There is a growing recognition among employers, governments, and the public at large of the valuable contributions that people with disabilities bring to Canadian workplaces. At the same time, concerns about skills shortages and labour market supply issues have been a dominant theme of Canadian and international policy discussion. A recent report of the federal ‘Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities,’ Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector (2013) points to a growing awareness among private sector employers that the skills of people with disabilities have not been utilized to their full potential.
People with developmental disabilities, in particular, have much to offer employers. With employment rates hovering in the 25-30% range, they are nowhere near the national average for people without disabilities and fall far behind the average employment rates for people with other disabilities. Yet, as is borne out by the research presented here, there have been extremely positive returns when concerted efforts have been directed toward employment of this group. For employers, people with developmental disabilities form a largely untapped and for the most part unrecognized labour pool. For governments, they form a group that is most vulnerable to slipping through the cracks and remaining completely outside of the labour force—in turn representing great economic and social costs.
This research was undertaken to inquire into the nature of this challenge and to gain a better understanding of effective methods aimed at increasing employment of people with developmental disabilities. Its purpose is to identify best practices for more effectively bridging the skills and competencies of working age adults with developmental disabilities with increasing demand among employers.
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