Misperceptions hinder people with disabilities
More than one billion people, or 15 per cent of the world's population, live with some sort of disability, says the United Nations Enable website.
Here in Canada, the percentage is a little lower - 14.3 per cent, according to the Council of Canadians. And while Canada has fewer barriers for people with disabilities than in developing countries, there's still plenty of room for improvement. The CCD website says Canadians with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as other Canadians. "They face exclusion from quality education, from employment and from participation in their communities."
Improving inclusion for this often overlooked group is one of the aims of International Day for Persons with Disabilities. The day is officially recognized Dec. 3 each year; in Lethbridge, it will be marked on Friday with an event from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the City Hall foyer.
The theme for this year's International Day for Persons with Disabilities is "Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all."
Canada has made strides toward the goal but more needs to be done. A BMO study released last month suggests there are still obstacles that interfere with the hiring of people with disabilities. Among those, according to the survey, is a tendency for hiring managers to overestimate the cost of accommodating workers with disabilities, and an assumption that the candidate wouldn't be able to do the job.
Such notions are not only unfair to people with ability challenges, but it puts them at a huge disadvantage in society. In a news release, Sonya Kunkel, managing director of diversity and inclusion at BMO Financial Group, said, "Of the approximately 16 per cent of Canadians with a disability, 30 per cent are able and want to work. However, they are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as people who do not have a disability."
Kunkel adds, "Longstanding myths and misperceptions continue to get in the way of businesses hiring more employees from this relatively large and untapped talent pool."
Regarding the idea that hiring people with disabilities will require costly workplace alterations, the BMO report notes that studies indicate 20 per cent of employees with a disability require no accommodations at all, and the average cost for those who do is just $500 - not an unaffordable amount for most businesses.
Interestingly, the BMO survey found that 67 per cent of respondents admitted they had no idea how much such accommodations would cost, and the mean guess was $10,000, a huge overestimation.
Clearly, there are many misperceptions about people with disabilities and those fallacies serve as obstacles to their full inclusion in society. Dispelling those wrong ideas is one of the keys to bringing down barriers that keep many people with disabilities on the sidelines. If we can start dismantling those barriers, we can give more of these underappreciated Canadians an opportunity to use their abilities.
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