Ottawa

Budget falls short for disabled workers, advocates say

Advocates for the rights of people with disabilities say they're disappointed the latest federal budget doesn't contain more money to create inclusive public service workplaces.

Liberals pledge to make public service workplaces more inclusive, accessible

The federal government's 2019 budget includes funds to help make public service workplaces more inclusive, which could include adding technology to assist workers who are visually impaired. (The Associated Press)

Advocates for the rights of people with disabilities say they're disappointed the latest federal budget doesn't contain more money to create inclusive public service workplaces.

If implemented, the budget would provide Shared Services Canada with an additional $2.7 million per year to help identify, remove and prevent technological barriers in federal government workplaces.

It's a start, but it's not anywhere near enough.- Brian Tarif , advocate

"I would applaud the government for at least acknowledging within the budget some initiative to create more jobs for people with disabilities," said Brian Tarif, former executive director of Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa. "It's a start, but it's not anywhere near enough."

According to the budget, the Liberal government has committed to hiring at least 5,000 people with disabilities by 2024.

"For me, the disappointing piece is the 5,000 number. That's a thousand people a year, and that's not a lot when you think that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is significantly higher than the average unemployment rate," said Tarif.

"Where's the message for the private sector in creating inclusive employment opportunities? Where's the support for the private sector?" he added.

New technology needed

Louise Gillis, national president of the Canadian Council of the Blind, says the federal government's 2019 budget is a good start, but more money is needed to help make federal workplaces more accessible. (Supplied)
Louise Gillis, national president of the Canadian Council of the Blind, said the need to improve federal workplaces is even more pressing for people with vision loss.

"The blind community has the highest unemployment rate of all disabilities," Gillis said. "To get jobs for persons with vision loss, technology needs to be upgraded greatly."

Gillis is hopeful more money will be allocated in future budgets to help the government meet new standards if and when Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, becomes law.

"It's not a lot of money, it's only a start," Gillis said. 

Still, Gillis echoed Tarif's reaction to the government's decision to include new spending to improve federal workplaces.

"It's great to see that they're at least thinking of us in this budget, which was not the case before," Gillis said. 

Accessible reading materials

The budget also allocates money to print new accessible reading materials, including:

  • $22.8 million over five years to help Canada's independent book publishing industry increase its production of accessible books.
  • $3 million to produce new accessible reading materials that will be available through public libraries across Canada.

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