New Poll: Corporate Canada Needs to Make Disability Issues Equal Priority with the Environment

    -   With an aging population people with disabilities represent the
        greatest, untapped human resource Pool in Canada

    -   Terry Fox best Canadian representative of people with disabilities

    TORONTO, Oct. 16 /CNW/ - Canadians believe businesses are putting the
environment ahead of people with disabilities, according to a new poll
released today by the Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN).
    The COMPAS Research poll found more Canadians believe corporations are
putting a greater emphasis on environmental issues rather than on
accommodating customers and employees with disabilities. When Canadians were
asked what social responsibilities they perceive companies put the most effort
into, 27 per cent said the environment. That compares to 16 per cent who said
they believe Canadian companies have been focusing their efforts to
accommodate customers and employees with disabilities.
    The poll was released as part of JOIN's Value of Accessibility employer
conference, which brings employers together from around the province to
discuss how to increase their customer bases by creating more accessible
businesses. When ask what should be the number one priority for corporate
Canada, 34 per cent of those polled said supporting people with disabilities.
That compares to 33 per cent who believe the environment should be the
    "The results point to the fact there must be a better balance between
environmental stewardship and improved accessibility and employment
opportunities for people with disabilities," said Susan Howatt, Chairperson,
JOIN Toronto Region Board of Governors. "We want to preserve our environment
for the benefit of all Canadians, but we must also be aware that one of the
greatest challenges facing our country today is the shortage of skilled
workers and an aging population. People with disabilities represent the
greatest untapped human resource pool in Canada, and they deserve a chance to
make a meaningful contribution to society."
    Some 88 per cent of Canadians believe it's more difficult for a person
with a disability to find a job than for the average Canadian. The facts
suggest they are right. According to a Statistics Canada report from 2001, a
snapshot done at the time showed the unemployment rate for people with
disabilities (26 per cent) is over 5 times higher than the unemployment rate
for people without disabilities (5 per cent).
    It's not just business priorities that should change; Canadians feel
society as a whole needs a reality check. By a 10 to 1 margin, citizens felt
society gives too low a priority to helping individuals with disabilities.
    One possible reason for the heightened sensitivity among Canadians to
disability issues is that three-quarters of Canadians either have or know
someone with a disability. And who do they view as the best representative for
Canadians with disabilities? Some 68 per cent of respondents say Terry Fox.
Rick Hansen, who completed his international Man in Motion Tour in 1986 and is
a strong advocate for spinal cord research, came in second with 15 per cent.

    Progressive disability programs good for business

    More than three-quarters of Canadians, or 78 per cent, say they are more
likely to buy a product or service from a business that has a policy of hiring
people with disabilities than a company that doesn't. It's clear that
companies who put a priority on accessibility could have a surprising edge on
the competition. One that, in times of increasing economic uncertainty, they
can't afford to ignore.
    "This is a compelling business case and a golden opportunity for
companies to tap into an incredibly diverse and skilled labour pool of 24 per
cent of Canadians living with a disability," said Jane Enright, Advisor Public
Affairs, JOIN Toronto. "Through JOIN's employment initiatives in the last year
we've successfully placed over 1157 people with hundreds of employers in
Toronto alone. It's clear Canadians are demanding more accessibility and
businesses need to answer the call."

    For a Backgrounder on the poll, please visit:

    The representative survey of 620 Canadians was conducted by COMPAS
research firm by October 6, 2008 for a +/- of 4 per cent accurate 19 times out
of 20.

    JOIN is an employment network for people with disabilities. They have 24
member agencies across Toronto. JOIN member agencies are also located in the
Central East Region of Ontario and JOIN is funded through ODSP Employment

For further information:

For further information: Mike Van Soelen, Playbook Communications, (416)
722-1254; Amanda Galbraith, Playbook Communications, (613) 302-1444

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