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Improving Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

In the Third Review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. One of these improvements is a renewal of government leadership to implement the AODA. Therefore, in response to the review, the Ontario government has implemented a framework to make the province more accessible. Through this framework, called Advancing Accessibility in Ontario, the government commits to making changes that will improve opportunities for citizens with disabilities. These changes will take place in four areas of the economy. In this article, we will focus on the area of improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Improving Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

The framework outlines current and future projects that the government is engaging in to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Furthermore, these projects aim to achieve the AODA’s goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025. For instance, these plans include:

  • Integrating Ontario’s Employment Service system for all citizens, including those with disabilities
  • Offering employment services that respond better to local conditions
  • Creating the Social Assistance Recovery and Renewal Plan, to better support people who receive social assistance, including:
    • More access to employment and training services
    • New online tools and services
    • Faster processing
  • Funding third-party service providers offering employment, training, and labour market programs, including:
    • Resources and information
    • Job matching programs
    • Job retention supports
  • Supporting the Discover Ability Network, which matches job candidates with disabilities to employers
  • Promoting the Employers’ Partnership Table, where businesses employing people with disabilities share their sector-specific experiences
  • Investing in the Inclusive Community Grants Program, to help people with disabilities and older adults remain in the work force
  • Launching a website with resources on accessibility, for employers and communities
  • Funding the Support for Apprentices with Disabilities Program, to cover the costs of:
    • Accommodations
    • Disability assessments
    • Adapting equipment
  • Developing the Employment Pilot for Youth with Disabilities, through Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) offices in specific regions
  • Funding for small businesses in cities and rural communities to improve their accessibility

Recommendations for More Government Leadership from the Third Review of the AODA

All these strategies are valuable steps that the government should take to make Ontario more accessible. However, the Third Review of the AODA recommends many more important actions to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. For example, the Review recommends that the government should:

  • Improve its own accessibility as an employer
  • Require all online job postings and descriptions to appear in accessible formats and on accessible websites
  • Mandate prevention or removal of physical accessibility barriers in workplaces, including:
    • Buildings
    • Office furniture and equipment
    • Locations of off-site work events
  • Remove organizational barriers that prevent people from seeking employment, such as loss of access to:
    • Placement in daytime enrichment programs
    • Prescription coverage under ODSP
  • create a program to publicize and offer incentives to entrepreneurs with disabilities
  • Hire people with disabilities to help improve and enforce the AODA, through jobs such as:

In other words, the government’s current framework will not create enough improvement to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025. However, all these changes will begin the process of expanding opportunities for workers with disabilities. Moreover, improved employment opportunities is the first step to achieving the government’s goal of having people with disabilities fully involved in the Ontario economy.