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Delegates Encouraged To Think About Improving Access To Employment For Disabled People

ST. JOHN'S
NADYA BELL
The Telegram

Delegates attending a Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) conference this week are being encouraged to think about how they can improve access to employment for persons with disabilities.

The CCRW national conference "Employment Now! Diversity Planning for Inclusive Employment" began Sunday and continues today in St. John's.

"It is about employment now, it's not about employment in a decade, so the conference value will be what each of us makes of it," said CCRW board chairwoman Jackie Challenger.

"We really want to build out the framework for what we hope will be a national employment delivery strategy, so my question to all of you is how can each of us, individually, contribute to this framework?" she said.

Human Resources Minister Shawn Skinner said, at the conference opening, his department is working on creating a disability policy office to inform all of government.

Skinner said he will be interested to hear the results from the conference, especially as they relate to awareness of statutory obligations, the cost of accommodations and attitudes towards people with disabilities.

"Those are three very relevant things in terms of the kinds of experiences I've had here in the province as minister responsible for the status of persons with disabilities," he said.

"Any recommendations related to those three areas would be recommendations that I would be very interested in trying to build some policy."

Skinner said he will change one of his titles to minister responsible for the status of persons with disabilities, after hearing from people in the community that they prefer that wording.

While the Department of Human Resources recently announced the creation of an employment specialist for people with vision problems, Skinner says there are three more programs expected to be announced in the near future.

St. John's Deputy Mayor and local businessman Ron Ellsworth also spoke at the conference, saying it is an excellent opportunity to learn about the best practices in disability employment across the country.

"It's important that we all come together throughout the country to understand the challenges that are there are not just yours, they face many communities, they face many individuals," Ellsworth said.

"By coming together it gives us an opportunity to figure out what other people have done well, and what we're not doing so well," he said.

Ellsworth said he thinks education is still the biggest challenge for fully employing people with disabilities.

One area where employer education is especially important is in the skilled trades area, according to Emily Arrowsmith who works with the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.

Arrowsmith says the stigma against disability in the workplace is so great in the trades area, that they had difficulty finding anyone working with a disability to interview for their research, because many have not disclosed their condition with their employer.

Of people who have managed to complete a trade certificate, Arrowsmith says only 34.8 per cent are working in a related trade. 07/10/08

Reproduced from http://www.thewesternstar.com/index.cfm?sid=178284&sc=26

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