Article from the Globe & Mail

Canadian business has struggled since 1989 to hire people with disabilities in any material numbers. This is not a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. The experience has been repeated globally by millions of companies.

This struggle is rooted in knee-jerk reactions to regulation and can be avoided by doing what business does best: understanding and serving a new market – a big new market.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve spent significant time studying the dislocation between the increasing demand for equality and the need for businesses to grow. Conferences and conversations around the world confirmed for me that companies are doing it wrong. Very few have the objectives, strategies or execution plans to do what their customers, investors and regulators are expecting: to meet or exceed the demands of consumers and talent in non-traditional markets.

While a non-traditional customer and labour pool can mean many things, I want to focus on the second-largest non-traditional market in Canada – and globally: people with disabilities.

Stats show that the 18.7 per cent of the population that self-declares as a person with a disability (PWD) makes an average annual income of 91 per cent compared with those living without a disability. Simple math means 6.2 million Canadians with a disability control $55.4-billion in annual disposable income. When their friends and family are added to the market, disability touches 53 per cent of consumers controlling more than $366.5-billion. Globally, this market opportunity is more than $10-trillion.