Social Development Minister Shane Simpson watches a demonstration of voice-to-text equipment at a WorkBC employment office, November 2018. (B.C. government)

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is close to 50 per cent, and B.C. needs them as much as they want to work, the president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce says.

Val Litwin spoke Monday at an announcement by the B.C. government on its plan to help people with disabilities find jobs, in an economy with a million job openings ahead and a labour shortage already being felt.

Social Development Minister Shane Simpson said more than 900,000 B.C. residents aged 15 and older have some form of disability, nearly one in four people. Simpson has toured the province seeking input from them on new accessibility measures, and “almost without exception they talked about how they wanted to have a job.”

The ministry opened a public consultation Monday on the subject, to inform new B.C. legislation being developed for next year. Community groups, libraries and other organizations can apply for $2,000 grants to host discussion forums, and an online input page will be available until Nov. 29.

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The province has already equipped its WorkBC offices with adaptive technology such as voice input equipment and alternative keyboards, so more people can search and apply for jobs.

The provincial legislation is to build on the Accessible Canada Act, passed this spring in Ottawa to cover areas of federal jurisdiction. Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec have moved ahead with their own complementary legislation.

“Integrating accessibility into every area of life is central to creating livable communities, including workplaces, buildings, neighbourhoods and businesses,” Simpson said.


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