By Kelsey Ferrill

Many job postings these days state that an employer is “equal opportunity” and ask for applications from “all qualified candidates.” 

Finding employment is something that a lot of people with disabilities struggle with, for a myriad of different reasons. Some of those reasons come down to whether a building is accessible to them and some come down to the misconceptions that are often faced by those who live with disabilities. 

The Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act have set a legal obligation that Canadian employers must follow called Duty to Accommodate. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, this means that all employers must make all efforts (within reason) to accommodate the needs of those with disabilities throughout the hiring and employment process. This also means that accommodation should be built into policies and practices that are in place long after someone has been hired.  

The question, however, is whether that is enough. 

According to Statistics Canada, “In 2017, persons with disabilities faced lower employment rates, particularly for Canadians with very severe disabilities, and those with lower levels of education.” 

Statistics Canada goes on to discuss employment rates for those with disabilities and reported that “about 59% of working-age adults with disabilities were employed compared with around 80% of those without disabilities.” 

There are a few organizations in Canada that aim to assist those with disabilities find meaningful work. They also aim to teach employers about hiring those with disabilities and why they should.

Everyone deserves a place at the table and access to the same opportunities.

One of those programs is called the Ready, Willing and Able initiative. According to Cision and Employment and Social Development Canada, this is a national employment initiative that aims to increase the hiring and retention of people that have intellectual disabilities or are on the autism spectrum. 

Even with these national strategies and programs, some people still fall through the cracks in society. If someone that has a disability is qualified for a position, they are often overlooked due to misconceptions about what they can or cannot due based on their disability. 

“We don’t need to know someone’s diagnosis for them to be successful. Just like any person, we need to know their strengths, abilities and learning styles,” explains Katlyn McLaughlin, an employment coordinator who works to support people with disabilities in Calgary. 

Another measure that could be taken to ensure that all workplaces are proactive at hiring those with disabilities would be to implement a mandate stating that a certain percentage of the workplace should be designated for those with disabilities, or minorities in general. 

According to McLaughlin, employers often ask about wage subsidies when hiring people with disabilities. There are no such subsidies in place as of now, and that is the way that it should be. If employers are allowed to hire someone with a disability at a lower wage than other employees, it sends the message that those with disabilities are not as worthy, capable or valued as typical employees.

People with disabilities are not worth less than other employees, or anyone else in society. They deserve equal opportunity and certainly equal pay. 

McLaughlin’s advice for employers is, “When you get applicants to a role, don’t completely rule-out the people with limited experience or education if possible. 

“People with disabilities often don’t have the experience because they get over-looked due to their disability.”

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