1 Importance of Work

Work features prominently in the lives of most adults, however, persons with disabilities continue to be under-represented in the workforce. In addition to the obvious practical and tangible advantages associated with employment (wages, benefits, etc.), it provides an enhanced quality of life through connection to the community, increased social opportunities, expanded networks, improved social status, etc. According to Statistics Canada, in the Canadian Study on Disability 2012, “A substantial majority (71.8%) of adults aged 15 to 64 with a developmental disability were not in the labour force and another 6.0% were unemployed. The employment rate of working-age adults with a developmental disability was 22.3% less than a third of the rate for people without a disability (73.6%), and the lowest employment rate of any disability type” (Bizier et al., 2015, heading 5). [1]

Improving the employment picture for people with disabilities is a priority for individuals, families, advocacy groups as well as being the focus of numerous federal and provincial initiatives. According to findings from the Accessible Canada consultations , “all areas of life are connected and need to be made accessible if people are to be fully included” (Government of Canada, 2020, heading 7) [2] However, when participants were asked to choose one area of accessibility for the Government of Canada to focus on employment was listed as the first of six areas of priority (Government of Canada, 2020, p. 13).


“Employment is a critical pathway to achieving a good life for many individuals with developmental disabilities. Participation in employment leads to numerous quality of life outcomes, including financial well – being, relationships, belonging, contribution, identity, meaning and health” (Community Living British Columbia, 2013, p. 4). [3]


Improved employment outcomes require a long-term commitment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the activities and programs related to work throughout their education. Individual rights and freedoms related to disabilities are protected by several policies, codes, conventions and laws, e.g., The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Human Rights Codes and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While there is recognition for equal participation of all community members without discrimination, the reality for people with a disability is much different. Research shows that people with disabilities have limited opportunities for community involvement such as post-secondary education and employment, which results in restricted personal potential, poverty, and exclusion (Goundry & Peter, 1998; Weinkauf, 2002). Over the past few decades only marginal progress has been made in decreasing labour force inequities and achieving equitable levels of educational attainment between persons with disabilities and those without. Additionally, there is currently a gap in the education system in BC for students who are not on the track for a Dogwood diploma, which disadvantages many students with disabilities. Meaningful inclusion in those aspects of the curriculum which focus on employment, as well as experiences around work are important components of a successful transition to post-secondary education and employment.

  1. Bizier, C. F., Fawcett, G., Gilbert, S., & Marshall, C. (2015, December 3). Canadian survey on disability, 2012 developmental disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years and older, 2012. Retrieved June 2018, from Statistics Canada: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2015003-eng.htm
  2. Government of Canada. (2020, Novemeber 25). Creating new federal accessibility legislation: What we learned. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/accessible-canada/reports/consultations-what-we-learned.html
  3. Community Living British Columbia. (2013, March 11). Community Action Employment Plan. Community Living British Columbia. https://www.communitylivingbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Community-Action-Employment-Plan-FINAL.pdf 


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Importance of Work Copyright © 2021 by Nicola Soles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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