SPECIAL: The case for hiring people who have different abilities



PEOPLE with disabilities want to work. They are not being hired.

According to the Minister of Industry[1], the prevalence of disability within the Canadian population is 15% which equates to approximately 1 in 7 people. Research[2] continues to show that unemployment rates amongst people with disabilities is much higher than those who do not have any challenges. A disability can include a physical limitation such as a loss of a limb, a developmental or neurological disability such as autism, or a psychiatric disorder such as bipolar or depression.

Disability affects people of all religions, races, and backgrounds. It can occur from birth or during one’s lifetime. It can happen to anyone. As a society and community, is it not time that we started to change the attitudes around hiring people with different abilities?

One of the most common reasons that employers have for not hiring someone with a disability is because the employer does not believe the person is able to keep up or do the work. Employers are limited by their own imagination about what jobs can be done by a person who cannot walk or is blind. However, people with these challenges are changing stereotypes all the time; take, for example, the case of the blind mechanic[3] who owns his own auto repair shop. If you had asked me before I started taking Employment Support courses at Douglas College, whether a blind person could be a mechanic, I would have wondered, “How is that possible?” but it is. And it has been done more than once. If I, someone who has been working with a diverse population for over 10 years, can be so limited in my thinking, it is no wonder that employers question whether a wheel-chair bound person can keep up with the duties of a busy store-front.

There are known advantages to hiring people with physical, psychological and developmental challenges. Employers can easily accommodate these employees for little or no cost to them[4], and the benefits heavily outweigh the initial price of accommodation. People with disabilities have a lower level of absenteeism and higher rates of job retention.[5] Moreover, employers that hire people with disabilities discover that new and creative skills are brought to the workplace and the morale of the people in the workplace tends to increase as well.[6] Lastly, consumers look favourably upon companies that hire inclusively. A survey published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, found that more people would prefer to give their business to companies that hire inclusively versus those that do not. [7]

An individual on Persons with Disabilities benefits can earn $800.00 a month ($9600.00 a year) without any penalizations from the benefits. There are several agencies in Surrey and all over Canada that specifically work with employers and job seekers to help find good matches for both parties. Some of these agencies even participate in schemes that help subsidize employee pay with government or agency funds or know ways of helping offset accommodation costs.

There are several reasons for hiring people with disabilities, and I would love to see more people in our community being hired in meaningful work places. We have a country of great employers who are trying to figure out ways to stand out from the crowd. One of the ways they can increase workplace morale, retain employees, and learn to think differently is by taking a chance on hiring a person that is differently abled. Just because a person might not be able to do the same job as someone else does not mean they can’t still do a great job.


Tanisha Dhamrait-Santino is a certified BC teacher, a behaviour consultant, a candidate for a Master’s student for an MS in Applied Behaviour Analysis, and a student at Douglas College in the Employment Supports program.



[1] Minister of Industry (2015). Canadian Survey on Disability. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 89-654x. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2015001-eng.htm

[2] Turcotte, M (2014). Persons with disabilities and employment. Insights on Canadian Society. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 75-006-X. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2014001/article/14115-eng.htm

[3] American Foundation for the Blind. (2017). Profile of Larry Woody, Blind Mechanic and Auto Repair Shop Owner. Retrieved from http://www.afb.org/info/living-with-vision-loss/for-job-seekers/our-stories/business/mechanic-and-repair-shop-owner-profile/12345

[4] Gewurtz, R. E., Langan, S., & Shand, D. (2016). Hiring people with disabilities: A scoping review. Work54(1), 135. doi:10.3233/WOR-162265

[5] Obid


[6] Scott, M., Jacob, A., Hendrie, D., Parsons, R., Girdler, S., Falkmer, T., & Falkmer, M. (2017). Employers’ perception of the costs and the benefits of hiring individuals with autism spectrum disorder in open employment in Australia. Plos ONE12(5), 1-16. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0177607

[7] Siperstein, G. N., Romano, N., Mohler, A., & Parker, R. (n.d). A national survey of consumer attitudes towards companies that hire people with disabilities. Journal Of Vocational Rehabilitation24(1), 3-9.



  1. For your information, there is a movement to end wage subsidies for persons with disabilities across Canada as they are proven not to work and are open to abuse.

    The BC and Canadian governments must stop using wage subsidies to market the hiring of persons with disabilities



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