For public servants with disabilities, some tools of the trade out of reach

  • June 20, 2017

    For public servants with disabilities, some tools of the trade out of reach

    Article from CBC News

    Thousands of federal public servants across Canada are unable to utilize internal government software programs and websites because they’re inaccessible to people with a range of disabilities.

    The problem has led to job losses, grievances, a human rights complaint and, as one lawyer suggests, opens the door to a potential court challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Abigail Shorter has a masters degree in public administration and 14 years of experience inside the federal government, but when her position was declared surplus a couple years ago, she found her inability to use certain computer programs left her out of the running for another public service job.

    “I found myself less and less marketable and my time ran out and I lost my job,” said Shorter, who has a learning disability and difficulties using a computer and mouse.

    “I’m not the only one that’s happened to.”

    Other government workers with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, cognitive issues or impaired vision face similar barriers when it comes to using some government applications.


  • June 03, 2017

    Canada’s new accessibility laws should focus on employment

    Article from the Toronto Star

    The priorities, which were laid out in a report and released by the federal government Monday, summarize eight months of consultations held with Canadians from coast to coast.

    Public consultations on Canada’s first national law for disabled people have identified high unemployment rates, inaccessible buildings and barriers in transportation as some of the key issues that need to be addressed.

    The priorities were laid out in a report, released by the federal government Monday, summarizing eight months of consultations held with Canadians from coast to coast.

    It says participants wanted to see laws that would help lower stubbornly high unemployment rates for those with disabilities, reduce the number of buildings inaccessible to those with physical and intellectual disabilities, and remove accessibility barriers for the country’s air, rail, ferry and bus transportation systems.

    Those consulted also named government program and service delivery, information and communications and procurement of goods and services as key areas of focus.


  • May 31, 2017

    National AccessAbility Week

    A message from James van Raalte, Director General, Office for Disability Issues – Employment and Social Development Canada

    On May 11, we emailed you a message from The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities announcing National AccessAbility Week and indicating that this week will celebrate, highlight and promote inclusion and accessibility in our communities and workplaces across the country.

    I am taking this opportunity to share with you resources and additional information about the Week. You can find all of the resources at the Accessible Canada website.

    Attached you will find a message from Minister Qualtrough on the release of the summary report “Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned.” The report summarizes the input received following Canada-wide consultations to inform the development of new planned federal accessibility legislation.

    We have also launched the #MyDreams campaign that features short video vignettes of children of all abilities answering the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  The objective of this campaign is to raise awareness of the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensuring greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities, while underscoring the need for a change in culture to ensure that children are set up for success from the beginning. All videos can be accessed through the Accessible Canada website.

    We encourage you to follow @AccessibleGC on Twitter, Accessible Canada on Facebook and follow the hashtag #AccessibleCanada and #AccessAbility for the latest information. Also, please consider forwarding this to your networks.

    Together, let’s continue working towards an Accessible Canada.

    James van Raalte
    Director General
    Office for Disability Issues
    Employment and Social Development Canada

  • May 28, 2017

    Message from the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities


    As Canada’s Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities, I believe that our country’s diversity is our strength—and when we include people with disabilities, we create a stronger Canada for everyone.

    It is my pleasure to announce that launching this spring, for the first time in many years, an annual national week devoted to inclusion and accessibility.

    From May 28 to June 3, 2017, National AccessAbility Week will celebrate, highlight and promote inclusion and accessibility in our communities and workplaces across the country.

    We’ve made great strides in promoting inclusion for Canadians with disabilities, but there is still much work to do.

    To create a truly inclusive society, we need to change the way we think, talk and act about barriers to participation and accessibility—and we need to do it right from the start, not as an afterthought. An inclusive Canada is one where all Canadians can participate and have an equal opportunity to succeed.

    National AccessAbility Week will aim to bring this perspective to the forefront for Canadians, and highlight some of the important initiatives this government and its partners are undertaking to bring about this change.

    Please join us in celebrating National AccessAbility Week.  I invite you to host events in your own local communities, and participate on social media. More information will be available in the coming weeks on, and I encourage you to follow @AccessibleGC on Twitter, Accessible Canada on Facebook and follow the hashtag #AccessibleCanada and #AccessAbility for the latest information.

    Together, let’s continue working towards an Accessible Canada.

    The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

  • May 26, 2017

    Prepare Your Workspace for Employees with Disabilities

    Before the person you’ve hired shows up for the first day of work, prepare your staff. Explain the individual’s circumstances and why he or she was hired. Be positive about the new employee and what he or she can do. But address staff’s questions or concerns frankly. If your staff still feel uncomfortable about how to communicate or work with the individual, arrange training for them.

    In the interview, you will have talked about the candidate’s need for accommodations. However, sometimes it’s only after the new employee gets on the worksite and begins to learn the job that he or she gains a full understanding of what accommodations will be needed.

    What are accommodations?

    Many workers need an accommodation- an adjustment to a policy, procedure or work environment that allows them to get and do the job. People with disabilities are no exception. Most accommodations require little or no cost.

    Examples of accommodations:

    • Advertising job vacancies in alternative formats, in addition to print, or providing ads to organizations serving people with disabilities
    • Adjust work schedules to give a person with mental illness time off for therapy appointments
    • Providing a sign language interpreter for an employee with a hearing disability to facilitate that person’s participation in important meetings
    • Raising a desk to accommodate a wheelchair
    • Providing disability training to staff prior to hiring

    With advances in assistive technology, people with disabilities can now work in many jobs. Software such as JAWS Screen Reading or devices such as large monitors and single hand keyboards have made most desk work possible. Sometimes people with disabilities bring their assistive technology to the job.

    Often the biggest barriers people with disabilities have to overcome is negative stereotypes.

    Sound Reasons for Introducing Accommodations:

    • To expand the labour pool by including all potential candidates when seeking the best person for the job
    • To increase the participation of people with disabilities throughout the organization
    • To reintegrate a staff member returning to work following an accident or an illness
    • To provide an accessible, safe and healthy work environment for everyone

    Requirements change. Like any other worker, a person with a disability may need new accommodations as he or she ages or as the disability enters a different phase. A simple job change can also create new requirements. In an environment where people can speak freely, employees will feel comfortable talking about their changing needs. Encourage the employee with the disability to be open and frank about what he or she can do. Then take steps accordingly.

    Mostly, accommodations turn out to be a combination of flexibility about hours, location and technology.

    If you need more information or help in hiring people with disabilities please contact us at (780) 423-4106.

  • May 16, 2017

    Dispelling Myths About Hiring People with Disabilities

    Article by Statistics Canada

    Balancing workplace accommodations with health and safety standards emerged as another perceived barrier. It was generally thought preferable for companies to provide accommodations in administrative and customer service positions than in physically demanding jobs. Also mentioned was the belief that hiring people with disabilities could bring with it legal obligations related to human rights, performance monitoring and discipline. These perceptions are among most common myths about people with disabilities:

    Myth: Workers with disabilities should be placed in roles where safety is less of an issue because they are more likely to have accidents.

    Reality: Walgreens has two distribution centers with large disability workforces (+40 percent of employees) in Connecticut and South Carolina. In comparison to all other distribution centres in the company, these two had a 40 percent lower safety incident rate, 67 percent lower medical treatment costs, 63 percent lower employee time away from work due to accidents and 78 percent lower overall costs associated with accidents. Tim Hortons franchisee Megleen Inc. has never made an insurance claim for a work-related injury to an employee with a disability despite employing 85 people with disabilities in 18 years.

    Myth: Workers with disabilities do not perform well and require extra supervision.

    Reality: A DuPont study showed that 90 percent of people with disabilities rated average or better on job performance. More recently, another study compared workers with and without disabilities in the hospitality, health care and retail sectors, and found that job performance and supervision were similar for both groups.

    Myth: The cost of accommodating a person with disabilities is prohibitive.

    Reality: In a widely accepted study conducted by the U.S. Job Accommodation Network (JAN), workplace accommodations are shown to be low cost, with 57 percent of participants spending nothing at all. Of those accommodations that did have a cost, the typical one-time expenditure by employers was $500.

    Myth: Most people with disabilities use wheelchairs.

    Reality: According to 2010 U.S. census information, the wheelchair usage rate among people with disabilities is actually 6 percent-that’s about 1 percent of the general population. It is a strong indicator of the power of public communication that the wheelchair icon used on signage has prompted a general belief that most people with disabilities use wheelchairs.

    If you need more information or help in hiring people with disabilities please contact us at (780) 423-4106.


  • Customized Employment Success Snapshot – Alex

    Alex struggled to find a fit within a traditional employment scenario due to his autism and mental health barriers. Alex needed a workplace that was both structured and supportive. With help from the Customized Employment project in North Central Alberta, Alex has found work as a swim instructor and is paving the way to becoming a full time lifeguard. Read more …

    alex snapshot

  • May 09, 2017

    Study: Persons with Disabilities and Employment

    Article from: Statistics Canada

    The employment rate of Canadians aged 25 to 64 with disabilities was 49% in 2011, compared with 79% for Canadians without a disability. Among those with a ‘very severe’ disability, the employment rate was 26%.

    Canadians with disabilities include those with a physical or mental disability related to seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, development, psychological/mental disorders or memory.

    More than two million Canadians aged 25 to 64, or 11% of the population in this age group, reported being limited in their activities because of at least one of these conditions. Of this group, approximately one million were employed in 2011.

    To account for the fact that some disabilities can be more limiting than others, each person with disabilities was assigned a ‘severity score’ based on the number of disability types, the intensity of difficulties and the frequency of activity limitations. Using this score, persons with disabilities were classified across four categories of severity: ‘mild,’ ‘moderate,’ ‘severe’ and ‘very severe.’

    Among those who had a mild disability, the employment rate was 68%, compared with 54% of those who had a moderate disability. The rate drops to 42% for persons who had a severe disability and 26% among those who had a very severe disability.

    University graduates with a mild or moderate disability have employment rates similar to their counterparts without a disability

    The difference in age-adjusted employment rates between persons with disabilities and those without a disability was lower among university graduates.

    University graduates with a mild or moderate disability had employment rates that did not significantly differ from those of their counterparts without a disability. The employment rates for the three groups, the mild or moderately disabled, as well as the non-disabled, ranged from 77% to 83%.

    The employment rate of university graduates with a severe or very severe disability was lower at 59%.

    However, a lower level of educational attainment may represent one employment barrier among those with disabilities, particularly among those who had a severe disability.

    In 2011, the age-adjusted employment rate of individuals who had less than a high school education and had a severe or very severe disability was 20%, compared with an employment rate of 65% among those who did not have a disability.

    Both severity of condition and level of education were important determining factors of employment among Canadians with disabilities, along with the type of condition (that is, mental or psychological versus physical).

    Perceptions of discrimination higher among young individuals with disabilities

    The survey also asked persons with disabilities whether they had perceived employment discrimination in the five previous years.

    Among Canadians with disabilities who were employed at some point in the five previous years, 12% reported having been refused a job as a result of their condition.

    Perceptions of discrimination, however, were higher among younger disabled individuals, especially if they had a severe or very severe disability and were without a job at the time of data collection.

    Among individuals aged 25 to 34, 33% of those with a severe or very severe disability said that they had been refused a job in the past five years because of their condition.

    Among men aged 25 to 34 with a severe or very severe disability who were without a job, 62% reported they had been refused a job because of their condition.

    Employed persons with disabilities more concentrated in personal services and sales occupations

    In part because persons with disabilities are less likely to be university-educated, they were more likely to be employed in specific occupations, such as personal service and customer information service occupations, or sales occupations.

    For instance, employed men with a severe or very severe disability were at least twice more likely than their counterparts without a disability to be in personal service and customer information service occupations.

    University graduates with or without a disability were more alike in their employment profile. About 18% of those with a mild or moderate disability and 9% of those with a severe or very severe disability had a university degree, compared with 27% among those without a disability.

    In particular, university graduates with disabilities were just as likely as those without a disability to be employed in occupations typically requiring a university degree (or professional occupations).

    Among university graduates with disabilities, 49% of men and 54% of women were employed in professional occupations. These percentages were the same among university graduates without a disability.

    However, university graduates with disabilities were less likely to work in management occupations. This was especially the case among men, since 12% of those with disabilities held a management occupation (compared with 20% among those without a disability).

    As well, male university graduates with disabilities earned less than their non-disabled counterparts. Among men working on a full-year full-time basis, the average employment income was $69,200, compared with $92,700 among their non-disabled counterparts.

    Among women working full-year full time who had a university degree, employment income averaged $64,500 among those with disabilities, compared with $68,000 among those without a disability.

    If you need more information or help in hiring people with disabilities please contact us at (780) 423-4106.

  • May 03, 2017

    Rethinking Disability Employment in the Private Sector

    Article by: Statistics Canada

    The challenge

    We all have abilities, but some are more apparent than others.

    From what we have seen in companies that hire people with disabilities—and from our own experiences as friends or family members of someone with a disability—we know that they can contribute greatly to business and to society. Yet despite an aging population and a looming labour skills shortage, this significant talent pool is being overlooked.

    The evidence gathered from our consultations with Canadian private sector companies and existing research has convinced us that there is a business case for employing people with disabilities. This is good news for employers seeking talent, and for the approximately 795, 000 working-aged Canadians who are not working but whose disability does not prevent them from doing so. Almost half (340,000) of these people have post-secondary education. We must find ways to engage with and employ these individuals so we can benefit from their education and skills.

    By connecting directly with employers, our panel set out to discover what can be done about the unemployment and under-employment of qualified people with disabilities in Canada. We explored the barriers—some physical and many attitudinal—but chose to focus on the positive. Our goal is to shine the light on best practices and successes among Canadian employers who have welcomed people with disabilities into their ranks. Their examples can help us learn and do better.

    Read on, and you’ll hear about the real-life experiences of employers and their employees. You’ll be impressed with the ingenuity of their solutions, and learn how businesses are measuring the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

    This report is a work of collaboration. We thank the many organizations and individuals who met with us and provided their valuable insights. Working together, we will find better ways to access the skills of Canadians with disabilities, and benefit from their contributions to a stronger economy.

    We would also like to congratulate the Government of Canada for taking the initiative to establish this panel, and to thank the members of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Department of Finance Canada who supported us so well throughout. We were honoured to serve the public and work closely with those who do so day in and out.

    Our hope is that through our efforts, employers will understand that an inclusive environment and diverse teams are better for business.

    If you need more information or help in hiring people with disabilities please contact us at (780) 423-4106.


  • May 02, 2017

    Customized Employment: Success Snap Shot – Melissa

    “Follow your dreams” is the advice Melissa would give to others interested in starting their own business. It was a dream come true when Melissa opened Miss Honey Bees. Traditional employment searching had been a challenge for Melissa. Unable to find a position that fit her interests and abilities, and repeatedly being turned down from employers, was very discouraging. Through the support of Customized Employment and family, Melissa now works for herself and spends her days growing her business.

    melissa snap shot