September 16, 2015
Did you know? Do you care? Almost one-half million people in British Columbia identify as having a disability. About 335,000 of these are between the ages of 15 and 64. In other words, these are people with who are contributing richly to the economy of the province and the community.
What is a disability? I, along with most of us used to think of disability in terms of those confined to a wheel chair or who use a white cane or guide dog to move about. Within the last two years I lost the center vision of my right eye. Until recently I had not thought of that as a disability because I can still function quite well with only one eye. But I am restricted. What I used to do without a second thought – as in using a level or other measuring instrument in construction projects, as in sighting a rifle, as in doing fine work on my lathe, as in filling the chain oil tank on my chainsaw without overfilling – I now have to concentrate carefully to accomplish. I am also much more conscious of the vulnerability of my left eye. Life for me would change dramatically if I lost that.
I am also much more aware of the meaning of disability and of the various levels of disability and of the challenges with which at least a half-million British Columbians live.
Within the District of Chetwynd’s 3000 people how many people with a disability live and work? Extrapolating the figures from British Columbia, we have potentially 330 persons with some level of disability in Chetwynd.
How many of these are engaged in productive and satisfying employment? How many are contributing fully to life in our community? We don’t know.
But there are a few things we do know. Of persons with a disability, 55% of ages 15-64 participate in the labour market. Of persons without a disability in this age group, 78% participate in the labour market. The unemployment rate among persons aged 15-64 with disabilities is 11.6% compared to 7.1% for persons without disabilities. As for education levels, about 18% of people with a disability have a university degree.
We also know that workers with a disability are five times more likely than other workers to stay on the job. This is something for employers to note in these times of high worker mobility. Many employers have concerns about their ability to accommodate a worker with a disability and with the cost of accommodating. In reality, the cost is not great. On average, the cost of accommodation is a mere $ 500. How’s that for a person five times more likely to remain loyal to her or his employer?
Accommodation and accessibility should matter to everyone. People with disabilities, their families, their friends, their employers, and their communities are the true champions and advocates for accessibility for everyone here in Chetwynd.
Your local government also has an obligation and privilege to be a part of accommodation.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor