such as a mental health issue.

And a recent study has found that half of Canadians believe ‘it’s understandable if an employer thinks it’s too risky to hire someone with a physical disability.’

The survey was done by the Angus Reid Institute and the Rick Hansen Foundation. The study also found that Canadians vastly underestimate the number of disabled people in the population.

“There seemed to be a split intuitively between how people were thinking about disability and where sometimes we thought we were,” said Mr. Hansen about the need for this new survey by the Globe and Mail. “I am always asked everywhere I go, ‘So, how accessible is Canada?’ ‘What are Canadians thinking?’ And so the notion started to emerge that we needed to do more research on this issue ….”

Hansen said advocates for disability rights must now ‘tackle the business world.’

This is an issue in Alberta as well, with 80 per cent of all complaints made to the

Robert A. Philp, Queen’s Counsel for the Alberta Human Rights Commission falling under unemployment.

Thirty four per cent of those complaints fell under physical disability and 16 per cent under mental disability.

“Employers have people in their workforce with disabilities whether they acknowledge it or not,” said Alexi Davis, a senior manager at Prospect Human Services for Disability Employment.

“So being intentional about fostering strategies in a culture and policies that support your employee base that already exists and opening to potential talent as you recruit … really strengthens your workforce,” she explained.

According to an article in the Financial Post one of the most important things an employer can do is have an ‘open-door policy’ to discuss disabilities and job seekers and employees must feel supported and safe in sharing their disability.

If you are part of a union, reaching out to a shop steward or business agent is also an option those with disabilities can take. These representatives from the union are there to make sure your human rights are respected in the workplace, which includes not having to face discrimination due to a disability – visible or non-visible.

With more studies and attention been drawn to disability and accessibility rights in the workplace, advocates are hoping that the high unemployment rates of those with disabilities will begin to decrease.

Disability rights are human rights, and all Canadians need to be more aware of that fact.

3 Responses

  1. Terry Wiens says:

    As a former member of numerous unions and having sat on some BCGEU as well as CLC executive committees it saddens me to see this continuing to be an issue for the labour movement. With that said I still don’t see much more than lip service from the unions. I grew up on crutches and I spend a number of years supplying training to a wide range of labour and business people on creating supportive workplaces however they seem to have become even more toxic. Workers with disabilities are often hesitant to approach shop stewards and I hear from too many shop stewards that they are often intimidated by what appears to be a very confusing process when dealing with disabilities. Not only is an informed commitment needed from the labour movement but a commitment from employers to work towards solving this issue rather than creating further barriers by making decisions they don’t understand…

  2. Rita Binns says:

    No, those “high unemployment rates” will not decrease because no one is seriously trying to make anything better. “The advocates” are usually those who simply hold on to a cushy job not even trying to use their position in order to help people they are supposed to be helping. “Canadians” believe that everything is already taken care of in this aspect (the disabled are being helped), and they will only find out otherwise when they personally need help and there is none. At that point nobody will even believe them when they say there is nothing realistically available, because it sounds so outrageous.

  3. E Hawkins says:

    The greatest sin is the fact that our Workers’ Compensation Boards are across Canada are forcing workers who are permanently disabled in a workplace accident are being forced into poverty through policies & practices that are undermining the purpose for which these boards were created. This is being done by these WCBs ignoring medical reports from specialist stating that a permanently injured worker is medically unable to work or are competitively unemployable without job modifications. Instead their benefits are arbitrarily being cut and these permanently injured workers & their families end up on taxpayer funded programs since WCB refuses to pay their full benefits. This is done by deducting deemed phantom wages from their benefits as though these injured workers were working despite their total dependence on their benefits that have been reduced to below poverty. This is morally wrong, illegal and fraud against the public by these WCB and blindly supported by many provincial politicians.

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