A Government Strategy for Employing People with Disabilities
Attendees suggest that this strategy’s main goal should not involve increasing businesses’ awareness about the benefits of employing people with disabilities. While awareness is important, attendees state that the government’s strategy should focus on more specific goals and achieve measurable results. For example, the review recommends that the strategy’s measure of success should be the number of people with disabilities who access employment through its support.
Removing Barriers to Employment
Review attendees make several suggestions about how the government can support job applicants with disabilities and their potential employers in specific ways. For instance, the government could mandate that all online job postings and job descriptions must appear in accessible formats and on accessible websites. Furthermore, the Employment Standards of the AODA could include mandates to prevent or remove physical barriers in workplaces. For instance, some of these mandates could remove barriers in:
- Office furniture and equipment
- Locations of off-site work events
Moreover, the government should also remove organizational barriers that prevent people from seeking employment. For example, people may choose not to search for employment because they fear losing access to:
- Placement in daytime enrichment programs
- Drug coverage under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
The government can remove this barrier by rapidly re-instating people into these programs if their employment ends or does not provide coverage for needed medication.
In addition, the government should offer more resources to people with disabilities trying to develop skills or find work. For instance, the upcoming education standard could mandate job placement opportunities for students with disabilities.
Similarly, attendees state that many prospective workers who are deaf or hard of hearing face attitudinal barriers. Attendees report that employers often refuse to hire applicants with hearing disabilities, officially for reasons such as:
- Safety concerns
- Lack of knowledge about accommodation
- Assumptions that accommodations are costly enough to create undue hardship
Therefore, attendees suggest more career support and employment services to remove these barriers for potential job-seekers who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Moreover, the government could improve organizations’ access to funding for workplace accommodations. For instance, the government could require large private organizations to create funds that they could distribute to any of their branches employing people who use accommodations. Likewise, the government could require all small private organizations to contribute to a centralized system of funding to accommodate workers. This strategy could encourage more employers to hire workers with disabilities who could take advantage of their provided funds.
Similarly, when the government buys goods or services, or provides loans or grants, it should offer to do business first with organizations committed to employing people with disabilities. Finally, the government should create a program to publicize and offer incentives to entrepreneurs with disabilities starting their own businesses.
Employment of People with Disabilities in AODA Enforcement
In addition, some of the review’s other recommendations for improving the AODA require the feedback of people with disabilities. As a result, the review recommends that the government hire people with disabilities as integral parts of its efforts to improve and enforce the AODA. For instance, people with disabilities could work for the government to evaluate how effective companies’ AODA training is. Similarly, people with disabilities could work with AODA inspectors, or inspectors in other fields whose inspections could include accessibility. People with lived experience of disability may be more likely to notice AODA violations than inspectors who normally work in other fields. Likewise, if the government creates a resource centre to answer questions about accessibility, this centre could be staffed by people with disabilities.
However, many other people with disabilities will not want or need employment that is specific to the AODA or disability. Instead, people with disabilities, like people without disabilities, may wish to work in many different fields. As a result, Onley’s review recommends that the government should strengthen its strategy for supporting job seekers with disabilities. An improved strategy would support people with disabilities seeking jobs in all fields.