National AccessAbility Week: Canada’s unions call for elimination of barriers to employment, launch new handbook

May 28, 2021

Canada’s unions are marking National AccessAbility Week by calling on the federal government to remove barriers to employment and increase economic security for people with disabilities. Observed from May 30 to June 5, National AccessAbility Week is an opportunity to celebrate and advance accessibility and inclusion in our workplaces and communities.

“Everyone benefits when workplaces are accessible,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Yet too many people with disabilities are unemployed, underemployed, or face barriers to advancement at work because of stigma, discrimination, and lack of access to accommodations.”

This week, Canada’s unions are launching Doing Things Differently: A Disability Rights At Work Handbook. The handbook provides an overview of disability rights issues in Canada, with a specific focus on advancements and challenges in workplaces and in the union movement. To download a copy, click here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit people with disabilities hard. In a recent Statistics Canada study, one third of participants with long-term conditions or disabilities reported losing their job or reducing their hours during the pandemic. Others were not able to access income supports despite the increased costs, and had difficulties accessing food and personal protective equipment. Access to home care and other services was severely hampered, and many people with disabilities reported high levels of stress and anxiety.

Last fall, the federal government announced its intention to establish a new Disability Benefit, modeled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement available to seniors. Canada’s unions and disability rights organizations welcomed this progress toward a longstanding demand. In the recent federal budget, the government committed to holding consultations on the new benefit as well as improved access to the Disability Tax credit.

“We urge the federal government to accelerate the timeline for this new Disability Benefit,” said Rousseau. “An equitable recovery means addressing the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on people with disabilities. The need for better income support was already well established and the pandemic only highlighted that we can’t wait any longer for this benefit. People need support now,” said Rousseau.

An accessible and inclusive Canada is one where people have the means to live in dignity. A new disability benefit, paired with efforts to improve employment security and accessibility at work, will make a real difference for many people with disabilities and their families.

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