Color & Control:

Redefining Employment for Individuals with Disabilities in Canada 

Entering the workforce should be an exciting time for everyone. Unfortunately it is different for many individuals with disabilities.

Entering the workforce should be an exciting time for everyone. Unfortunately for many individuals with disabilities, it can feel scary due to the lack of accessible and inclusive employment opportunities that exist today. According to the Global Economics of Disability Report, only 4% of businesses are focused on making offerings inclusive of disability. This is a growing problem, as more than 1.3 billion people live with a disability worldwide and over 6.2 million Canadians live with a disability. By not creating opportunities for inclusive employment and business practices, individuals with disabilities are excluded from the workforce. In Canada, young people with disabilities are between 20-30% less likely to be employed than their able-bodied counterparts. Lower employment rates are related to increased poverty rates, increased rates of income support, and a greater burden on the healthcare system. There is a need to provide support for individuals with disabilities in accessing employment support that helps them find gainful employment. 

There are many service providers that support individuals with barriers to employment in finding meaningful work. However, they are not always equipped to support individuals with disabilities, due to a lack of resources, education/training, and/or funding. The current framework of employment support sees disability as a barrier to finding meaningful work. In contrast, Abilities Centre’s Employment Services work to ensure that all individuals seeking employment are supported and that no one falls through the cracks of the system.  

Abilities Centre is a not-for-profit charitable organization in Whitby, Ontario that provides a range of programs to people with and without disabilities. Our Employment Services support individuals entering or reconnecting with the workforce with finding meaningful employment that accommodates their needs. The Employment team at Abilities Centre works with businesses to create a culture of inclusion and change the narrative that individuals with disabilities cannot work. We support organizations by building strong community connections and teaching the benefits of employing individuals with disabilities through our Job Development services. Investing in inclusive hiring practices can have a positive return on investment. Not only does it provide opportunities for businesses to connect with new communities, individuals with disabilities, along with their family and friends, have a global spending power of $ 8 trillion. Creating opportunities for businesses and individuals to come together and build more inclusive communities is aligned with our mission of building a better, barrier-free life for all Canadians. 

In addition to working with community organizations and businesses, Abilities Centre offers multiple employment readiness workshops. These workshops provide individuals with an introduction to skills related to employment such as networking, interviewing, teamwork and applying for jobs.  We also provide specialized one-on-one services, or Job Coaching, that support clients wherever they are on their employment journey. We rely on our job seekers to guide our workshop curriculum development and service offerings, as they are the experts on how to mitigate the gaps and barriers in the labour market for people with barriers to work. Since the launch of job placement services in April 2022, Abilities Centre has supported twenty individuals with disabilities in finding meaningful employment. 

Currently, Abilities Centre is in the process of co-developing and co-designing a framework that outlines how individuals with lived experiences of disability want to be involved in the decision-making processes for programs and service development. Through our employment department, we have seen firsthand the benefits of giving choice and a voice to those we serve. By providing a space for job seekers to have autonomy over their employment journey, they are hired at places that are suitable, rewarding, and meaningful to them where they can gain experience and be successful. In our next Feature, we will outline the work we are doing with employers and businesses to be more accessible and create a diverse workforce. 

By Kelsey Ford & Emilie Michalovic

If you are experiencing barriers to employment or think any of the mentioned above programs
and services would be beneficial, please contact

Related Articles

Recent Articles


Complimentary Issue

If you would like to receive a free digital copy of this magazine enter your email.