Abbreviated in length, but inspired by change, February is a time to do more, with less.

The National Jewish Council for Disabilities established North American Inclusion Month to recognize the need for more opportunities for people with disabilities. The initiative aims to do more than just improve our understanding of a person with a disability’s needs and aspirations for 28 days. It aspires to create action toward change, and to produce a more positive approach that prevails for 365.

With the purpose of making people with disabilities feel the same sense of belonging to society as everyone else, North American Inclusion Month encourages interaction with people with disabilities. The initiative discourages people from letting their worries and fears of offensive speech and action segregate themselves, as the exclusion of people with disabilities is the worst treatment.

North American Inclusion Month focuses primarily on education and employment, key areas at a time when people with disabilities are significantly underemployed. In 2014, Statistics Canada reported that the employment rate for Canadians with a disability remained 30 per cent below the general population. The survey also found that among Canadians with a disability, 12 per cent reported their condition resulted in the refusal of a job in the previous five years. The survey concluded that some employers hesitate to hire people with disabilities for reasons including, but not limited to: insufficient knowledge about disability and accommodation issues, cost-related worries, and legal obligations.

Marlies Farrill
Career Edge Alumna, GWD

Talent Specialist at Rangle.io, and former recruiter at Career Edge, notable alumna of the GWD program Marlies Farrill shared her thoughts on supporting people with disabilities.

“Often we feel paralyzed and are worried that if we are unable to do things perfectly that we should not do them at all. Organizations should hire people with disabilities. The best resources are often the new hires themselves as many people know the types of accommodations they need (In a September blog entry, she explained how people with disabilities are assets to organizations). Most accommodations are low-cost. The worst thing is to let the unknown stop you. Employers can partner with local non-profits if they are unsure about how to best employ talented people with disabilities.”

In two-plus decades, Career Edge has launched the careers of more than 600 graduates with self-declared disabilities, connecting them to paid internships at approximately 50 companies. Currently, there are about 200 recent graduates with a disability in Career Edge’s candidate pool seeking an opportunity. With federal disability legislation arriving soon, many employers will enhance their recruitment strategies to connect with these overlooked-but-qualified candidates and diversify their workforce.

Former Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough described Canada’s upcoming disability laws as “proactive” and the most recent Minster Kent Hehr said bringing in new legislation will allow our country “to lead a path forward in a progressive fashion that is going to better serve” the 14 percent of Canadians who have a disability.

In her last week in the position, Qualtrough said, “We need to remove barriers because you’re entitled to live in a world that thinks of you and includes you as someone with a disability.”

Farrill added, “All individuals want meaningful work and opportunities to succeed. If we stop making assumptions about people with disabilities, we will likely open ourselves up to talent that we did not know was out there, and learn a little bit in the process.”

With federal legislation on the way, the work of North American Inclusion Month will extend from 28 days, to 365 – by doing more than just our improving understanding, by creating action toward change.

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