“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.”
- Robert M. Hensel disability activist and poet.
As many businesses re-open, there are numerous stories about how COVID-19 has altered the workplace. Working from home and hybrid ‘part time home/part time office’ models are becoming far more common. There are many sectors that are facing staffing shortages as they are struggling to recruit people willing and able to take on part or full-time employment. New technology solutions that have become commonplace over the last 18 months, like Zoom, are reducing some workplace accessibility barriers.
Seemingly, this should all be good news for our clients and community. The big question is: will it actually be good news?
During our Rolling Through Barriers campaign, we highlighted the challenges of disability employment awareness. One of our events in the campaign was a panel discussion on building inclusive workplaces that included employers and job seekers with disabilities who spoke about their experiences. This frank discussion (profiled in this edition) touched on the inaccurate perceptions that people with disabilities face when job hunting as well as the actual obstacles. Those barriers may be a lack of physical accessibility of a workplace, or perhaps an employer’s lack of awareness about disability and accommodations, or a lack of accessible transit, or unavailability of personal support.
The employers spoke about the learnings and changes to culture that their organizations have adopted to be more inclusive. On both sides there was a recognition that there needs to be better communication between employers and potential employees. People with disabilities should not be intimidated to communicate what they need to be successful and should never assume that employers would not be willing to make slight accommodations to aid their staff in their performance. Employers need to recognize that a “one size fits all” approach is restricting their pool of qualified candidates and doesn’t guarantee them the best person for the job.
There are tens of thousands of Ontarians living with a disability who are actively seeking employment. For over 40 years, our Employment Services team have supported thousands of clients as they have struggled to navigate the numerous barriers to securing employment. The changes underway in the post-COVID-19 workplace will not resolve all, or even many, of the barriers to employment for a person with a disability. But, even if they remove or even reduce a few roadblocks, that is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.