Color & Control:

Navigating the Waters


People with disabilities still face the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the country. We also know a great deal of government funding goes into employment services, both mainstream and segregated, and yet the unemployment rates have not changed much.

The Independent Living Movement has learned a great deal about self-management through the Ontario Network of Independent Living Resource Centre’s Direct Funding Project for attendant services. We decided to apply these principles to employment, and launched Navigating the Waters, an employment support pilot.

There are many well documented reasons why people with disabilities are not in the work force, such as environmental/physical, communication, attitudinal and systemic work site barriers. More specifically (but not exclusively), the barriers include:
– lack of work experience and/or employment training skills;
– lack of education;
– lack of appropriate workplace accommodations;
– lack of transportation services;
– fear of permanent loss of disability income supports, such as access to a medical plan, and social assistance benefits, should the job placement not work out over the long-term;
– lack of access to mobility aid repairs;
– lack of attendant services at work;
– lack of self-managed or self-directed supports;
– lack of social or interpersonal skills;
– lack of personal assertiveness, self-esteem, and self-confidence;
– lack of awareness, supports and service in the area of accessible and affordable daycare for parents with disabilities; and
– lack of a continuum of support to assist people with disabilities in manoeuvring their way through the bureaucratic maze of government and social programs.

CAILC’s project will concentrate on these and other barriers as identified by the consumer. However, it would be counterproductive to consider any of these areas in isolation of each other, and none are mutually exclusive within the context of an individual’s self-development and personal growth.

CAILC’s philosophy is to adopt a consumer-driven model in our delivering of supports to persons with disabilities. A holistic, continuum-of-supports approach to service delivery for consumers ensures that there are little or no gaps in the acquisition of required skills.

Experience has taught us that when consumers have the freedom and responsibility to control our own lives and the skills to make informed choices around our daily activities, we are motivated and empowered to reach our goals.

In our Navigating the Waters project, we will apply these self-management techniques and principles of individual control and empowerment to employment-related goals and activities for consumers.

Twenty-one of 22 Independent Living Resource Centres (ILRCs) are involved in the national project. Innovative approaches to implementing this project can be found at several ILRCs. The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto is developing an Employer Education Kit. Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay and Caraquet are each developing a Job Bank for consumers and the business community. In Calgary, opportunities for consumer entrepreneurship are being strengthened.

All of these initiatives have been made possible with the support of Human Resources Development Canada. HRDC stated in its recent report, Lessons Learned: “Advocacy, support and training services provided through Independent Living Centres have been documented as effective in providing the support and skill development necessary to enable people to make effective use of support service programs and to make decisions about their own lives.”

With HRDC’s support, consumer-controlled initiatives such as Navigating the Waters will have a positive long-term impact on the needs of consumers, their families and communities.

(Traci Walters is CAILC’s National Director. For more information, contact CAILC at (613) 563-2581 (voice/TTY); or e-mail:


In a recent seven-month project, the Resource Centre for Independent Living (RCIL) in Victoria, B.C., teamed up with the Greater Victoria Public Library and Pearson College to offer 10 youth with and without disabilities an opportunity to develop skills while providing community services — thanks to funding by the federal government’s Youth Services Canada.

Coordinated by Scott Wilson and Tanis Doe, the youth provided free, one-on-one Internet and FreeNet training at seven public libraries weekly; they provided literacy services to adults with disabilities and seniors; they led reading and writing clubs for deaf adults, children with learning disabilities and people learning English as a second language; and they met with students from Pearson College and its international community.

The youth also initiated a signing, talking, moving book. Using animation technology, sign language and the permission of the author, they turned a printed book into an accessible literacy activity for children and adults.

The youth benefitted from weekly training sessions, discussion groups, personal and career development sessions. They are now ready to move on to education or employment with the focus and skills they gained from this project.

(For more information, send e-mail to

TEL: (613) 563-2581
FAX: (613) 235-4497
TTY: (613) 563-2581


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