New federal initiative aiming to increase employment rate of persons with disabilities

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A new, six-year initiative is focusing on building the capacity of employers and workplaces to recruit, hire, onboard, accommodate, train, mentor and promote persons with disabilities.

Funded by the federal government’s New Frontiers in Research Fund transformation stream, Inclusive Design for Employment Access is co-led by Emile Tompa, senior scientist at the Institute for Work & Health, and Rebecca Gewurtz, an associate professor at McMaster University’s School of Rehabilitation Science. The initiative includes representatives from more than 40 academic, disability, employer and labour organizations who sit on IDEA advisory committees and research teams.

“IDEA is about social innovation,” said Tompa, in a press release. “It’s about doing things differently and transforming workplaces and labour markets so that there is equality of opportunity in careers, jobs and work for persons with and without disabilities. It is a win-win-win for employers, persons with disabilities and Canadian society at large.”

According to 2017 numbers from Statistics Canada, persons with disabilities in Canada face substantially lower employment levels — 59 per cent compared to 80 per cent among the general working-age population. If working, they also earn considerably less than the Canadian average — $34,000 versus $40,000.

“We will focus on skilling up employers and other workplace stakeholders by building their disability confidence,” said Gewurtz, in the release. “Workplaces tell us they’re ready for this change. Across all levels, from the frontline managers to the [chief executive officers], many people recognize that barriers to employment of persons with disabilities represent a significant waste of human capital.”

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