This September marks the 3rd annual Disability Employment Month in British Columbia. According to the Government of BC, Disability Employment Month is an occasion to recognize both inclusive employers and the influence that people living with disabilities have on the workplace.
Contributing to the workforce
Julia Halipchuk, a structural design engineer and Cerebral Palsy Association of BC Board of Directors member, is a good example of an individual with a physical disability who contributes positively to the workforce. Not only does Julia contribute to de-stigmatizing cerebral palsy by speaking about what it is like to live with CP, she also assists others living with the condition through CPABC’s Pre-Employment Program and by taking part in fundraising events such as the Scotiabank Charity Challenge and Steptember. On living with CP, Julia says:
It is very much a piece of who I am and I think that has been a huge contributor to my resiliency and creative thinking, both skills that I apply to my personal and professional lives. . . I know my physical limitations have made me shy away from an active lifestyle but I am very happy with the life that I lead.
Another contributing voice to the discussion surrounding inclusive employment is Carrie Torrans, Life Without Limits Community Connector at CPABC.
Despite the fact that I have years of education including a social work degree from University of British Columbia and a degree in Disability Studies, it took me over 4 years to find a job. In my experience, society is not really open to hiring people with disabilities. Disability Employment Month is extremely important because it provides an opportunity to show society that people with disabilities are in fact employable.
In light of a 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) which showed that working-age people with disabilities had significantly lower employment rates than people without disabilities (Statistics Canada, 2015), Carrie’s testimony demonstrates the impact that occasions like Disability Employment Month can have in bringing attention to this inequity in employment.
Tanabe Bursary provides financial aid
Regarding career support for students with disabilities, one way in which CPABC helps further the vocational goals of students living with cerebral palsy is through the Tanabe Bursary, an annual bursary granted by the organization to students from BC living with CP. One of the recipients of the Tanabe Bursary is nineteen year-old Amanda Albers, a mechanical engineering student at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. As the bursary covers part of Amanda’s tuition and textbook fees, the Tanabe Bursary provided by CPABC gives Amanda the financial aid she needs to finish her studies and achieve her occupational goals.
Another program that CPABC conducts for career-minded individuals with physical disabilities is the Pre-Employment Program, which offers hard and soft skill development in both workshop and practical settings. The program is free of charge and there is a 2.5-3 month commitment period. The Cerebral Palsy Association of BC also provides funding for the purchase of equipment assistive devices which can be used in the workplace.
Disability Employment Month creates opportunities to celebrate inclusivity and the limitless value which persons living with disabilities bring to the workforce.