I have been doing a lot of research in my work on the employment gap for disabled people in Canada and, I have to say, that I am ashamed. It is shameful that, in 2015, disabled people are placed at such an economic disadvantage to their peers because of an identity that has the potential to bring so much to the workforce. Today's blog is just a collection of thoughts on this topic.
The numbers are staggering. According to the Canadian survey on disability, the unemployment rate for this population is between double and triple that of the general population. The same survey tells us that the average income of disabled people, even among those that are working, is more than $10,000 below the standard. Former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Right Honourable David C. Onley has referred to this employment gap as the "perpetual depression" facing disabled people in our country. Personally, I know about this gap all too well having gone through four years of absolute hell with regards to a job search and enduring countless blows to my confidence.
The real question in all of this is why it is the case. Why, when our workforce is so desperate for high-end talent, and disabled people remaining in this position? Why, when there is such a huge push towards diversity in companies big and small, can we not find a way to actually make a difference in these numbers? What is the biggest problem and why on earth can we find a solution despite millions of dollars that the government is regularly spent on disability pensions for individuals who are ready and willing to work?
My answer to these questions is quite simple. I think we've been doing it in completely the wrong way for so long and current attempts at closing this gap are so stale that we are stuck in a big time rut. If you Google employment services for disabled people in Toronto you get countless flashy websites of programs that advertise themselves as the ultimate disabled job board. However, once we dig a little deeper, we discover that most of these services focus on the individual and on skill development or resume building.
I am here to say once and for all that, when I was going through the darkest part of my job search, the LAST thing I needed was more skills or a tweaked resume. So many of these organizations, while their intentions might be fantastic, are only perpetuating the perpetual depression (thanks again Mr. Onley) in their approach. We don't need more job boards or resume workshops. We don't even need more government-funded reports that demonstrate the benefits of tapping into a disabled workforce. There are lots of them and the time to move on is now.
While we do need is a fresh approach. We need companies to actually put their money where their mouth is and start hiring disabled people in big numbers. We need there to be a fundamental shift in attitudes not only among employers but also senior levels of government. Like I've been saying all along, we need to position disability is an asset so that smart, talented people are not being left behind. Until we embrace this perspective, the problem is only going to spiral further downward.
I see no greater need for the existence of my consulting firm and what I do then the shameful disability and employment gap in Canada. It is time to change the conversation.