Supporting Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
According to the Canadian Survey on Disability, about 3.8 million Canadians reported a disability, but only 49 per cent of those aged 25 to 64 years old reported being employed. Donna Jones, a Disability Studies program instructor in the School of Community Studies, says that while employers have worked to reduce physical barriers to employment, there continue to be misconceptions that prevent them from seeing the benefits of hiring people living with a disability.
October is Disability Employment Awareness Month in Alberta, and it's an opportunity to educate the general public and employers about what people with disabilities bring in terms of value to the workplace.
"The biggest barrier for people with disabilities have been stereotypes that employers hold about what hiring them might mean for the organization," Donna says. Typically, these stereotypes include misconceptions around the cost of accommodations for a person's disability or perceived ability to do their work.
In the Disability Studies diploma program at Bow Valley College, learners are focused on establishing the skills and knowledge necessary to reduce barriers for and change mindsets around people with disabilities. In addition, the program includes a course that prepares learners for potential careers supporting individuals and employers through the hiring process. This includes understanding how to represent an individual, market their talents, and work with existing supports in the workplace or assist employers with accommodations.
Donna says graduates of the Disability Studies program can ultimately help employers remove barriers to employment. "Where the work needs to happen is with employers – changing their mindsets so they can see the value for the organization as a whole in hiring an employee with a disability – rather than trying to find businesses that might take an employee with a disability." She says people with disabilities, and particularly those with developmental disabilities, are an untapped pool and something that employers need to look at to meet their hiring needs.
When they do, she says they'll quickly see the value of genuinely inclusive hiring practices.
"There's a value in working with people with different strengths, learning different ways of communicating, learning different ways of seeing the world, and exploring each other's and recognizing each other's gifts and talents."
Learn more about the Disability Studies diploma or certificate programs.