Disability Inclusion 2021: Leaving No One Behind

May 30th – June 5th was National AccessAbility week.

Kristin, staff member from our Core Neighbourhoods at Work program reflects on her personal experiences with accessibility issues around employment and housing.

Being Left Behind in the Labour Market

We have likely all heard that the rate of employment for people with disabilities is significantly lower than those without, hovering at around 50%. A few of the larger barriers that a person with a disability may face in the labor market includes:

  • fear of losing their benefits if they do find a job;
  • lack of knowledge on the part of the employer and employee regarding accommodations, and;
  • lack of experience. This could be because their experience is from before they acquired their disability and they are unsure of what they can do now or if they were born with a disability they may not have had much chance to gain employment experience.

A definite barrier for myself when I was starting out and trying to gain work experience was a lack of knowledge on the employers’ part about how some job tasks might be modified. Another major concern for someone with a mobility disability or any type of disability when applying for jobs or attending an interview is accessibility of the built environment. This includes things like what does the access to the washroom, or pathways around the office look like.

The Two Biggest Issues for Housing are Accessibility and Affordability

There is a shortage of affordable housing in the city, but this shortage becomes an even bigger problem when accessibility is factored in. When someone finds accessible housing they will often try to become a long-term tenant which is a good thing but it also means there is little to no turn over in the units that do exist. People could spend months, even years on a wait list to get into accessible housing.

It has been my experience that a lot of the accessible and/or affordable housing that does exist is designated for seniors. This makes sense because as people age they often develop physical disabilities and other health issues. We also know that pension amounts are not the greatest so many seniors are also low income. However, there is a segment of the population that are not old enough to be considered seniors so they often have to plead their case to landlords and get special permission to move into these units.

Finally, the issues of housing and employment are intimately connected. If your basic needs like safe housing are not met you cannot focus on employment. If you are lucky enough to get into low income housing you may also be at risk of a rent increase if your income also increases.  So for me, disability inclusion in employment and housing would be: 

  • Employers showing a willingness to explore someone abilities versus focusing on a person’s limitation’s and;
  • Proper funding allocated for affordable housing accessibility units to increase the current inventory

Kristin Drummond – Workshop Facilitator, Core Neighbourhoods at Work program.