To build back better, we must build back barrier-free

December 3, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

As we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, it is an opportunity for everyone in Canada to reaffirm our commitment to inclusion and equality by reflecting on how we can eliminate barriers for people with disabilities. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions and achievements of people with disabilities across Canada.

Today is also a day to call attention to the fact that every single day, people with disabilities in Canada continue to face barriers that limit their full and equal participation in society. These barriers extend well beyond the physical environment – they stand in the way of access to healthcare, employment, education, and information.

When the Commission recently conducted a Canada-wide survey on the rights of people with disabilities, the top concerns they raised were about poverty, housing, and work and employment. These kinds of issues go to the heart of being able to live a full and inclusive life.

Many people with disabilities in Canada are unemployed or underemployed. Current statistics show there are 645,000 Canadians with disabilities who have the potential to work in an inclusive labour market who are not currently working. There has arguably never been a more important time in modern history for Canada to have an inclusive economic vision forward. That vision must include people with disabilities. Canada needs all of us. The way out of this historic crisis must ensure that everyone in Canada can fully participate and have an equal chance to work, to contribute, to thrive. We must work to remove any of the barriers left standing in their way. That is a responsibility we all share.

Building back better means building back barrier-free. Some of the changes we made to adjust to life in the pandemic — like remote access to work, doctors, and virtual events — have helped improve life for people with disabilities. We call on all governments and businesses in Canada to continue to embrace and improve these practices as part of our new normal way of living.

Because what we know for sure is that no one can be left behind on the road to Canada’s full recovery. Only when Canada ensures the full participation of people with disabilities, can we build a more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable world. A better world, where everyone can belong, and everyone is valued and respected.

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