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December 3rd, 2011

Sisters and Brothers,

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The United Nations has given this year’s day the theme “Full Participation and Equality,” a concept that we, as CUPE members, can fully support.

Today is also the last day of CUPE Ontario’s Human Rights Conference, a conference that opened with the announcement of a new Employment Equity campaign. This campaign is one step on the road to equity for people with disabilities, racialized workers, women, First Nations and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.

Employment equity is about identifying and breaking down barriers to employment and advancement in the workplace. On this day, please take some time to think about what barriers may exist in your workplace. There are physical barriers that may prevent some people from working there. Those are structural barriers that, with a bit of investment, we can fairly easily overcome. But there are also perceptual barriers that keep our sisters and brothers with disabilities from getting hired or promoted.

Today, unemployment among people with disabilities is twice the national average.

As all levels of government begin massive layoffs and budget cuts, this situation will only get worse. They will mean more people with disabilities becoming unemployed and thrown into a private sector that does not have a great track record for accommodation.

Also, austerity budgets mean less money for all programs. With the deep cuts we are seeing in cities like Toronto and at Queen’s Park, where will money come from to install more wheelchair ramps, make washrooms and other facilities accessible, to overhaul information systems so that they work for blind and deaf people?

The austerity plan being fed to us by right-wing politicians will make for less equitable workplaces. And it is an approach we do not need to pursue. Only by building a strong, fair economy with good public-sector jobs can we truly make a difference in equity and equal access for people with disabilities.


Fred Hahn                                                                 Candace Rennick

President, CUPE Ontario                                           Secretary Treasurer

Click Here to download the letter in English and French