Nova Scotia

New committee aims to remove employment barriers for people with disabilities in N.S.

The 18-member group will assist the justice minister's Accessibility Advisory Board in preparing recommendations for the province.

The 18-member committee will advise the government on how to make employment equitable

Alice Evans is the executive director of Prescott Group, an organization that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities 'find friendship, community and success in Halifax.' (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Eighteen Nova Scotians have been selected to form a committee that will help advance the province's path toward accessibility.

Members of the new employment standard development committee were announced Friday on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The group will work to support people with disabilities in finding, maintaining and advancing in employment.

Alice Evans, the executive director of Prescott Group, an organization in Halifax that works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will be the committee's vice-chair. 

"[This committee] is significant because it's looking at legislation and law and what we can do to actually remove barriers for people with disabilities throughout Nova Scotia," Evans said.

Most of the committee's members identify as a person with a disability or represent an organization that works with people who are disabled.

The committee will assist the justice minister's Accessibility Advisory Board in preparing recommendations for the government. 

Accessibility Act 

The province's Accessibility Act sets the goal of making Nova Scotia accessible by 2030. Employment is the third standard area to be addressed.

"It's especially important for Nova Scotia because we have one of the highest rates of people with disabilities in the whole of Canada," Evans said. "I'm really excited to see how Nova Scotia can grow and change. And I know that you've just got to step up and do the work." 

Leslie Yorke, a job developer and employment support practitioner with YMCA Cape Breton in Glace Bay, is another member of the committee. 

Leslie Yorke says creating provincewide accessibility standards for employers will help give voice to people with disabilities who are looking to work. (Submitted by Leslie Yorke)

"In Cape Breton, it's difficult to get into the labour market regardless of a disability, so when we add on the fact that somebody may have a disability, it can come with a lot of judgment," Yorke said.

"So a lot of the time, employers have predetermined thoughts about what they may get when they hire folks with disabilities that really isn't reflective of their actual abilities." 

Yorke said she's happy Cape Breton will be represented because smaller communities can sometimes "get lost in the bigger picture" when it comes to accessibility. 

"I want to make sure that it's really equitable and that we're talking about everybody, and not just folks in bigger communities," she said.

She believes implementing accessible employment standards across the province will benefit many.

"If we have a set of standards that are known and that employers could really get help and assistance through ... it could really help not only employers in that way, but also give a voice to the folks who are looking for work."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicola Seguin is a multi-platform reporter with CBC Nova Scotia, based in Kjipuktuk (Halifax). If you have a story idea, email her at nicola.seguin@cbc.ca or find her on twitter @nicseg95.

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