Ottawa, February 23, 2018—Making work spaces and facilities more accessible would allow people with physical disabilities to participate more fully in the workforce, lifting overall economic activity by $16.8 billion by 2030, according to a new report by The Conference Board of Canada.
“Employment rates for Canadians with disabilities are roughly two-thirds those of the general population—and those that are employed tend to work a slightly shorter work week. Improving the labour market participation of people with physical disabilities could add significantly to Canada’s future pool of workers and to the quality of life of individuals with disabilities,” said Ruth Wright, Director, HR and Inclusive Talent Management Research, The Conference Board of Canada. “This is positive not only from an inclusion point of view but also provides economic benefits to businesses, individuals, and governments alike.”
- The number of Canadians living with a physical disability that impairs their mobility, vision, or hearing, will rise from 2.9 million to 3.6 million over the next 13 years, nearly double the pace of the population as a whole.
- Improvements to workplace access would allow 550,000 Canadians with disabilities to work more, increasing GDP by $16.8 billion by 2030.
- The increase in labour availability would lift the income of people with disabilities by more than $13.5 billion.
The report, The Business Case to Build Physically Accessible Environments, provides results of a survey of Canadians with physical disabilities to identify barriers for workforce participation and calculates the economic impacts associated with increased labour participation.
Roughly 60 per cent of survey respondents said their disability prevented them from finding employment that allows them to use their skills, abilities and training. Of those who were employed, almost three-quarters of respondents indicated their condition was preventing them from working to the extent they desired. Of these individuals, more than 46 per cent of survey respondents believed accessibility improvements would allow them to increase the number of hours they work.
Of those who are currently unemployed or out of the labour force, roughly 57 per cent felt they would be able to return to work if accessibility improvements were made. Of these, about 38 per cent would be able to work several hours per week, and nearly 19 per cent expected that they could work 11 or more hours per week.
The aging of Canada’s population means the number of people with disabilities who would benefit from greater accessibility will continue to grow at about twice the rate of the overall population. The number of Canadians living with a physical disability that impairs their mobility, vision or hearing, is expected to rise from 2.9 million to 3.6 million over the next 13 years. If workplaces were more accessible, by 2030 more than half a million individuals with a physical disability would be able to work or work more hours per week. This would result in over 300 million hours a year added to the workforce by 2030.
The increase in labour availability would lift the income of people with disabilities by more than $13.5 billion. This, in turn, would boost disposable incomes by $10.6 billion and facilitate a $10 billion increase in consumer spending. The GDP and income gains would also benefit federal and provincial government revenues. About $2.6 billion would be added to federal government coffers and $1.8 billion for provincial government by 2030.
There are many ways for organizations to make their work environment more comfortable, more user-friendly, and easier to navigate. Simple, low-cost modifications, such as handrails, ergonomic aids and widened doorways and hallways, can improve access. Just as important as improving physical impediments, however, are the attitudes of managers and co-workers. Survey respondents suggested that managers and employees need education and awareness about the distinction between technical accessibility and truly inclusive behaviours. Accommodative management practices, such as modified or different duties, telework, and more flexible work hours were mentioned most frequently.
This research was funded by Rick Hansen Foundation and is publicly available from our e-Library.