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June 23, 2015

How employing people with disabilities makes money - Part II

Revised July 22, 2015.

What frosts me most about inaccessible businesses is that a person with a disability could never work in one. For the moment, I don't need the services of the Nova Scotia Legal Information Society, but it's inexcusable that a perfectly qualified person using a wheelchair couldn't get a job there.

Last post, we determined that there are something like 12,641 Nova Scotians with particular disabilities, ages 15 to 64, not currently working who could be.

If they were employed, they'd be paying $18,354,732 in provincial income taxes and saving taxpayers $124,387,440 a year in income support. That's $142,742,172 or $11,292 each. Annually and forever. Pretty soon, you're talking real money.

No one has contacted me with better figures or any objection on principle. So let's start with those numbers.

People with disabilities want to work, be self sufficient and not live in near-poverty. What keeps this from happening is a combination of government policy disincentives and unsuitable workplaces. 

I challenge “Step Up Nova Scotia”, the latest child of the Ivany Report to become "Ramp Up Nova Scotia".  

Let's think of a way to reward people moving from disability support into the workforce, help employers who hire them, and relieve taxpayers whose generosity has supported them. There are any number of ways to do this, so here's my thought. For anyone receiving Services for People with Disabilities who has no employment income, we'll do this once:
  • $500 one time to job applicant for extraordinary expenses 
    • Clothing 
    • Wheelchair seatcover 
    • text-to-speech software for iPhone
    • Transportation 
  • If necessary, $2,000 to employer for new job accommodations related to the particular employee 
    • business Skype 
    • a wheel-under desk 
    • a Braille printer 
    • Screen-reader 
  • If necessary, a $3,000 grant to employer for modifications for public access (can be combined for multiple hires and supplemented with a forgivable loan) 
    • a ramp 
    • accessible toilet 
    • designated parking 
  • $1,500 to employee on first anniversary of hiring 
  • $4,292 savings to taxpayer 
If the employer does not offer supplemental health benefits, including drugs, the province will continue to provide.

There are tremendous benefits to linking accessibility with employment. It's an incentive for employers, taxpayers and job-seekers alike. It has immediate and tangible rewards. It has lasting implications for the general public. It's transparent, voluntary and incremental. It strengthens the case against counterproductive by-laws. It makes accessible transportation a necessity.  It saves a ton of money.

All I'm asking is that this approach gets considered and refined.  It doesn't require up-front appropriations - each participant is self-funding and saves taxpayers over $4,000.  What's the problem with knowing more?  It can't be worse than wasting human capital.

Most of all, it fulfills a promise:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

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