Municipal election candidates need to make accessibility part of their platforms

Windsorite Kevin McShan writes that people with disabilities are often overlooked and underemployed.

Windsorite Kevin McShan writes that people with disabilities are often overlooked and underemployed

"We're simply asking for a seat at the table of inclusion," says Windsorite Kevin McShan. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Kevin McShan is a motivational speaker and journalist. He has an extensive history in advocating for inclusive employment for individuals with disabilities. McShan enjoys having extensive conversations about a variety of topics and considers himself a sports enthusiast. He lives in south Windsor.

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The city of Windsor is at an inflection point, and there's one fundamental question left for the candidates to answer in the upcoming municipal election: who'll make accessibility a cornerstone of their platform? 

Who will demonstrate truly transformational leadership? 

As an individual who lives with cerebral palsy, that's what I'll be focused on when I head to the ballot box on Oct. 24.

In some form or another, all the major candidates have expressed an interest in making Windsor a more affordable place to live, work and play. On some level, that's an acknowledgement that we're living in challenging times as it relates to access to equitable treatment. For many Windsorites who live with disabilities, we're simply asking for a seat at the table of inclusion.

This is particularly true when it comes to inclusive employment. I've been on all sides of this debate. I've relied on social assistance to make ends meet. I've worked in the non-profit sector helping individuals with disabilities in their employment journey. I've worked in government to play employment matchmaker. I've also been isolated at home searching for hope, inspiration, and the persistence necessary to navigate a system where all the cards are stacked against me to succeed. 

WATCH | McShan speaks with CBC Windsor host Katerina Georgieva about inclusive employment: 

Kevin McShan on why inclusive employment needs to be a priority

10 days ago
Duration 3:10
Motivational speaker and journalist Kevin McShan speaks with CBC Windsor News at 6 Host Katerina Georgieva about why inclusive employment is his top concern this municipal election.

All these experiences have taught me one overriding and clear lesson: there is still more work to do. 

Just look at these numbers from our federal government to illustrate this point in greater detail: 

  • 59 per cent of persons with disabilities are employed compared to 80 per cent of persons without disabilities.
  • The employment rate is even lower for persons with severe disabilities (49 per cent), or for persons with particular disability types such as cognitive disabilities (40 per cent) and physical disabilities (42 per cent).
  • Employed persons with disabilities are more likely to work in lower-skilled jobs.
  • Of the estimated 1.9 million persons with disabilities aged 15 to 64 who are not in school or employed, 852,000 have the potential to work.

If these numbers from the federal Disability Inclusion Action Plan are any indication of a harbinger of things to come, the next leader of Windsor has a real opportunity to make a lasting impact and tremendous difference while being a champion on this issue.   

Here are some friendly suggestions on how to make this an instant reality:

  • Create a citywide initiative which challenges businesses to hire individuals with disabilities.
  • Work with educational institutions across the city to offer more internship opportunities placements for students with disabilities which would allow them the opportunity to gain the experience to get a leg up on planning a prosperous future. 
  • Work with our federal government to create a universal basic income for individuals with disabilities which would allow them the financial security to advance forward in their lives.
  • Finally, create a citywide task force to work alongside the city's accessibility committee to work exclusively on the issue of inclusive employment for individuals with disabilities. 

The next chapter of our city's history will be written in October. It's my fervent hope that our next leader at city hall is ready to carve a pathway of collaboration, fairness, and inclusivity for our special needs community. 

The mantle is ripe for the taking. The question is, are those individuals who have stepped forward ready to accept the challenge and make our city an inclusive champion?  I, for one, will be watching. 

Can our next mayor secure a victory for inclusive employment? That's a question for the candidates, and for us to demand an answer.

Kevin McShan sits in a wheelchair, laughing, in front of a group of bushes
Kevin McShan says he'll be watching for who will demonstrate "truly transformational leadership." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)