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Breaking Down Work Barriers For People With Disabilities


March 23, 2022

OTTAWA, ON – Canada needs to break down the barriers that stop people with disabilities from getting good jobs. A landmark report from Cardus, Breaking Down Work Barriers for People with Disabilities, challenges decision-makers to move beyond an emphasis on income assistance. While closing the income gap remains important, governments and workplaces must make equal efforts to close the employment gap that too many Canadians face because of a disability.

“Three out of four Canadians with disabilities are able to work—they overwhelmingly want to work—yet less than 6 in 10 of those folks who are working-age have a job,” says Brian Dijkema, a report co-author and vice-president of external relations at Cardus.

The Cardus report reviews research that finds the number of disabled-income-support cases in Canada almost doubled between 2000 and 2020. At the same time, only five percent of federal disability spending is on programs promoting employment. The poverty rate of people with disabilities was 13.5% in 2019, which is disproportionately higher than it is for other Canadians. The report also confirms that people with disabilities face distinct employment disadvantages:

  • Fewer hours and wages than those without disabilities
  • Disproportionate employment in part-time, seasonal, contract, or precarious work
  • Greater likelihood of holding entry-level jobs with fewer opportunities for advancement
  • Higher risk of layoffs during recessions

“People with disabilities should have access to the dignity, social inclusion, and other non-financial benefits of a good job,” says Dijkema. “Let’s break down the barriers that keep them from finding work.”

As governments and workplaces work toward improved inclusion for people with disabilities, it is important to bring policies and programs into alignment with that goal. Breaking Down Work Barriers for People with Disabilities aims to lay the groundwork for a productive discussion about disability-policy reform by identifying relevant key questions. Those questions include:

  • What kinds of educational interventions would be most effective at improving employment rates for people with disabilities?
  • How can we ensure that existing or new government income supports enhance, rather than hinder, employment and long-term economic security?
  • What programs have been shown to meaningfully improve the employment rates and outcomes of people with disabilities?
  • How do discrimination and stigmatization influence lower labour-market participation, employment, and wage rates of people with disabilities?
  • How much do accommodations for employees with disabilities typically cost employers compared to employers’ perception of the cost?

Canadians with disabilities represent an untapped talent pool of well over half a million workers. It’s time for Canada’s governments, businesses, and communities to come together and invest in the careers of people with disabilities.

Breaking Down Work Barriers for People with Disabilities is freely available online.


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