Don’t pat people on the head, and other tips (Web Sight)

People with disabilities are an untapped labour resource
By Ann Macaulay
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 12/22/2005

The rate of participation in Canada’s labour force is much lower for people with disabilities than that of the general population. According to a Canadian Labour Congress report,

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, more than one million “working age Canadians with disabilities are unemployed or remain out of the labour force. This is 58.5 per cent of the working age population of people with disabilities.” The following sites focus on practical tips and advice for business to access this often untapped source of potential employees.


The Treasury Board of Canada’s website includes an area entitled “Creating a welcoming workplace for employees with disabilities.” It outlines several specific strategies for federal public-sector employers to create such a work environment. They include suggestions for greeting, communicating and networking with employees with disabilities. One section, entitled “Suggestions for inclusion in the workplace,” describes how to meet the needs of employees with specific disabilities, including deafness and psychiatric disabilities. Tips range from “Do not pat anyone on the head,” to “Plan ahead to allow adequate time to prepare printed material in alternate formats (for example, Braille, large print, audio tape, or diskette).” The annex section at the end offers acceptable terminology for referring to someone with a disability.


InnoVisions Canada is a telework and flexible work consulting organization that’s geared towards the promotion of telework in general. As the disability section of the site says, “Telework can be a great way to ‘get to work’ for people with temporary or permanent disabilities.” This section focuses on links to other sites, as well as articles and papers that deal with the combined issues of telework and people with disabilities. One of the links is to a study by the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies entitled “Best practices in the home-based employment of people with disabilities,” which outlines topics for employers, such as supervision, reasonable accommodations and legal issues.


The government of Ontario is responsible for this site, Paths to Equal Opportunity, which offers extensive resources and information for business and service providers about workplace diversity and creating accessibility for people with disabilities. The home page presents an updated list of recent highlights, with links to information on removing and preventing barriers to employment. The menu on the left side of the screen has a search function and an A-Z index, as well as an accessibility section that highlights customer service, communication, inclusive design, human resources and success stories. Also in the menu on the left of the screen is a link to the directory for accessibility, which is billed as a “one-stop resource of service providers in Ontario that can help you make your place of business accessible” to both employees and customers who have disabilities.


The Canadian Human Rights Commission offers Barrier-Free Employers, a practical online guide to employment accommodation for people with disabilities. The guide provides facts and practical advice for employers, managers and human resource officers on employment accommodation and how to facilitate the inclusion of employees with disabilities into the workforce. The site offers examples of employment accommodation, such as acquiring accessibility software, or constructing barrier-free workplaces. There’s also a section on employers’ frequently asked questions and links to other information and resources.


EnableLink bills itself as a site “linking people with disabilities to a world of resources” and provides information on the job market for people who have disabilities. The site provides some interesting reading for employers interested in taking a look at the job market from the perspective of people who have disabilities. On the home page’s menu, click on the link to “Employment” to access a wide variety of up-to-date, Canadian-based information about supports, information and resources for people with disabilities to find — and keep — employment. The employment drop-down menu offers employment links, disability organizations and the site’s message board.

Ann Macaulay is a freelance editor and regular contributor to Canadian HR Reporter. Her Web Sight column appears regularly in the CloseUp section.

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