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Mar 21, 2013

Employers should do more to help people with disabilities: Survey

Overestimates around cost of accommodation
    
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A majority of Canadians (80 per cent) believe government and private sector employers should do more to help workers with disabilities enter the labour force, according to a BMO survey.

People also believe that doing so would save taxpayers money rather than cost them (45 per cent versus 20 per cent).

"Canadians get it," said Sonya Kunkel, managing director of diversity and inclusion at BMO Financial Group. "Putting people to work is more constructive, more productive and less costly, socially and fiscally, than writing welfare cheques. We need to constantly repeat and reinforce the benefits persons with disabilities bring to the workforce and continue to encourage government and businesses to address head on the barriers to fuller employment among this cohort. This is particularly relevant today when small business owners tell us the number-one challenge to future growth is finding and retaining talent."

More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of businesses that have hired people with disabilities said these employees either met (62 per cent) or exceeded (15 per cent) their expectations, found the Count Me In survey.

"This certainly parallels our experience at BMO," she said. "We've found employees with disabilities perform as well or better than their peers. There really is no reason for so many people with disabilities to be consistently excluded from the workforce."

Only slightly more than one-half of persons with disabilities who are able to work have jobs.

"The biggest barrier to hiring people with disabilities is a hiring bias among business owners based on misinformation, misperception and a lack of knowledge about how to hire, how to manage and how to accommodate people with disabilities," said Kunkel.

There are also misperceptions about the cost of accommodations. Most of the 1,000 respondents had no idea what the average cost of an accommodation would be. Those who ventured a guess overestimated the cost at $10,000. In fact, 20 per cent of employees with a disability require no accommodations at all, while the average cost for individuals who do is $500, said BMO.

Accommodations can include adjustable desks or chairs, assistive devices and software, flexible work hours, telecommuting or simply understanding the different ways in which team members learn new information or skills.

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