It’s estimated that if we could create an equitable entry point for people with disabilities into the job market, we could tap into a potential pool of around 645,000 more candidates. In our recent Mindset in Motion episode, we’re joined by Nevena Dragicevic and Jordann Thirgood, of CSA Group (formerly Canadian Standards Association) to explore the challenges faced by people with disabilities in Canada, the importance of an intersectional approach, government intervention, and the need for a holistic support system. Importantly, this episode unpacks the core findings in their report “A Path Forward: Advancing Disability Inclusion in Canada” and contextualize the significance of The Accessible Canada Act, which aims to build a barrier-free Canada by 2040, and additional policies like The Disability Inclusion Action Plan – implemented in 2022.
About Nevena Dragicevic, Manager, Public Policy. CSA Group
Nevena has worked in various policy and research roles across sectors, including academia, non-profit, and government. Prior to joining the CSA Public Policy Centre, she spent several years exploring inclusive and data-driven approaches to urban challenges, most recently as the Cities Lead for Maytree, and previously as Program Manager in Nesta UK’s government innovation team. She has also served as Senior Policy Associate at the Mowat Centre, focusing on community wealth building, poverty alleviation, and intergovernmental collaboration. Working alongside government partners, Nevena has supported the development and mobilization of new ideas in the public sector, including human rights policy reviews and the use of data analytics. Nevena holds a Bilingual Master’s in Public and International Affairs from Glendon College, York University.
About Jordann Thirgood, Manager, Public Policy, CSA Group
Jordann joins the CSA Public Policy Centre with experience influencing policy from both inside and outside of government. Most recently, she advised on key policy priorities at the City of Toronto including the regulation of emerging technologies, COVID-19 economic recovery planning and a number of housing initiatives. Prior to that, she served as a Policy Associate at the Mowat Centre, where she authored and coauthored several reports on government transformation and the impact of economic transitions on Canadians’ ability to access social supports. Jordann has had work published through academic journals, media outlets and various research institutions. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Toronto.
Core Takeaways from This Podcast:
- There is a great need to recognize, better understand, and respect the complexity of disabilities that people can have and adapt our approach. For example, in Canada, around 60% of disabilities are dynamic in nature. This means that the disabilities individuals face may not always be consistent, easily recognizable, or represented. Despite this, they often encounter significant obstacles when it comes to finding employment. These dynamic disabilities create unique challenges, requiring a nuanced approach to inclusion in the workforce.
- Disability remains one of the most common grounds for discrimination in Canada. Whether overt or subtle, this discrimination pervades various aspects of life, including employment opportunities, social interactions, and accessibility to public spaces.
- One of the harsh realities faced by many people with disabilities is their increased likelihood of living below the poverty line and experiencing homelessness. The lack of employment opportunities, coupled with societal biases and discrimination, can push them into a cycle of financial hardship, making it all the more crucial to address these barriers.
- Recognizing that individuals often experience multiple forms of discrimination simultaneously is vital. For instance, someone with a disability may also belong to a racialized or equity-deserving group, compounding the challenges they face. Using an intersectional lens helps us understand and address these complex issues more effectively.
- The importance of holistic support cannot be overstated. People with disabilities require not only accessible workplaces but also financial support that goes beyond the minimum standards. We need to move beyond a bias toward physical conditions and ensure that those individuals, over 60%, who may be unable to access the necessary support are not left behind.
- The government has been actively ramping up efforts to address these issues. Setting standards and policies that promote inclusivity in the workforce is a significant step forward. The involvement of the federal government is supporting improvements across the board and fostering an environment where people with disabilities can thrive.
- An essential aspect of policy development is involving people with disabilities in shaping those policies. This approach breaks down silos and centers the experiences and needs of those with disabilities. It’s a crucial step toward creating a more inclusive society and job market.
- The way that we design our environments, buildings, and shared spaces influences the lives of those with disabilities more than we know. Creating accessible environments and designing for an equitable experience is critical to shaping a future that is inclusive and empowering of those with disabilities.
In a ‘nutshell’, creating an equitable job market for people with disabilities is not just a matter of social justice; it’s a necessity for a truly inclusive and diverse workforce. As we move forward, it’s important to engrain accessibility as the norm, not just in workplaces but also in areas like design and architecture, which shape how we interact with our environments. With government intervention, holistic support, and a commitment to addressing intersectional challenges, we can bridge the gap and empower people with disabilities to reach their full potential in the workforce.
For a deeper dive into this topic, we highly recommend reading this informative public policy report by Jordann and Nevena.
Listen to this podcast by clicking on one of the links below.