To all the Canadian employers out there — just give people with disabilities a chance

People with disabilities bring a lot to the table and do the job just as well as anyone else. We just need a chance to prove ourselves.

We just need an opportunity to prove ourselves

People with disabilities need the right support. Pictured here are students from the Down Syndrome Society of Edmonton.

It can be very difficult for people with disabilities to find a job. I hear this at the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS), where I have worked for almost five years, and from some of my friends. This is because not everyone always has the support that they need at their job. In my jobs before CDSS, I didn't always stay working for long because I didn't have the support I needed.

There are three things that many people with disabilities have a hard time with when looking for a job: getting the right training and education, finding someone to hire them and finding the perfect support at work.

The right training

I was lucky to have great training. I went to a school called Columbia College in Calgary and they taught me how to make a resume, how to act in a job interview and what it means to be an employee. Most cities have programs like the one I went to that help people like me find a job. But some places don't or some people can't go to those programs. Even when you have training, sometimes you can't find a place that wants to hire you. 

Sometimes employers do not give people with Down syndrome and other disabilities a chance. This makes me sad because we will do a good job. For me, sometimes people think I can't do things but usually with a little time I can do many things. Everyone who wants a job deserves to have a job. Even people with disabilities bring a lot to the table and do the job just as well as anyone else. We just need a chance to prove ourselves. 

Supported employment is also important. I know some people who have found great jobs but then can't keep them because they don't have the support they need. Of course everyone is different, not everyone needs support, but if someone needs support at their job, they should get it.

A support worker is someone who is hired to help with any tasks a person may need help with. A person with a disability may need a support worker to help them use all the skills they learned through their employment program and put them to work. My support workers are great - they help me focus, help me get my work done and with things that might be hard for me. I think that without my training, my employer and support, I wouldn't be the successful man I am today.

A boss can also make sure that there are supports within a job. For example, I work best with routines and with my tasks broken down into steps. So, my boss will help me have a daily routine, and she will write out instructions step by step to help me with something new.

Organizations can help

When I hear from people with disabilities who are looking for a job, I tell them about what I went through. I also tell them to call my work, which is also good because I answer the phone most mornings. CDSS can help people with Down syndrome find the right programs and support. There are also organizations like Ready, Willing and Able and Canadian Association for Supported Employment (CASE). They can help any person with a disability find a job if they want one. 

My advice to employers is to give people with disabilities a chance. There are many people with disabilities who want a job and are able to work. Did you know that most times we will stay longer at a job than other people? And we take less sick days. We are so proud when we have a job. 

My advice for people with disabilities looking for a job would be to go through an employment program to learn about jobs. You can also check out some great blogs about having a job on our website under the "Voices at the Table for Advocacy" blog. And if they have any questions, they can always reach out to CDSS. Who knows - I might even answer their call. 

This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section,  please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.


Paul Sawka is the Awareness Leader at the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. He is an active advocate in Canada’s Down syndrome and disability community. Paul lives in Calgary, Alberta.


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