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December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a day to renew our commitment to fighting for the rights, dignity and well-being of persons with disabilities.
This year, one of the focuses chosen by the United Nations is “Creating Enabling Work Environments.” The UN holds that the right to work is a fundamental human right and employers should undertake measures to identify and eliminate barriers to the employment, advancement and retention of persons with disabilities.
For more than 50 years, CUPE Ontario has been standing up for fairness and together, we have made important advances in accessibility and equality for workers with disabilities.
By bargaining strong language in our collective agreements, we help to make our workplaces more accessible. Through political action, we support laws that break down barriers throughout society.
Despite the important advances we have made, the road to equality for persons with disabilities remains a long one.
Approximately 14 percent of people have some form of disability, according to Statistics Canada. Persons with disabilities face higher rates of unemployment and poverty. While there have been gains made in moving towards accessibility across the public sector, provincial government cuts to every ministry jeopardize this work. On this day, we must draw attention to who it is that will pay the price for the Liberal corporate tax cuts that are driving their agenda of service cuts.
In Ontario, we made an important step forward with the passing of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in 2004. Passing a law is just a first step, though. It is only a meaningful step if it is followed up with a campaign of public education and with enforcement of the law. Ontario has dragged its feet on these elements.
CUPE Ontario’s Workers with Disabilities Committee is monitoring progress on the law, and is also producing a resource binder for each local. This will contain a wealth of information from which we may all learn and help create more accessible, inclusive workplaces.
We also encourage locals to make it a priority to send workers with disabilities to CUPE Ontario conferences and to our Convention in May. Workers with disabilities face many barriers to employment and we need their knowledge, experience and voices to continue our fight for fairness, for equality, and for accessible and inclusive workplaces.