Useful Resources for People with Disabilities Related to Employment and Access

May 13, 2015

Want to learn about disability rights and access to employment in Canada, but don’t know where to begin? Here’s a list of resources and organizations to get you started.

Because the Learn section of TalkRights features content produced by CCLA volunteers and interviews with experts in their own words, opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the CCLA’s own policies or positions. For official publications, key reports, position papers, legal documentation, and up-to-date news about the CCLA’s work check out the In Focus section of our website.

Overview

In December 2013, David Lepofsky addressed a room full of lawyers at the Advocates’ Society’s 50th Anniversary Symposium during a talk entitled: Advocacy Against the Odds. Lepofsky, a lawyer who is blind, won two cases against the Toronto Transit Commission that resulted in the calling out of subway and bus stops after a thirteen-year battle that finally ended in 2007. He began his talk by asking a few simple, but poignant, questions to be answered by show of hands. Addressing a mostly able-bodied audience, Lepofsky knew that he did not need to see to know that the entire room would raise their hands in response to the following question: How many of you know with any certainty that you will never become disabled?

It is only once Canadians realize that everyone is vulnerable, yet also capable, in their own way that we will ever fully realize the benefits of ensuring that people with disabilities can participate in society to the fullest extent possible. People with disabilities face barriers in many aspects of their lives, and seeking and maintaining employment is no exception.

The following information is intended to provide context on the barriers people with disabilities face in seeking and maintaining jobs, together with resources to help people with disabilities overcome obstacles to accomplish goals, participate in their own success and be able to be heard and contribute to society.

The information is broken down into three main sections:

  • Systemic Barriers and Challenges People with Disabilities Face When Seeking (and Keeping) Employment;
  • Available Resources for Funding and Support for People with Disabilities to Prepare for and Obtain Employment; and
  • Job Search Portals.

This information is primarily geared toward those with physical and sensory disabilities who are looking for work, or are trying to enhance their work experience, not those with mental health issues. Of course a lot of the resources and support systems overlap and are relevant to those who face either or both categories of disability. For people whose disability prevents them from working at any job on a regular basis, they may qualify for other support, such as the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits.

Systemic Barriers and Challenges People with Disabilities Face When Seeking (and Keeping) Employment

Based on 2006 data from Statistics Canada there are approximately 4.4 million children and adults with disabilities in Canada. Also according to this data, the employment rate for working-age adults with disabilities is significantly lower than the employment rate for working-age adults without disabilities (53.5% versus 75.1%). The average employment income for working-age adults with disabilities was 22.5% lower than the average income of working-age adults without disabilities. These are real discrepancies that can, and should, be minimized.

There are numerous barriers that people with disabilities face when seeking and keeping employment to explain these gaps. In broad strokes, a few major challenges are: (1) the physical disability itself; (2) the monetary cost of accessibility; (3) the lack of access to education, related training, employment and networks; and (4) the stigma attached to disability.

Finding the funding to pay for assistive devices and services can sometimes be oppressive. For example, there are over 86,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in Canada, and each of these individuals needs access to mobility solutions. This is where cost can become a barrier. The average cost of a manual wheelchair is $4-5,000, and the average cost of a power wheelchair is $10-15,000.

Perception by society is yet another challenge. Despite much lobbying and education, there are still those who see disability as something to be “fixed”. Through this lens, disabled people may be seen as “defective” rather than as differently abled. For example, the question of whether to undergo a cochlea implant is controversial within the Deaf community because of its implication that deafness is something that needs to be fixed rather than embraced. Instead, there is an entire culture of support and a separate language that can be used for communication. 

The implications of stigma and discrimination are far reaching. For fear of facing repercussions from their employers, employees with “invisible” disabilities may choose not to disclose their disabilities. Unfortunately, this limits those employees from participating in support programs or in the labour market and can ultimately negatively affect career progression.

The Parliamentary Information and Research Service backgrounder entitled, “Persons with Disabilities in the Canadian Labour Market: An Overlooked Talent Pool” enumerated the following additional barriers to employment:

  • Lack of access to accessible education and training to be job-ready;
  • Social isolation that limits access to the right network;
  • Conscious and subconscious misperceptions by employers, leading do discrimination regarding capacity to work;
  • Inaccessible work spaces, which manifests not only in physical space, but also in computer software, communication methods and environmental sensitivities;
  • Employers’ lack of knowledge of duty to accommodation, how to accommodate, or how to seek funding and support;
  • Lack of contact with people with disabilities for recruitment purposes; and
  • Lack of support once people with disabilities have the job to ensure that they can do their job with all of the support they need.

Increasingly, there are standards expected of all employers, including public, private and not for profit organizations, to ensure that these barriers are removed. There are also increasing efforts to provide support for people with disabilities from the education and training standpoint. Part of that education component is raising awareness of those who do not face barriers so that we can try to avoid stigma altogether, or remove it as early as possible. Perhaps part of that education component is ensuring that everyone realizes the collective value in developing the skills and employing people with disabilities because ultimately, it could at any time affect anyone. Disability does not discriminate. As Marie Ryan, the Chairperson of Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ Social Policy Committee said, “Disability happens – to anyone at any time – at birth or through illness and injury – regardless of economic status, background, health, religion, sexual orientation, and culture.”

Undoubtedly there are costs associated with accommodation, so the following section provides government and not-for-profit resources to make accessibility possible.

Available Resources for Funding and Support for People with Disabilities to Prepare for and Obtain Employment

This section is dedicated to identifying resources available across Canada, as well as within the individual provinces and territories, to help employers and people with disabilities prepare for, obtain and maintain employment or self-employment. The resources vary in terms of intended audience in terms of providing assistance geared toward employers and employees.

Helping people with disabilities find work has numerous tangible benefits. Not only does it have a positive impact on each individual in terms of his or her own morale and self-sufficiency, but as demonstrated by BC’s Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovations Connecting People with Disabilities project, it adds fiscal value as well. The pilot project, which ended in July 2014, tracked the tax revenues generated, disability supports reduced, health care savings and volunteer hours donated to help measure the additional social and financial benefits of the program.

(a) Nationally Available Resources

Resource: Canadian Employers Disability Forum

Summary: The forum will be managed by employers, for employers, to support education, training and sharing of resources and best practices concerning the hiring and retention of people with disabilities. Employers will help to promote and further the invaluable contributions that persons with disabilities can make to their business through the forum.

Resource: Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities (LMAPD)

Summary: LMAPDs are the Government of Canada’s largest investments in regard to helping Canadians with disabilities get jobs. As of 2013, the Government introduced a new generation of LMAPDs, which represents a federal investment of $222 million per year. Through the framework of the LMAPDs, provinces and territories are responsible for the design and delivery of the following employment programming:

  • education and training;
  • employment participation;
  • employment opportunities;
  • connecting employers and persons with disabilities; and
  • building knowledge.

Provinces and territories report each year on programs and services. The following list includes the most recent reports available for each region :

Alberta 2013-2014 report

Manitoba 2013-2014 report

New Brunswick 2012-2013 report

Nova Scotia 2013-2014 report

Ontario 2013-2014 report

Saskatchewan 2012-2013 report

Newfoundland 2013-2014 report

PEI 2013-2014 report

BC 2013-2014 report

(There was no information about a Quebec agreement)

The Yukon agreement was signed February 19, 2014

The Northwest Territories agreement was signed February 20, 2014

The Nunavut agreement was signed in September 2014

Resource: Service Canada’s Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities (OF)

Summary: The OF program helps people with disabilities prepare for, obtain and maintain employment by providing for assistance with, for example: (1) skills development; (2) wage subsidy; (3) self-employment; (4) financial support to employers to encourage them to hire persons with disabilities; (5) on-going group and individual mentoring and support; (6) enhanced employment assistance services; and (7) employer awareness. Economic Action Plan 2013 announced a $10 million increase in ongoing funding, to $40 million annually starting in 2015-16.

Resource: Workplace Accessibility Stream of the Enabling Accessibility Fund

Summary: This project provides funding to eligible recipients for projects that improve accessibility in workplaces across Canada. To be considered eligible for funding, projects must be directly related to maintaining or creating job opportunities for people with disabilities. Budget 2013 announced that the Government would continue to provide ongoing annual funding of $15 million.

(b) Newfoundland & Labrador

Resource: Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities

Summary: As part of the LMAPD, this program is designed to assist individuals with a disability acquire the skills, experience and support necessary to succeed in the work force. Services include employment counselling and assessment, employment planning, pre-employment training, post-secondary education, skills training, technical aids and other supports to assist individuals obtain access to job opportunities and training.

(c) Prince Edward Island

Resource: The PEI HR Toolkit: Considerations of a Diverse Workplace

Summary: This site provides some factors human resources departments should consider when hiring people with disabilities to ensure that the workplace is inclusive and accessible.

(d) Nova Scotia

Resource: Employment Support Services (ESS)

Summary: ESS helps people on Income Assistance to become more self-sufficient. They have policies and programs to support people in many ways, including those who want to create their own income, helping those who have barriers to employment to integrate themselves into employment and society and wage subsidy to provide support while finding work that will result in a lasting job.

Resource: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network (EDN)

Summary: Since 1995, EDN has provided support, inspiration, networking, and learning opportunities to thousands of entrepreneurs with disabilities across Nova Scotia. EDN is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs, living with any type of disability, in every stage of business development.

Resource: Services for Persons with Disabilities – LAMPD

Summary: Through Nova Scotia’s LAMPD, people with disabilities have access to funding and support for skills work, workplace attendant support and funding for the services provided by Horizon Achievement (Employment Development Program), Futureworx, Solutions Learning Centre Work Activity Program, Metroworks, Peopleworx, and the South Shore Work Activity Program. These agencies assist Nova Scotians experiencing employment barriers, including persons with disabilities.

Resource: reachAbility

Summary: Although based in Nova Scotia, reachAbility is a cross-disability advocacy organization with jobs, career, and employment services and resources for all provinces and territories.

(e) New Brunswick

Resource: Career Development Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

Summary: This program provides career development opportunities to help New Brunswickers with disabilities who are receiving social assistance, achieve their goals.

Resource: Disability Support Program

Summary: This program provides personalized, flexible support for persons with disabilities in the development of their personal support plans. There is no cost for the general facilitation services.

Resource: NB Employer Support Services to Employers

Summary: Through this service, employers can receive free consultation regarding the recruitment, hiring and retention of persons with disabilities. The NBESS can also link employers to local employment/vocational programs and services in their geographic area.

Resource: Workforce Expansion Program – Employer Wage Incentive

Summary: This is a collaborative effort to bring unemployed New Brunswickers together with employers. The program builds employer/employee relationships that promote the development of the unemployed by gaining skills that ultimately result in long-term sustainable full-time employment.

(f) Quebec

Resource: Emploi-Quebec: Persons with Disabilities

Summary: Like all Québec job seekers, people with disabilities have access to Emploi-Québec’s wide range of programs, as well as coverage for the cost of services or equipment needed to participate in training activities.

(g) Ontario

Resource: Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP)

Summary: Based in Ontario, the CRWDP will lay the foundations for a national, evidence-informed, coordinated approach to supporting people with work disabilities in Canada. The centre’s overall objective is to identify how people, when disabled, can be better retained and integrated into the Canadian labour market.

Resource: Handbook for Accessible Employment: Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Summary: This guide provides employers the economic, human side and legal incentives, realities and reasons for going through the process of recruiting and employing people with disabilities. It also provides templates and accommodation solutions.

Resource: Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

Summary: Currently, ODSP includes the following mandatory benefits: (1) Employment training and start-up benefits; (2) Employment Transition Benefit; and (3) Work-related Benefit. However, these will phase out in April 2015, and will be replaced by the new discretionary Employment-Related Benefit. There will be an extra six-month transition period for Work-Related Benefit only for people with disabilities (not their qualifying family members).

(h) Manitoba

Resource: Ability Axis

Summary: This organization provides the following list of organizations that deliver employment services to people with disabilities in Manitoba. The ones listed below are the sites that provide funding and support services:

Resource: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program

Summary: This program helps entrepreneurs with disabilities across Western Canada build their business future. Business services EDO provides includes mentoring and one-on-one counselling services, access to business training and development, business loans and identifying requirements for specialized equipment.

Resource: Income Assistance for Persons with Disabilities

Summary: This program provides financial and employment assistance for enrolled adults with a disability. The funding is provided to assist with additional costs associated with living in the community as a person with a disability.

(i) Saskatchewan

Resource: Assistance for People with Disabilities – Office of Disability Issues

Summary: This office works with provincial ministries and the disability community to identify and resolve issues of concern in various areas, including employment.

Resource: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program

Summary: This program helps entrepreneurs with disabilities across Western Canada build their business future. Business services EDO provides includes mentoring and one-on-one counselling services, access to business training and development, business loans and identifying requirements for specialized equipment.

Resource: Guide to Hiring Persons with Disabilities for Saskatchewan Employers

Summary: This guide provides employers the economic, human side and legal incentives, realities and reasons for going through the process of recruiting and employing people with disabilities.

Resource: Workforce Development for Persons with Disabilities

Summary: This program provides funding to assist adults with disabilities to prepare for, secure and maintain employment. This includes: (1) training on the job; (2) vocational and work assessments; (3) psycho-educational assessments; (4) job coaching; (5) support for employers; and (6) disability-related costs for a wide variety of post-secondary education and training programs.

(j) Alberta

Resource: Alberta Employment First Strategy

Summary: This program calls on governments, employers, agencies, and Albertans to work together to welcome more people with disabilities into our workplaces. As part of this, Alberta’s Human Services department has recently created an Employment First Innovation Fund and Employment First Internship Program to create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Resource: Alberta Learning Information Service

Summary: This department provides information about how to address issues in the work place for people with disabilities. 

Resource: Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES)

Summary: DRES provides assistance to Albertans in overcoming the barriers to employment created by their disability in three areas, (1) Job Search Supports, (2) Workplace Supports, and (3) Educational Supports.

Resource: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program

Summary: This program helps entrepreneurs with disabilities across Western Canada build their business future. Business services EDO provides includes mentoring and one-on-one counselling services, access to business training and development, business loans and identifying requirements for specialized equipment.

(k) British Columbia

Resource: Advocacy Access Help Sheet: BC Disability Benefits

Summary: This help sheet provides an overview of employment, education and training programs available for people with disabilities. This includes the following sections:

  • Employment Plans for People with Disabilities
  • Employment Incentives for People with Disabilities
  • Earnings Exemptions
  • The Self-Employment Program
  • Equipment and Assistive Devices
  • Education and People with Disabilities
  • Job Training and People with Disabilities

Resource: British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability (BCAND)

Summary: The BCAND provides the following list of employment-related resources available in BC, together with summaries of their services:

Resource: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program

Summary: This program helps entrepreneurs with disabilities across Western Canada build their business future. Business services EDO provides includes mentoring and one-on-one counselling services, access to business training and development, business loans and identifying requirements for specialized equipment.

Resource: WorkBC

Summary: Under the umbrella of BC’s Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, WorkBC provides a range of services and programs to help people with disabilities find work, provide assistive devices and training.

(l) Northwest Territories

Please refer to the programs that have branches in each province and territory, including the LMADP.

(m) Yukon

Resource: Yukon Council on disABILITY

Summary: Employment and Training Services are provided to assist eligible adults to pursue and secure employment through vocational training, restorative services, employment placement and follow up. Individuals are referred to appropriate services that may be contracted out to a variety of non-government organizations to provide job readiness and training.

(n) Nunavut

Resource: Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society

Summary: The organization strives to achieve independence, self-determination and full citizenship for all Nunavummiut living with disability. Among its goals is to promote employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Job Search Portals

Given the barriers and different realities faced by people with disabilities, job searching can be challenging. The following are useful links and resources specifically geared toward assisting people with disabilities with their job search. These are also resources for employers who want to ensure their job recruitment process is as inclusive and accessible as possible.

(a) Nationally Available Resources

Resource: Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Summary: CareerConnect Canada is a free resource for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted to connect, network and build their careers.

Resource: WORKink

Summary: WORKink provides job search tools, career guidance and resources pertaining to education and employment for Canadians with disabilities for job seekers and employers alike.

Resource: Bender Consulting Services of Canada

Summary: Their mission is to recruit and hire people with disabilities for competitive career opportunities in the public and private sectors.

Resource: Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work

Summary: The CCRW provides links to resources employers can use in each province. Among the available options are:

The Partners for Workplace Inclusion Program, which provides job seekers with disabilities with tools to prepare for a career or secure employment (available in BC, SK, MB, ON, NB and NL).

The Ready to Work Inclusion Program, which supports ‘job ready’ people with disabilities to access first time employment or to re-enter the work force (available in SK, ON and NS)

Workplace Essential Skills Partnership, which is designed specifically to provide job seekers with disabilities with a professional view of the world of work & the Ontario Workplace Inclusion Program, which supports job seekers with disabilities enhance their essential skills to prepare for wage subsidy, work experience and ultimately employment (both only available in Ontario)

Youth the Future, which is a 20-week pre-employment skills development program that provides youth with disabilities the pre-employment skills necessary to enter today’s workforce (ON, NB and NL)

(b) Newfoundland & Labrador

Resource: Avalon Employment Inc.

Summary: The organization provides job search assistance and support to adults with barriers to employment in the St. John’s, Conception Bay South, and surrounding areas.

Resource: Disability Employment Programs & Services – Employment Programs

Summary: This site provides resources for opening doors, Career Development Initiative for Agencies, Boards, Commissions and Crown Corporations, the Wage Subsidy Initiative, Student Summer Employment and information for managers and employers.

Resource: Disability Employment Programs & Services – Finding a Job

Summary: This site provides resources for the application process, employment programs available, employment counselling and a link to careers in the provincial government.

Resource: LMIworks

Summary: This site provides labour market and career information for people in Newfoundland & Labrador. The links provided lead to resources available for useful information about adaptive equipment, career planning, employment and other disability related sites.

Resource: Spinal Cord Injury Canada

Summary: Most provinces have their own chapter of this organization, and these chapters provide resources for employers and job seekers with spinal cord injuries to help them connect.

(c) Prince Edward Island

Resource: PEI Council of People with Disabilities – Employment Services

Summary: This department has provided assistance, support, instruction and referral for persons with disabilities to find and retain employment and/or access training and educational opportunities. Job seekers are assisted with job search skills, career assessments, access to training and educational opportunities, resume building and employment maintenance skills. Employers are assisted with worksite assessments, information on hiring/working with persons with disabilities, referring qualified individuals to available positions and setting up work placements and referral to wage subsidies.

(d) Nova Scotia

Resource: Collaborative Partnership Network (CPN)

Summary: The CPN is a group of 9 non-profit employment agencies creating employment partnerships between individuals with disabilities and Nova Scotia employers. Through their website, potential employees and employers can find information about the return to work employment process, access resources to prepare for employment, and support the employment of Persons with Disabilities.

Resource: Spinal Cord Injury Canada

Summary: Most provinces have their own chapter of this organization, and these chapters provide resources for employers and job seekers with spinal cord injuries to help them connect.

(e) New Brunswick

Resource: Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program

Summary: The objective of this program is to provide a more balanced representation of qualified designated group persons in the public service by helping individuals find meaningful employment with opportunities for advancement.

Resource: Spinal Cord Injury Canada

Summary: Most provinces have their own chapter of this organization, and these chapters provide resources for employers and job seekers with spinal cord injuries to help them connect.

(f) Quebec

Resource: Spinal Cord Injury Canada

Summary: Most provinces have their own chapter of this organization, and these chapters provide resources for employers and job seekers with spinal cord injuries to help them connect.

(g) Ontario

Resource: The Canadian Hearing Society

Summary: CHS’s employment services’ focus is on the unique employment challenges of people who are culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened or hard of hearing across Ontario.

Resource: Coalition for Persons with Disabilities

Summary: EmpAcc is a one-stop employment service for all persons with disabilities in Ontario who wish to access assistance in preparing for, obtaining and maintaining competitive employment. They provide employment counselling, job search and post hiring support for up to a year after obtaining a job.

Resource: PATH Employment Services

Summary: Based in Ontario, PATH originated as the first community agency in Canada solely dedicated to assisting individuals with disabilities in finding employment. PATH offers numerous employment services, including job placement and one to one employment counselling, workshops, accessibility training and human resources services and solutions.

Resource: Spinal Cord Injury Canada

Summary: Most provinces have their own chapter of this organization, and these chapters provide resources for employers and job seekers with spinal cord injuries to help them connect.

(h) Manitoba

Resource: Ability Axis

Summary: This organization provides the following inventory of organizations that provide employment services to people with disabilities in Manitoba. The ones listed below are the sites that provide job search guidance:

Resource: Society for Manitobans with Disabilities – Employment Services

Summary: This service links the business community with people with disabilities. For employers, they can assist with human resource recruitment, hiring and follow-up needs. For job seekers, they provide assessment, training, placement assistance, counselling, literacy upgrading and computer training.

Resource: Spinal Cord Injury Canada

Summary: Most provinces have their own chapter of this organization, and these chapters provide resources for employers and job seekers with spinal cord injuries to help them connect.

(i) Saskatchewan

Resource: Partners in Employment

Summary: This program offers an extensive range of professional employment services to both individuals and employers. For job seekers, their services are geared toward finding and maintaining employment. For employers, they collaborate with the employers to match qualified candidates to job vacancies.

Resource: Saskatchewan Association of Rehabilitation Centres (SARC)]

Summary: This is a not for profit representing community-based organizations that provide many services, including employment support, to individuals with disabilities. Their employment program helps people with disabilities find employment in their community through the assistance of a job coach. SETI is in place to encourage community-based organizations to develop, build capacity or enhance current supported employment services in their communities.

(j) Alberta

Resource: Alberta Disability Workers Association (ADWA)

Summary: ADWA’s mission is to advocate for, represent and support a professional workforce for people with disabilities. The organization provides a job board, training and education, events and many other helpful resources.

Resource: Alberta Learning Information Services – Persons with Disabilities – Working

Summary: This site provides extensive information and resources for getting ready to seek work, the process of looking for work, succeeding with self-employment and other resources for persons with disabilities.

Resources: Community Disability Services

Summary: This site provides a job board, and community agencies support individuals with disabilities to find and maintain meaningful roles in community and places where their own unique abilities can make a contribution.

Resource: Employ Abilities

Summary: This is one-stop employment service for all persons with disabilities in Alberta who wish to access assistance in preparing for, obtaining and maintaining competitive employment.

(k) British Columbia

Resource: Spinal Cord Injury Canada

Summary: Most provinces have their own chapter of this organization, and these chapters provide resources for employers and job seekers with spinal cord injuries to help them connect.

(l) Yukon

Resource: Where Disability Works

Summary: As the active branch of the Yukon Disability Employment Strategy and a feature of the Yukon Labour Market development initiative, this site is the Yukon’s go-to place for disability employment information, resources, and services.

Resource: Workplace Diversity – Services for People with Disabilities

Summary: This department provides employment programs for people with disabilities provide education, job-seeking assistance, computer training, work experience programs, leadership classes, temporary on-call placements and, in some cases, special funding and accommodation solutions.

(m) Northwest Territories

Resource: EmployABILITY

Summary: This organization works with the Yellowknife business community to create training and job opportunities and to promote disability awareness encouraging diversity in the workforce. The program continues its assistance to employers once employment is established.

(n) Nunavut

Please refer to the nationally available resources.