When workplaces have discussions about diversity and inclusion one group which can sometimes be overlooked is workers with disabilities.
People with disabilities can face barriers accessing employment and getting into job interviews, says Sean McEwen, director of RealEyes Capacity Consultants Inc.
"Those are the things people are struggling with," he said.
"Employers can build their workplace diversity inclusion capacity and skill set by working with service providers, getting the right person with a disability into their workplace and learning how to create a more inclusive workplace culture," he said.
Disability itself is diverse, McEwen said. There are over 300 disabling conditions, he added, and disabilities can be visible and invisible.
"We can be talking about medical disabilities, hearing loss, vision loss, mental health issues," he said. "I think that the assumptions that we make about disability being very limiting, those assumptions are limiting in themselves, you know, because very often the disability creates some strengths."
'Very positive impact'
McEwen said one of the main things employers struggle with is their capacity to mentor, supervise and include somebody "they are perceiving as very different from them.
"We're all human beings … I know we like to say we're all very different, but actually there's a lot of similarities between us in terms of what works for us and what doesn't in a workplace."
He says that employees with a disability often bring new perspectives to a workplace.
"New employees with disabilities often have a very positive impact on the workplace in terms of employee engagement, culture, safety," he said. "They bring an awful lot of interesting things to the table that are generally underestimated."
Over the next 15 years Canada will lose about 35 per cent of its workforce due to people "aging out," McEwen said.
Some of that workforce will have to be replaced with people with disabilities — and it's a good idea for Island employers to get started hiring now, he said.
"It's the same as it would be with anyone. What we are asking is give people an interview, see what you think of them, see what you think of their skills," McEwen said.
"We want to make sure the exact same thing the employer wants to make sure of, we want to make sure it is a good fit for the job."
McEwen is the guest speaker at a workplace inclusion symposium put on by the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities on Friday.
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