Advocates say individuals with disabilities ‘disproportionately’ impacted by unemployment amid pandemic
Inequality for people with disabilities in the labor market has always been a reality, but now the problems surrounding unemployment and job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened.
According to a recent study by Stats Canada, 36 percent of people with a long-term illness or disability have reported temporary or permanent job loss since March.
For Kevin McShan, these statistics are not particularly surprising.
“People with disabilities are disproportionately affected from an employment perspective, from a number of different categories … a lack of opportunity to a lack of, frankly, interest in education for people with disabilities in terms of employment. So I really am not surprised, “said McShan, who works for the disabled in Windsor.
Before the pandemic, McShan served as the regional ambassador for the Discover Ability Network, but like many others, he now faces uncertainties when it comes to securing jobs.
Kevin McShan says a common misconception many employers make when hiring an employee with a disability is that it costs a lot. Therefore, job opportunities for people with disabilities are even more difficult to get during the pandemic.
Before losing his contract, McShan said he was working on a program that would better connect people with disabilities with job opportunities at local businesses. However, those options might be harder to find now, he said.
“Business owners who want to get back to business because of the pandemic are simply not ready to get on their feet to support more people with disabilities as they try to get their business going again,” he explained.
The Stats Canada study highlighted particular employment problems for people with disabilities between the ages of 15 and 24.
Other results showed that more than 40 percent of survey respondents said the loss of income they suffered had a large or moderate impact on their ability to obtain food and groceries.
“It wouldn’t hurt to find a job and make some extra money,” said Mohamad Nadi, who was also looking for a job during the pandemic.
While finding work has been a challenge for Nadi, he is more concerned about others who may have different skills compared to him. He added that employers’ willingness to accommodate their employees continues to be a major barrier for disabled people looking for work.
Mohamad Nadi is struggling to secure jobs during the pandemic and says ODSP offers just enough to make ends meet. (Submitted by Mohamad Nadi)
“I’m just a small example, my cerebral palsy is hardly a problem for me. I focus more on the blind or hearing impaired or people who are wheelchair bound for a lifetime because I can get out of my chair easily,” he said explained.
“More options” needed
While some may have access to assistance, such as the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), McShan and Nadi stressed that income is insufficient for many.
“I can support myself and my family through my ODSP, but it’s not enough, you know. I’m not trying to be ungrateful for really appreciating ODSP and what it has done and what it has done me, but it’s not enough “said Nadi.
McShan echoed Nadi, saying that housing for employees with disabilities is key, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s expanding financially on a large scale.
He said it can cost companies, for the most part, less than $ 500 to accommodate disabled workers. He added that expanding possibilities is also a way forward.
“There needs to be more opportunities to show or display the skills of people with disabilities,” he said.