by Erin Elaine Casey
Originally published: March, 2017
Have you ever stopped to think about why you get up and go to work every day? Aside from the need to earn money, we go to work for lots of reasons: To learn, to help people, to solve problems, and to make friends. If we’re really lucky, we have jobs that challenge and satisfy us, and our colleagues become almost like family.
Now, what if I said you might not be able to have those things — a job you enjoy, work buddies, and of course a paycheque? For many people with disabilities, this is a daily reality. According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 Canadians 25 to 64 with disabilities were employed at a rate of 49 per cent, compared with 79 per cent for Canadians without a disability. And the more severe the disability, the lower the rate, with only 26 per cent employment among those with a very severe disability.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines disabilities as “physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder [a person’s] full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” A disability can be permanent or temporary, visible or invisible. According to Statistics Canada and the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission, almost 20 per cent of Nova Scotians identify themselves as living with a disability, the highest rate of any province in Canada. With the demographic and labour market challenges facing Nova Scotia, employers have an opportunity and a responsibility to learn about and hire from this under-represented group.