Working with people who have disabilities isn't counterproductive. You're likely already doing it. Almost half a million Albertans have a disability of some kind. That number is only going to increase with the aging population, so the sooner you learn to adapt to people with disabilities, the better prepared your organization will be.

BMO Study: Four in 10 Small Business Owners Hiring People With Disabilities

BMO Financial Group today released a study which found that four in 10 (39 per cent) Canadian small business owners indicated they had hired someone with a disability. This represents a significant increase - up 34 per cent - from 2013, when only three in 10 (29 per cent) small business owners had hired someone with a disability.

In Canada, Persons with Disabilities are defined as those who have a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning disability.

"It's really encouraging to see that more and more small businesses not only understand the business case for hiring people with disabilities, but are taking measurable action by tapping into this very skilled, capable and motivated talent pool," said Sonya Kunkel, Chief Diversity Officer & Vice President Talent Strategies, BMO Financial Group. "Research shows that more diverse and inclusive workplaces drive stronger performance, create more successful and engaged employees and build competitive advantage. Collectively, we're making good progress in building understanding and awareness. But businesses of all sizes in Canada still have work to do to translate this knowledge into programs that will effectively reduce the disproportionate number of people with disabilities in Canada who remain unemployed."

According to the study, the majority (86 per cent) of small business owners agree that workplace diversity is an asset. However, only 36 per cent say their company has a formal program in place to promote diversity and inclusion.

Ms. Kunkel added, "Having a program in place sets the stage - and a standard - for everyone to talk openly about their differences. It can also help reduce stigma, break down barriers and ensure employees have the support they need to perform at their best."

Several years ago, BMO introduced Count Me In - a program that encourages employees with disabilities, including those in executive leadership positions, to self-identify with their colleagues; to talk about their experiences, challenges and successes; and to stand as role models for others within the organization.

Since the creation of Count Me In, the number of employees with disabilities in the Greater Toronto Division alone has doubled. By raising awareness and opening the conversation, this national campaign has helped dispel the myths that have perpetuated misconceptions and bias surrounding Persons with Disabilities. These conversations and awareness foster a more inclusive and accessible workplace for employees with disabilities and all employees.

Results cited above come from a Pollara telephone survey of 502 Canadian business owners, conducted between August 11th and 28th, 2014. 2013 results come from a Pollara telephone survey of 301 Canadian business owners, conducted between August 22nd and September 10th, 2013.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified financial services organization based in North America. The bank offers a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers. BMO Financial Group had more than $586 billion in total assets and approximately 47,000 employees at July 31, 2014.

Workplace disability more common than Canadian workers believe - RBC study

Canadian workers vastly underestimate the likelihood that they will become disabled, according to a recent RBC Insurance survey. Nearly half of Canadian workers (45 per cent) believe that disability occurs infrequently, however disability is more common than Canadians realize. In fact, one-in-seven Canadians are currently disabled and one-in-three working Canadians will experience a period of disability lasting longer than 90 days during their working lives1.

"When it comes to disability, what Canadians don't know can hurt them," explains Mark Hardy, senior manager, Life and Living Benefits, RBC Insurance. "The research indicates that Canadians are overly optimistic about avoiding a disability and that lack of understanding reinforces the need for more education around this critical issue."

Disability Defined – Not what you think
When it comes to defining what a disability is, the majority of Canadians consider physical accidents (72 per cent) and workplace-related accidents (64 per cent) to be a disability. Only 45 per cent of Canadians surveyed consider depression to be a disability and less than a third believe that anxiety (30 per cent) and diabetes (21 per cent) are a disability.

"There is a mistaken perception that disabilities tend to be catastrophic in nature—caused by one-time, traumatic events. Most Canadians don't recognize that common, chronic conditions such as mental illness cause the majority of disabilities. In fact, less than 10 per cent of disabilities are caused by accidents," says Hardy.

The survey revealed other misconceptions that many Canadians have regarding disability, including:

Myth: Only 20 per cent of Canadian workers believe a disability would most impact their ability to work.
Fact: More than three-in-five (62 per cent) Canadian workers have been exposed to someone having taken time off of work due to a disability, with one-in-four (25 per cent) having had taken this time themselves.

Myth: Seventy-three per cent of Canadians agree that the chance of disability can be reduced through a healthy lifestyle.
Fact: While lifestyle choices do impact your chances of disability, there are still one-in-two Canadians aged 18 and over who consider themselves to be obese and one-in-five Canadians who smoke2.

Myth: One-in-four agree that disability is the result of not being careful.
Fact: Mental illness, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis cause more disabilities than accidents3. In fact, these diseases are six times more likely to be the case of disability.

Canadian Workers Need to Confirm Coverage
Many Canadians believe they have enough coverage through their employer, which according to the RBC Insurance survey, was the top reason for not purchasing individual disability insurance. However, many benefit plans have a limit to the amount of coverage that is provided.

"The most important first step is for Canadians to confirm the benefits available through their employer and ensure they have adequate coverage. Some things to look for include how your plan defines a disability; does your plan provide valuable return to work services; and if you're covered for illness as well as injury," Hardy explains. "There are many solutions to help fill the gap in coverage, from top up insurance provided through your employer, or seeking out any of a variety of individual protection options that may fit your specific needs and budget."

About the RBC Insurance Survey
RBC Insurance commissioned Ipsos to conduct a survey to gauge public opinion of Canadian workers regarding matters related to disability, disability in the workplace, and disability insurance coverage. The survey was conducted between July 14 to July 18, 2014. In total, a sample of n=1,000 employed Canadians was surveyed online using Ipsos's I-Say online panel. The precision of Ipsos's online survey are measured using a credibility interval, in this case the results are considered accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had the entire population of Canadian workers been polled.

About RBC Insurance
RBC Insurance®, through its operating entities, provides a wide range of travel, life, health, home, auto, wealth and reinsurance products and solutions, as well as creditor and business insurance services to individual, business and group clients. RBC Insurance has more than four million clients globally. We are one of the largest Canadian bank-owned group of insurance companies, and among the fastest growing insurance organizations in the country. RBC Insurance employs more than 3,000 employees, and is the brand name for the insurance operating entities of Royal Bank of Canada.

1 Statistics Canada, Commissioners disability table A
2 Canadian Institute for Health Information – Health Indicators 2013 – Self Reported conditions and health behaviours
3 World Health Organization – Disease and Injury country estimates [Retrieved November 2013]

SOURCE RBC Insurance

New report details Alberta’s high-demand occupations

The Short-Term Employment Forecast 2014-2016 looks at 260 occupations across the wage and skills spectrum and reveals 31 that are expected to be in highest demand.

“In Alberta, we have more jobs available than people to fill them. It’s important we continue to attract and retain workers from Canada and abroad to help fuel the needs of our economy. Effective labour force planning is key to putting the right kind of information in the hands of those who need it.”
Kyle Fawcett, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour

Most occupations in the high and moderately high-demand categories require college education or apprenticeship training. The report looks at seven variables to determine where demand is heading, including:

  • employment growth rates;
  • industry forecasts;
  • the unemployment rate; and
  • vacancy rates from wage and salary surveys
The Short-Term Employment Forecast is released annually to help bridge the gap between what is happening now in Alberta’s economy and where the labour pressure points are expected to be longer term. It is a complementary tool to Alberta’s Occupational Demand and Supply Outlook that forecasts labour shortages for the next ten years. Alberta’s most recent long-term forecast predicts that Alberta will be short 96,000 workers by 2023.

Sustaining Alberta’s growing economy requires a skilled and permanent workforce. Our government’s broad workforce and immigration strategy includes helping Albertans find jobs and employers find workers, attracting workers from other provinces based on our economic needs and continued advocacy on immigration issues with the federal government.

All Technology Is Assistive Technology

Six dispositions for designers on disability

You might imagine that “disability studies” is just one more category of identity that’s purely for political advocacy, interesting only to those directly affected by issues of accessibility, accommodation, or special rights. But “disabledness” is a far more slippery designation than even the other notorious ways cultures have of historically organizing themselves—along the lines of race, gender, ethnicity, and the rest. And while these latter categories have also been shown to be much less stable than once thought, disability is another matter altogether. There are at least two big reasons why disability concerns are everyone’s concerns.

First, it’s a false divide to make a we/them: either able-minded, able-bodied, or disabled. After all, how cultures define, think about, and treat those who currently have marked disabilities is how all its future citizens may well be perceived if and when those who are able-bodied become less abled than they are now: by age, degeneration, or some sudden—or gradual—change in physical or mental capacities. All people, over the course of their lives, traffic between times of relative independence and dependence. So the questions cultures ask, the technologies they invent, and how those technologies broadcast a message about their users—weakness and strength, agency and passivity—are important ones. And they’re not just questions for scientists and policy-makers; they’re aesthetic questions too.

Second, in many cultures—and certainly in the US—a pervasive, near-obsession with averages and statistical norms about bodies and capacities has become a naturalized form of describing both individuals and populations. But this way of measuring people and populations is historically very recent, and worth reconsidering.

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