Persons with disabilities deserve an accessible and inclusive Canada

On December 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, PSAC affirms that persons with disabilities must be able to fully and equitably participate in all aspects of Canadian society.

We still have a long way to go to achieve this goal.

According to the Canadian Survey on Disability, 22% of Canadians have at least one disability,and about 40% of Canadians with disabilities who are not working or in school have the potential to work.  That means nearly 645,000 people can, and want to work, but are unemployed. Many persons with disabilities live in poverty, especially those with severe disabilities.

In the federal public service, one in four employees with a disability reports having been the victim of discrimination on the job, and fewer than one-third feel they have opportunities for promotion. They are also much less likely to feel that they get the training they need to do their job.

Bill C-81, Accessible Canada Act

The House of Commons recently passed a bill to make the federal government and federal industries more accessible and inclusive. PSAC supports the goals of the legislation, which follows similar provincial laws, and is badly needed at the federal level. Unfortunately, there are many flaws with Bill C-81, which PSAC and many disability advocacy organizations have raised. These include a lack of detail and timelines for when and how the government and federal organizations will meet their accessibility obligations.

In October, PSAC appeared before the House of Commons HUMA Committee (Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities), to present our recommendations on how the Bill could be improved. Those recommendations include strengthening employment equity, creating a central accommodation fund in the public service, and ensuring that all workers can file grievances when the law is violated.

Despite a clear care, none of our requested changes were adopted by the Government. PSAC will continue to advocate for these changes when the Bill goes before the Senate.

Making the federal government more accessible and inclusive

We still have important ways to make positive changes for persons with disabilities in the federal sector. The government will be developing regulations and standards on accessibility, once there is legislation in place.  PSAC will sit at the table with government representatives to push for concrete solutions that create accessible and inclusive workplaces and government services.

As well, the final report of the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, released in December 2017, put forward many important recommendations on how we can make the public service more representative and inclusive to persons with disabilities and other equity-seeking groups. PSAC was part of that Task Force and is strongly advocating for the implementation of all its recommendations.

Whether in their workplaces, unions, housing, or in accessing government services and businesses, the dignity and rights of persons with disabilities must be respected, and their needs included from the outset. Persons with disabilities and their allies must continue to work together to create a barrier-free Canada.

December 3, 2018