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Employers miss out on talent by overlooking workers living with disabilities

Posted in The Conversation July 25, 2019

Author:  Silvia Bonaccio

Businesses increasingly see diversity in the workplace as positive for their operations, according to a Conference Board of Canada survey of Canadian organizations.

But according to the same report, while there is a recognition that diversity drives innovation and gives businesses an edge over competitors, people living with disabilities are the most underrepresented employment equity group in Canadian workplaces.

The economic benefits of workplace diversity hasn’t demonstrably boosted opportunities for the 20 per cent of working-age Canadians who live with a disability. According to Statistics Canada, people living with disabilities report challenges finding work and accessing opportunities for career growth.

Researchers know that a main reason for lower employment participation rates of people with disabilities is that employers often have prohibitive concerns and pessimistic ideas about hiring people with disabilities —such as the view that it will be expensive or candidates with disabilities aren’t qualified.

But research I have conducted as part of the Canadian Disability Participation Project debunks such ideas. With Catherine E. Connelly (McMaster University), Ian R. Gellatly (University of Alberta), Arif Jetha (Institute for Work and Health) and Kathleen A. Martin Ginis (University of British Columbia) I found that many of the most common employer concerns about hiring people with disabilities are unfounded.

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