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Employers Missing Out: Skilled Workers With Disabilities Being Overlooked

Workers with disabilities provide significant benefits to business

Ottawa, July 16, 2014 – Employers consistently overlook a skilled, stable and underutilized segment of the workforce - people with disabilities. According to new research by The Conference Board of Canada, people with disabilities are generally as well educated as people without disabilities, but are three times more likely to be unemployed or out of the labour force. The report, The Business Benefits of Accessible Workplaces, also reveals the many areas in which businesses benefit when they invest in accessible employment practices, including higher attendance, enhanced job performance and improved brand image.

“If Canadian businesses wish to thrive, they need to be able to recruit and retain the  talent they need – this includes people with disabilities”, according to Ruth Wright, Director, Human Resources Research. “We need more inclusive and accessible workplaces and practices that attract new employees with disabilities and at the same time allow existing employees with disabilities, and those that develop them, to remain in the workforce.”

The report outlines a number of the benefits to businesses when they invest in accessible employment practices for both new and existing employees.  "These include access to large consumer markets, better customer loyalty and improved brand image, as well as reduced costs for reintegrating existing employees who acquire disabilities in the course of their work lives," said Wright.

Companies that invest in accessible employment practices reported a number of other business benefits, including better job retention, higher attendance, lower turnover, enhanced job performance and work quality, and better safety records.


  • People with disabilities are a large and growing percentage of Canada's population (3.8 million or 13.7 per cent).
  • There are clear business benefits to accessible employment practices.
  • People with disabilities remain an overlooked talent pool in the labour market and often struggle to find meaningful employment opportunities.
  • Strategies and tools are available for companies to make their employment practices more accessible for people with disabilities. 

The Conference Board report provides a portrait of people with disabilities in Canada and their labour market experiences, and details strategies companies can take to make their employment practices more accessible for people with disabilities.  It also provides examples of businesses that have engaged in accessible employment practices for employees with disabilities and highlights the benefits they have seen. 

People with disabilities are a large and growing percentage of the population. Almost 3.8 million Canadians, or 13.7 per cent of the population, identified themselves as having a disability in 2012. This was up from 12.4 per cent, or 3.6 million people, in 2001. As the incidence of disabilities increases with age, this growing segment of the population is deserving of a greater focus within Canada's current and future workforce.

In 2012, The Conference Board of Canada also released the report Employers’ Toolkit: Making Ontario Workplaces Accessible to People With Disabilities. This free report provides practical advice for Ontario employers of all sizes about simple changes they can implement to make their workplaces more inclusive for people with disabilities plus suggestions on complying with the Accessibility Standard for Employment as set out under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Both publications are available to subscribers at at no charge.

A fully accessible version of the report is available for individuals using assistive technologies. 

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