This section is intended to provide brief, informative answers to some questions employers may have regarding the hiring of people with disabilities. It was developed by consulting a variety of references and sources, including reports from NEADS’ Student Leadership and Employment Forums that have been held across Canada in the last two years. The reports on these forums are available on the NEADS Web site: www.neads.ca More detailed information can be found by consulting the resources and organizations mentioned throughout this guidebook. Employers with questions about hiring people with disabilities may also contact NEADS directly for help in finding answers.
The short answer is that, while they may require certain accommodations in order to fulfill job duties, people with disabilities can do the job. 1996 Census figures show that more than one-third of Canadians with disabilities have some form of post-secondary education – 26 per cent with college diplomas, and 7 per cent with university degrees – and this number is on the increase. Despite this, the number of unemployed people with disabilities is significantly higher than those without disabilities. According to a recent joint federal and provincial government report, entitled In Unison 2000: Persons with Disabilities in Canada, 43 per cent of persons with disabilities were participating in the labour market in 1995, only about half that of people without disabilities.
Hiring people with disabilities can create a feeling among all employees that their employer is truly inclusive and forward thinking, which can only have positive implications for workplace morale. Further, companies with disabled employees may help to attract customers with disabilities, increasing business.
The ability to secure meaningful employment is vitally important for people to feel like full participants within society. People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to participate in the labour force, and employers, clearly, would be remiss in overlooking this group of potential employees.
People with disabilities are capable performers in the employment market. The availability of workplace accommodations, where required, and the willingness of management and fellow employees to allow people with disabilities to perform to their maximum ability, are the only things most people with disabilities require.
It is important to keep in mind that, while people with disabilities often have some form of post- secondary education, they do not always have the practical training and employment experience of those without disabilities. This is due in large part to the fact many of those with disabilities do not have summer employment or part-time jobs during school months, for a variety of reasons. However, if given the opportunity to succeed, people with disabilities excel in the workplace. Employers can utilise the abilities and education that people with disabilities possess, by offering internships and co-op placements. We encourage organizations to register with the NEADS Online Work System (NOWS) at www.nows.ca, which helps employers and job-seekers with disabilities connect. At the same time, Ability Edge (www.abilityedge.ca) offers excellent internship opportunities with national companies.
The simple answer is that qualified job seekers with disabilities can be found anywhere those without disabilities can. That said, there are certain things to keep in mind, and resources that may be of use, if employers are seeking to advertise specifically to those with disabilities. First, employers looking to hire should ensure that the methods being used to advertise employment vacancies are inclusive. This means making sure job advertisements are written in such a way as to demonstrate your willingness to consider job seekers with disabilities. Employers should present postings in alternate formats (large-print, Braille, etc.) to reach all candidates. Secondly, investigate venues that provide ready access to a group of qualified people with disabilities, through which you can advertise employment opportunities. Good places to look include post-secondary disability resource centres and student groups, and community organizations that assist people with disabilities to find jobs. Some of these organizations are profiled in this guide. Finally, many campus career centres are more than willing to help employers reach an audience of qualified people with disabilities.
Just as all disabilities are different, and have different impacts depending on the person, the decision to disclose a disability varies from individual to individual. Certain candidates may disclose when an interview is granted, if they require an accessible interview location, or accommodation during that first meeting with an employer. Others, primarily those with mobility impairments, may have visible disabilities and decide not to mention them for that reason. Still others have invisible disabilities, and depending upon the nature of the disability may not be comfortable discussing it in an interview.
Whether a job candidate chooses to disclose a disability before or during an interview, or after the position has been offered to them, it is important for the employer to listen to the information being disclosed, and to make it clear to the individual that the company is willing to ensure any accommodations that might be needed will be put in place, in order for the employee to fully and effectively operate in the workplace.
A common misconception is that workplace accommodations are expensive for the employer. On the contrary, many of the accommodations sought by people with disabilities are easy to fulfill, and cost little or no money. Some employees may require a modified workstation, technology such as a TTY or software to increase on-screen text size, or simply a modified work schedule to allow for medical treatments.
Accommodations that may be larger in scope or expense, such as the inclusion of a ramp outside a building, or installing an accessible restroom, may be eligible for funding assistance through government grants or programs set up by non-profit organizations for people with disabilities. Information on some of these programs and organizations can be found in this guidebook.
In certain workplaces, an employee with a disability will be able to simply fit into the environment and no special consideration need be considered to prepare staff. In other situations, there may be a need for staff to be prepared with information and ideas before a person with a disability begins a position. Whether the employer chooses an informal information session or more formal sensitivity training, the key goal is to prepare staff to work harmoniously. Various organizations – the Ontario March of Dimes, for one – provide assistance to employers seeking to arrange sensitivity training sessions for employers. Consult the organizational profiles in this guide to find other groups that offer such services.