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Letter to Members: International Day of Persons with Disabilities
December 3rd, 2012
Sisters and Brothers,
Today marks the 31st anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The United Nations has given this year’s day the theme “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”
As CUPE members, it is a theme we can strongly support. Through collective bargaining, we continue to create more accessible and accommodating workplaces, and we work toward a day when our society is fully inclusive.
Government attacks on our collective bargaining rights are attacks on the very goals of inclusiveness and accessibility. The rights that have been negotiated for all workers can have a profound effect on some. Sick leave provisions, for example, are important to all of us, but stripping these benefits will seriously affect persons with disabilities, particularly those who may have an episodic disability or a long-term illness or injury.
Today also marks the launch of CUPE’s new, national disability rights awareness campaign, “A Solidarity of Abilities.” The six-month campaign will raise awareness of disability issues and provide tools to help ensure the rights of workers with disabilities are understood and upheld.
Right now, CUPE Ontario’s Workers with Disabilities Committee is also preparing a provincial campaign to raise awareness and to provide workplace education about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Watch for information and resources in the new year.
Educating our employers, our neighbours, our co-workers and ourselves is vital to creating the understanding needed to build an inclusive and accessible society. There remains a significant stigma to disability, and people with less visible disabilities such as chronic pain or intermittent disabilities are particularly vulnerable.
Approximately 15 percent of the population has a disability, and unemployment among people with disabilities is twice the national average. We need to continue raising awareness, continue fighting for the rights of disabled workers in our collective agreements, and indeed, work even harder to defend our democratic rights to bargain contracts so that workers with disabilities are given the accessible workplaces and the respect they deserve.