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Easter Seals celebrates National Accessibility Awareness Week and Red Shirt Day 2020

Sunday, May 31st to Saturday, June 6, 2020

Composite image of several people with varying disabilities engaged in different tasksMay 27, 2020 – TORONTO.  At the end of this month, Canada will once again be celebrating National AccessAbility Week (NAAW). This annual event is an opportunity for Canadians to come together to celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disabilities to Canada, to take stock of progress that has been made towards promoting greater accessibility and inclusion of Canadians of all abilities in our communities and workplaces, and to identify what more needs to and can be done to make Canada a truly accessible and inclusive country for all Canadians.

This year, National AccessAbility Week is especially significant as it is the first National AccessAbility Week since the passing of the historic Accessible Canada Act in July 2019. As we celebrate National AccessAbility Week amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Easter Seals is holding on to our values – now more than ever – toward ensuring that individuals and families who are living with disabilities are not forgotten during the crisis. We remain committed to fully enhancing the quality of life, well-being and independence Canadians living with disabilities!

Image of several people dressed in red, standing and sitting in wheelchairs.

Unfortunately, like many other non-profits, Easter Seals has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many aspects of our daily lives have been disrupted, but its impacts are especially acute for people living with disabilities, many who already struggle with challenges like accessing mobility equipment, employment opportunities and financial support.

But the coronavirus outbreak has also created lessons and opportunities for more equitable practices and policies that are inclusive of people living with disabilities. For instance, the speed and ability of many employers in Canada to pivot to work-from-home arrangements for employees during the pandemic clearly indicate that it is possible to accommodate the alternative work-setting provisions that Canadians living with disabilities have long advocated for from employers. Further, the large difference between the value of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and provincial programs such as the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) have also highlighted the challenges faced by many Canadians with disabilities on ODSP who have always been asked to get by on a significantly smaller amount despite many struggling to afford prescription medication and costly accessibility equipment[1].

As Canada emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and Canadians adjust to a new normal in the way we work, play and connect with each other, we are faced with a crucial fork in the road when it comes to accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities. COVID-19 and Easter Seals Canada’s #ReimagineEmployability Campaign[2] has elevated that conversation, and one of the legacies of the pandemic should be how as a society, Canada, addresses the various disparities and inequities between people with disabilities and other Canadians.

There are many Canadians with disabilities who are qualified and skilled, and who want to work, contribute to the economy, and participate actively in all aspects of life. It is incumbent on decision makers, leaders and Canadians to do their part to help make that possible, and as put forth by the Conference Board of Canada in its 2018 report, there is a sound economic imperative to do so: “Improvements to workplace access would allow 550,000 Canadians with disabilities to work more, increasing GDP by $16.8 billion by 2030[3].” Let us work together to make that a reality.

As we celebrate the fourth National AccessAbility Week in 2020, Easter Seals has put together a collection of resources and activities on our website that individuals, families and workplaces can use to celebrate National AccessAbility Week. And on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020 – Red Shirt Daywe invite Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast to wear red in order to show their support for Canadians living with disabilities, to celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disabilities, and to reaffirm their commitment to accessibility and inclusion for people of all abilities. Remember to post a selfie or group photos of yourself and family/colleagues in your red outfits on social media with the hashtags: #RedShirtDay, #RedForAccessAbility, #EasterSeals.

Dave Starrett,
President & CEO, Easter Seals Canada

[1] Statistics Canada. “New Data on Disability in Canada 2017”. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2018035-eng.htm
[2] Easter Seals Canada. “#ReimagineEmployability.” https://easterseals.ca/english/reimagine-employability/
[3] Conference Board of Canada. “Widespread Economic Benefits to Be Had from Making Workplaces More Accessible for People with Disabilities.” https://www.conferenceboard.ca/press/newsrelease/2018/02/23/widespread-economic-benefits-to-be-gained-from-making-workplaces-more-accessible-for-people-with-disabilities

Related Links:

For more information, please contact:

Ana Maria Faria,
Vice-President of National Development
afaria@easterseals.ca
Tel: 1877376-6362 ext. 226
Easter Seals Canada: Helping Canadians living with disabilities be #UNSTOPPABLE®.

Follow Easter Seals: Facebook (@EasterSealsCanada), Twitter (@EasterSeals)

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