Over 87,000 people live with disabilities in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge James Chaarani, CBC News
Posted: Jul 03, 2023
New data from Statistics Canada shows that people with disabilities across the country were paid 21.4 per cent less than those without disabilities in 2019, but a Waterloo Region advocate offers insight as to why this might be.
“I think a lot of people with disabilities don’t get the quality jobs that other people receive because of many stereotypes that employers still have regarding people with disabilities,” said Edward Faruzel, the executive director of KW AccessAbility.
Statistics Canada explained that the pay gap isn’t for workers with and without disabilities doing the exact same jobs. To come up with these figures they’re using what they call an “unadjusted pay gap calculation.”
A spokesperson for Statistics Canada said in an email statement that “the unadjusted pay gap reflects many influences, such as differences in occupation, education, tenure, [etcetera].”
However, Faruzel said that when people with disabilities are applying for a job that they’re qualified for and are up against candidates without disabilities, they’ll face barriers, whether it’s intentional or not.
“I think just the misconception that hiring somebody with a disability is going to cost a lot of money to retrofit the office or make the workplace more accessible, which 99 per cent of the time isn’t the case.”
“It might be just the way you rearrange your office to make it a little bit easier for people to get around or some minor changes, but most of the time there’s really not too much that needs to be done to make it accessible for someone.”
He said that a misconception regarding the health of people with disabilities exists too; and that they might be absent from work more than others because of it.
“When in fact, it’s probably the opposite because a lot of people with disabilities, they want to prove themselves in the real world,” he said. “And so they work just as hard or harder than other people just to show that just because I have a disability doesn’t mean I can’t do it.”
There were 87,600 people living with disabilities in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge as of 2017, which accounts for 20.8 per cent of the population who are over 14 years of age.
Progress on the employment front is slow
Faruzel said that there’s been a lot of progress for people living with disabilities – but on the employment equity front, progress has been slow.
“This has been going on for years,” said Faruzel. “Ever since I can remember, it’s been extremely difficult for people with disabilities to get gainful employment.”
“I thought that perhaps over time, so many other things have changed, like the accessibility of transportation and buildings and stuff like that becoming more accessible, I’d really hope that employment would also follow, but it seems like that is definitely lagging behind all the other positives that society has done.”
Despite this, Faruzel said that he still is hopeful for change long term – he feels that it may be coming next.
“It has to start with buildings and transportation, those sorts of things,” he said. “That’s the foundation to build upon them.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Chaarani is a reporter/editor for CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.