December 3 marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Commemorated by the United Nations since 1992, on this day we affirm our commitment to continue fighting for disability inclusion at work and in society at large.
Currently, disability activists and allies are navigating what might be considered the worst public health crisis Canada has ever seen – the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis has further marginalized communities at risk, including persons who are immuno-compromised, and people who face multiple barriers in accessing government benefits, such as sickness benefits.
While statistics show that approximately 4.2 million Canadians living with a disability are of working age, a 2017 Statistics Canada report found that only 59 percent of working age adults with disabilities are employed, which pales in comparison to the 80 percent of working age adults without disabilities who are currently employed.
This is why Canada must work to close the employment gap in the hiring and retaining persons with disabilities. We also know that quality accommodation can foster job productivity, as can proper workplace health and safety protocols and integration programs for workers with disabilities. Indeed, applying disability inclusion practices to employment supports would go along way towards improving the employment rate of persons with disabilities in Canada.
At UFCW Canada, our human rights, equity, and diversity efforts are focused on undertaking workplace initiatives that center the voices of persons with disabilities, and our disability work with UFCW Local 832 and the CFACQ Centre was recently featured at the national Disability and Work in Canada conference. In an engaging discussion with disability experts regarding workplace integration programs centering workers with disabilities, our union presented on the power of utilizing the collective bargaining process and working with community allies to close the employment gap for persons with disabilities.
We must recommit to dismantling the attitudinal and workplace barriers that continue to hold persons with disabilities back from accessing gainful employment. A disability should never be a liability at work, and true diversity includes defending disability rights, advocating for disability justice, and achieving workplace accommodation.