Monday, Dec. 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year's theme - "removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all" - is a goal celebrated and shared here in British Columbia.
"This is a day where we can raise awareness of the skills and contributions people with disabilities make to our economy and our communities," said Social Development Minister Moira Stilwell, M.D.
Creating a better life for people with disabilities is about finding a balance between providing supports to take care of daily needs and finding ways to encourage the greatest level of independence possible. In B.C., people with disabilities are 20 per cent less likely to participate in the labour market than those without disabilities. "To address this disparity, there are a number of programs and initiatives underway to help improve employment for people with disabilities in B.C.," said Stilwell.
The Minister's Council on Employment and Accessibility was established in February 2012, with business, community and family representatives, to find innovative solutions to increase employment and improve supports for people with disabilities. Building on council advice, the B.C. government is establishing a group where business leaders from around the province will discuss ways to improve job opportunities for people with disabilities, including recent post-secondary graduates with disabilities.
For people receiving disability assistance, recent policy changes are helping to improve their financial outcomes. By increasing and enhancing earnings exemptions, those who are able to work are supported and encouraged to find employment and gain valuable job skills without compromising their benefits.
The B.C. government also funds assistive technologies and support programs to help people get the aids and devices they need to work and contribute in the community. Communication Assistance for Youth and Adults - or CAYA - provides equipment and services to adults and youth aged 19 or older with complex communication disabilities. The Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative (EATI) - funded through an agreement between the B.C. and federal governments - works to increase employment for persons with disabilities by improving access to equipment and assistive technology.
The Employment Program of BC, launched on April 2, 2012, makes it easier for people to find work and to provide for their families through a wide range of employment services and supports. The goal of the program is to provide all unemployed British Columbians who are eligible to work in B.C. - including those who have a disability - with access to employment services and supports through one door. Services include employment counselling and support, skills training, job development, coaching and support.
Community Living BC (CLBC) works with individuals, families, contracted service providers, employer groups and the Ministry of Social Development to develop policy, standards, strategies and initiatives to provide targeted employment spaces for people with developmental disabilities. Each year, CLBC celebrates champions of inclusive workplaces through its annual WOW!clbc (Widening Our World) awards - 2012 winners will be announced later this week.
As well, as part of meeting its commitments as a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the B.C. government has created a Cross-Ministry Disability Strategy Reference Group, comprised of 18 assistant deputy ministers, to explore ways that the many ministries and government agencies can better collaborate in providing supports for people with disabilities.
- For more information about Ministry of Social Development services and programs for individuals with disabilities, go to: www.gov.bc.ca/hsd
- For more information about the Employment Program of BC and to find a WorkBC centre near you, visit the WorkBC website at: www.workbccentres.ca
- For more details about the provincial government's Minister's Council on Employment and Accessibility, visit: www.eia.gov.bc.ca/epwd
- For more information about how CLBC supports individuals with developmental disabilities, as well as news about the WOW!clbc Awards, visit: www.communitylivingbc.ca
- To find out more about assistive technologies and how they help individuals with disabilities succeed, visit CAYA at: www.cayabc.org - or EATI at: www.bcpsn.org
A backgrounder follows.
Public Affairs Officer
Ministry of Social Development
Removing barriers to employment and accessibility
The UN's International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an opportunity to celebrate individual successes and B.C.'s efforts to create welcoming, inclusive communities. In keeping with this year's theme, Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all, the B.C. government is creating opportunity for individuals with disabilities to develop skills and find employment through a number of initiatives.
Supporting individuals with disabilities to reach employment goals:
- Earnings Exemptions and Annualized Earnings Exemptions for Individuals on Disability Assistance:
On Oct. 1, 2012, changes came into effect so that individuals receiving disability assistance now are able to earn up to $800 per month and still receive their full benefits. A couple who both have the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) designation can earn up to $1,600 per month without impacting their benefits. Government is also introducing a monthly earnings exemption of $1,000 for families with two adults where only one has the PWD designation. Effective Jan. 1, 2013, this change will support both spouses to earn income, gain work experience and better provide for their families without affecting their disability assistance.
Annualized earnings exemptions for individuals on disability assistance, coming into effect January 2013, will provide the flexibility to use earnings exemptions on an annual instead of monthly basis, so that individuals with disabilities can maximize their earnings during times when they are feeling healthy and able to work. The first phase of annualized earnings exemptions will focus on a group of 5,000 individuals who have been identified as most likely to benefit. All individuals receiving disability assistance will be eligible in 2014.
- Communication Assistance for Youth and Adults (CAYA):
In 2012, the B.C. government committed $5.7 million in funding over three years, bringing the total provincial contribution for CAYA to more than $15 million since 2005. CAYA provides equipment and services to adults and youth aged 19 or older with complex communication disabilities. Since 2005, CAYA has provided approximately 630 British Columbians with communications technologies. The goal of CAYA is to ensure that eligible individuals have access to the communication tools and professional support to enable them to create an adult life to the best of their abilities.
- Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative (EATI):
EATI is funded by the Labour Market Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia. Its objective is to increase employment for persons with disabilities by improving access to equipment and assistive technology. EATI assistance includes, but is not limited to, items that allow an individual to participate in training; assist with transportation to and from work; and support an individual to meet his/her job requirements. Since its inception in 2009 until September 2012, EATI has put over $6.7 million of assistive technology into the hands of people with disabilities throughout the province.
- Employment Program of BC:
The Employment Program of BC, launched on April 2, 2012, makes it easier for British Columbians, including those with disabilities, to find work and to provide for their families through a wide range of employment services and supports. The employment program is offered through 85 WorkBC Employment Services Centres and over 100 satellite centres, mobile offices or outreach services throughout the province. Specialized populations, including individuals with disabilities, were a key consideration in developing the Employment Program of BC. Two external advisory panels have been formed - one of which focuses specifically on services to specialized populations - to help review results, monitor data and ensure that people from specialized populations are receiving the services they need under the Employment Program of BC. In 2012-13, the ministry will spend $343.5 million in employment services and apprenticeship training, of which nearly $280 million will be recovered from the federal government.
- Community Living BC:
CLBC was established in 2005 as a Crown agency providing disability-related services and supports for people with developmental disabilities. One area of focus for CLBC is employment and training services to ensure individuals with disabilities are given the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of life. Each year, CLBC celebrates champions of inclusive workplaces through its annual WOW!clbc (Widening Our World) awards. Over 100 nominations were received from self advocates throughout the province for this year's awards.
Supporting Employers to hire more individuals with disabilities:
- The Minister's Council on Employment and Accessibility
The Minister's Council on Employment and Accessibility was established in February 2012 to identify solutions and strategies that will help increase employment and access for people with disabilities. The council has met a number of times and developed a list of recommendations, which was presented to the minister in September for consideration.
As well, in September 2012 the council conducted a workshop at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual convention on improving employment for persons with disabilities. The council provided participants from communities throughout B.C. with practical examples and innovative approaches for employing people with disabilities and engaging businesses at a community level.
Public Affairs Officer
Ministry of Social Development