Although many employers are encouraging diversity in the workplace, there is one group who continues to be ignored when it comes to human rights in the workplace.

In 2012, just around four million ‘working-age’ Canadians identified themselves as disabled – covering everything from visible disabilities such as being in a wheelchair to invisible disabilities such as a mental health issue.

And a recent study has found that half of Canadians believe ‘it’s understandable if an employer thinks it’s too risky to hire someone with a physical disability.’

The survey was done by the Angus Reid Institute and the Rick Hansen Foundation. The study also found that Canadians vastly underestimate the number of disabled people in the population.

“There seemed to be a split intuitively between how people were thinking about disability and where sometimes we thought we were,” said Mr. Hansen about the need for this new survey by the Globe and Mail. “I am always asked everywhere I go, ‘So, how accessible is Canada?’ ‘What are Canadians thinking?’ And so the notion started to emerge that we needed to do more research on this issue ….”

Hansen said advocates for disability rights must now ‘tackle the business world.’

This is an issue in Alberta as well, with 80 per cent of all complaints made to the

Robert A. Philp, Queen’s Counsel for the Alberta Human Rights Commission falling under unemployment.

Thirty four per cent of those complaints fell under physical disability and 16 per cent under mental disability.

“Employers have people in their workforce with disabilities whether they acknowledge it or not,” said Alexi Davis, a senior manager at Prospect Human Services for Disability Employment.

“So being intentional about fostering strategies in a culture and policies that support your employee base that already exists and opening to potential talent as you recruit … really strengthens your workforce,” she explained.

According to an article in the Financial Post one of the most important things an employer can do is have an ‘open-door policy’ to discuss disabilities and job seekers and employees must feel supported and safe in sharing their disability.

If you are part of a union, reaching out to a shop steward or business agent is also an option those with disabilities can take. These representatives from the union are there to make sure your human rights are respected in the workplace, which includes not having to face discrimination due to a disability – visible or non-visible.

With more studies and attention been drawn to disability and accessibility rights in the workplace, advocates are hoping that the high unemployment rates of those with disabilities will begin to decrease.

Disability rights are human rights, and all Canadians need to be more aware of that fact.

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