"NOT ALL DISABILITIES ARE VISIBLE"
On December 3 every year since 1992, we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day aims to raise awareness of the reality and struggles of people with disabilities in all aspects of life, whether social, economic, political or cultural. It is also a day intended to help remind us to play a role in promoting their rights and their well-being in society, as well as in the workplace.
We are increasingly normalizing the fact that disability is part of the human condition as almost everyone will be impacted by it at some point in their lives. According to the WHO’s World Report on Disability 2011, about 15% of the world's population, or more than one billion people, live with some form of disability.
We also know that many people live with disabilities that are not always visible or apparent, which adds to the struggle. Approximately 450 million people suffer from a mental or neurological disorder. In addition, each year worldwide, approximately 69 million people suffer traumatic brain injury, while one in 160 children is identified as having autism. These disabilities are harder for the public to grasp. Lack of knowledge about mental and neurological disorders slows public support and contributes to fostering a sense of shame in people with those disabilities. Two-thirds of people with a mental or neurological disability will not seek professional medical help, due to the stigma, discrimination and neglect.
The COVID-19 pandemic shook our society to its core and has affected the most vulnerable people disproportionately. Being isolated and disconnected from the world, dealing with drastic changes to their regular routine and having fewer services available, has had a significant impact on the well-being of people with disabilities, especially on their mental health, possibly exacerbating some of their pre-existing challenges. Canadians are reporting worse mental health since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a clear warning that another subtle and more hidden pandemic is looming.
At CAPE, we believe everyone belongs, which is the underlying tenet to building a workplace for all. It is imperative that we remain open and accepting, and that we endeavour, in removing the barriers faced by people living with a disability, to create a space for them to self-actualize and thrive.
We call on our members to continue to be sensitive to other people’s differences, and to be as accommodating as possible to create a workplace that works for everyone.