Color & Control:

The Untapped Market

When a company starts the recruitment process to fill vacant roles within their organization, they are looking for candidates who will excel in the role, stay with the organization long term, and have a positive impact on workplace culture.

By Kelsey Ford and Emilie Michalovic

In general, the disability community has a proven track record of success and loyalty to employment opportunities. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are often overlooked by hiring managers and not considered for positions because of stigma, unconscious bias, and misconceptions that surround their ability to complete a job. Disability is a complex term and can be referred to as an interaction between features of a person’s body and mind and features of the society in which they live. Many people who have a disability can work, want to work, and want to make a positive contribution to the workplace. What many people don’t know is that hiring individuals with disabilities can contribute to several positive impacts on the workforce, profits, and outcomes.

Why don’t businesses hire individuals with disabilities?

Accessibility and inclusion are often time viewed as a destination or checkbox exercise in the workplace. Inclusion can’t be viewed as a special project with an endpoint or final marker. Instead, it should be looked at as a journey of continuous improvement. Many organizations’ operational and strategic plans lack mention of accessibility and inclusion. This oversight happens due to a lack of education, training, and awareness in relation to disability inclusion at all levels of an organization. But, to initiate cultural change across all facets of an organization, accessibility and inclusion need to be embedded widely within organizations. 

Why should businesses focus on hiring individuals with disabilities?

According to the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN), businesses that employ individuals with disabilities have an increased productivity rate of 72%, generate 28% more revenue, and have 30% higher profit margins compared to businesses that don’t employ individuals with disabilities. ODEN also found hiring people with disabilities can allow for:

• Increased Innovation. People who have a disability are problem solvers, agile, persistent, and willing to experiment. 

• Growth of a skilled Workforce. 50% of people who have a disability, have a post-secondary degree. 

• Consumer Loyalty. Canadians are more likely to buy a product or service from a business that hires people who have a disability.

What can businesses do to increase the representation? 

So, you have made the decision that you want to diversify your workforce and put a plan in place to hire individuals with disabilities, but where do you begin? It is essential to recognize that all disabilities and accommodations are different for every individual. What might work for one individual might not work for another. Having a general understanding of disability inclusion will increase positive and inclusive workplace culture, which is an essential first step.

Abilities Centre offers many different programs/services that support businesses and employers. Three great ways to support job seekers with disabilities are: 

1) Build an Inclusive Environment
LEAD Canada helps organizations to successfully embed accessibility and inclusion strategies across the organization, giving the staff the confidence, and capability to meet the needs of all Canadians. LEAD is an approach designed to generate both economic and social return on investment.

2) Train your Workforce -Disability Inclusion Workshop 

The Disability Inclusion Workshop provides an introductory understanding of inclusion and overviews best practices for breaking down stigma related to disability. Individuals will take away tangible learnings that can be incorporated into both professional and personal lives.

3) Work with Employment Service Providers 

Abilities Centre Employment Services offers a range of support for job seekers and employers. Our team of Employment Specialists and Job Coaches assist job seekers in connecting with employers and provide on-the-job support to help individuals reach their employment goals. Our Job Developers partner with employers to build their capacity to foster an inclusive workplace. They connect with potential employers in the community to create employment opportunities to match the needs and skills of our job seekers.  

There are many ways that individuals with disabilities can be meaningfully engaged in the workforce. However, lingering myths and misconceptions about the skills and abilities of people who have a disability are still common. Businesses need to be flexible and listen to people with lived experiences of disability to ensure they are not making assumptions. Saying accessibility and inclusion are important to your business is one thing. Learning about it, understanding it, and putting it into practice.  


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