By Don McRae
Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation
VICTORIA - Earning a living is an important part of our life and identity. It is how we take care of ourselves, provide for our families, and contribute to our community. Our jobs provide us with an opportunity to learn new skills, build relationships and follow our passions.
Please take a minute to consider people with disabilities. There are more than 330,000 people of working age who have a disability living in B.C., and we estimate that about half of these people are employed. This shows us that people with disabilities are under-represented in B.C.’s employment pool. It also shows us that there is an opportunity to tap into this workforce and help people with disabilities gain meaningful employment.
We know that many people with disabilities have the education, the skills and experience to help B.C. businesses thrive. We also know that when barriers are removed, and people with disabilities are able to participate fully in their communities and support their families, everyone benefits.
This is the driving force behind Accessibility 2024, government’s 10-year plan to make B.C. the most progressive place in Canada for people with disabilities. We want to increase accessibility throughout the province, so we can reach our goal of having the highest labour participation rate for people with disabilities in Canada by 2024.
Part of developing the plan included talking to thousands of people throughout the province to find out where things are working, and what needs to be improved. One of the things that we heard loud and clear was that most people with disabilities who are able to work want to work.
So, as the first course of action, we have declared September as Disability Employment Month. We want to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, encourage businesses to build inclusive and diverse workforces, and highlight employees with disabilities.
Connecting people and families with jobs, and building an inclusive, accessible workforce requires teamwork and strong partnerships.
Government has been working side-by-side with the Presidents Group, which includes influential business leaders in B.C., and the Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility, which provides advice on ways to increase employment and accessibility for people with disabilities.
This September, we are calling on local governments, businesses, organizations and communities throughout the province to help create more accessible work environments in B.C.
Let’s spread the word that hiring people with disabilities is a good thing for all British Columbians.