Toronto – November 28, 2013 – In 1992, the United Nations proclaimed December 3, as International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is a day to reflect on what has been achieved and what must still be done to bring full equality and inclusion for community members living with a disability.
About one in seven Canadians lives with a disability that may impact them physically, cognitively, or psychologically. Yet, when accommodated most persons living with a disability are more than capable of contributing their talents and energy as family members, workers and community members.
To make that possible, people with disabilities must have the same access to the services and opportunities that non-disabled people have. The rights to equity for persons with disabilities have been specifically enshrined in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms since 1985. This includes equal access to education, job training, transportation, housing, and employment.
Yet, Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers to accessing training, social services and employment; so not surprisingly, are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as other Canadians. So despite what the law says, the discrimination faced by persons with disabilities remains an obstacle. Shamefully, the Harper government's decision to cut off funding to 18 national disability organizations added to the inequity by muzzling those who advocate for the rightful inclusion of persons with disabilities — a travesty just two years after the Harper government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
On December 3, let us recommit to breaking down the barriers faced by people living with a disability. As Canada's leading union we must continue to promote inclusion and access in the workplace and the community for persons whose disabilities do not prevent them from doing good work, but only gaining access to it. On the political level, we must work to elect governments that respect human rights, and which recognize that it takes more action than just signing a convention to make inclusion and equality a reality for millions of Canadians, who given the opportunity, are ready and able to contribute their abilities.