October is Disability Employment Awareness month – a time dedicated to promoting inclusive hiring and celebrating the many contributions that people with disabilities make to the workforce. We know that people with intellectual disabilities have the desire and ability to work in the Canadian job market, earning equal pay. Many already do! 

Despite proof that inclusive hiring works and has huge benefits for both employers and employees, we also know that people with intellectual disabilities face unemployment rates that are significantly higher than the rest of the population. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation even more complicated; many people with disabilities have been laid off and are still waiting to be re-hired. 

Federal government programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the One-Time Payment to Persons with Disabilities have offered some limited relief, but cannot replace the security offered by inclusive, stable employment.

Ready, Willing & Able (RWA), a national initiative co-led by Inclusion Canada and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (CASDA), works to increase employer demand to hire job seekers with an intellectual disability or autism. Through RWA we’re looking at ways to support COVID-19 relief efforts, help employers and employees adapt to new realities, and get people back to work!

Some things we’re exploring include: 

  • How to support people to keep working. That might mean working from home, adapting to new technologies, or learning to navigate COVID-19 protocols on job sites. 
  • How to meet the increased demand for employees that has been created because of COVID-19. Certain businesses have grown very quickly during the pandemic, and people with disabilities can be the solution to labour shortages. 
  • How to reinforce the message that hiring people with disabilities during COVID-19 is a worthwhile investment. People with disabilities are a resource that employers can’t afford to overlook.  

Over the next few months, you’ll be seeing more information and resources on these topics and others. We’re currently working hard to create a resource hub with tools that will be practical and useful for job seekers, employers, and the support agencies that connect them. 

In the meantime, we invite you to explore our existing resources, including RWA Works – a free, on- demand tool focused on how to support businesses to hire people with an intellectual disability or autism.