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Ability N.B. says more accessibility a way to reach new employees eager for work

Haley Flaro, executive director of Ability New Brunswick, encourages businesses to sign up for a free review of their business through Accessible N.B. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Haley Flaro, executive director of Ability New Brunswick, encourages businesses to sign up for a free review of their business through Accessible N.B. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

A new service launched Friday by Ability New Brunswick hopes to help businesses become more accessible — for their employees and their customers.

Accessible N.B. will offer free assessments and "provide recommendations for new design, modifications or adaptations" for businesses of all  sizes, according to its website.

More than 26 per cent of New Brunswickers live with a disability, according to Ability N.B., the second highest percentage in Canada.

Haley Flaro, executive director of the organization, said there's a lot of work to be done.

"Many businesses have certain accessible features, maybe they have a ramp to code, maybe they have an accessible bathroom, but maybe their doors aren't wide enough, maybe they don't have accessible parking nearby."

Mark Crosby/CBC News
Mark Crosby/CBC News

Those who want to participate can sign up for a review, which will be done by one of the program's trained staff.

"It's an upstream preventative education piece, it's completely voluntary," said Flaro, to Information Morning Fredericton.

"It's completely confidential. We're not in the business of embarrassing people. We're in the business of working at the table to make improvements."

Flaro said some recommendations they make for accommodation can be quick fixes, while others require longer term commitments.

And while there are no penalties for not following through on the recommendations following a review, Ability N.B. can connect business people with resources available to them if the changes seem too expensive or daunting.

Stephanie Cadieux, the federal government's chief accessibility officer, who was in New Brunswick for the launch, said there are many people living with a disability who are eager to work, but struggle to find an employer who can accommodate them.

Submitted by Office of the Chief Accessibility Officer/Maria Koehn
Submitted by Office of the Chief Accessibility Officer/Maria Koehn

"We have an untapped labour pool of people with disabilities in our country at a time when employers across our country are looking for people," she told Information Morning Fredericton.

"We need to encourage employers to understand what they need to do to become accessible both to employees and customers so that they can tap into that.

Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton chamber of commerce, said she thinks it's a positive program for the business community, especially since even if they realize they may have barriers, they are not always aware of what those barriers are or how to overcome them.

"I think businesses are going to be excited about it," she said. "I talk to businesses every single day that can't find the employees that they need and this is another way by which they can, you know, work to be modernized in their workplace so that they can find those employees that they need."