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Challenging Myths about People Living with Disabilities in the Workplace

Group of people putting their hands all together in a the middle of a circle

InfographicPeople living with disabilities not only face barriers in daily life, they also face adversity in the labour market. Why do they not experience the same access to work opportunities as their counterparts without disabilities do? The most likely culprit is misinformation: employers still believe in unfounded myths about how people living with disabilities are likely to perform in the workplace.

In a new article entitled "The Participation of People with Disabilities in the Workplace Across the Employment Cycle: Employer Concerns and Research Evidence," Professor Silvia Bonaccio from the Telfer School of Management looked at the empirical evidence speaking to the employment of people living with disabilities and identified common concerns shared by employers. When examining the validity of those concerns, Professor Bonaccio and her co-authors found out that these concerns were either unfounded or blown out of proportion.

“Our research suggests that these barriers are often the result of lack of information by managers,” explains Professor Bonaccio. “Many employers harbor ill-founded views about the work-related abilities of people living with disabilities. Managers consistently report that they find it difficult to attract and hire qualified employees living with disabilities, but data shows the considerable potential of this segment of the workforce is underused."

Read the full press release.

Research from the Canadian Disability Participation Project was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Update on the subject - June 2021

This knowledge translation piece was written to highlight a paper that was in press, now published, in the Journal of Business and Psychology (JBP). Published in Open Access, the paper has now been downloaded more than 75,000 times, making it the most downloaded paper in the Journal's history. The level of interest on a global scale shows the need for managers and HR personnel to have evidence-based information to help them be more inclusive employers. This paper has been helpful to job seekers and employees with a lived experience of disabilities as well as their allies (e.g., job developers, career coaches). 


By Silvia Bonaccio, Ph.D. and collaborators

Researchers debunked 11 employer myths and stereotypes about people with disabilities

Many disabilities are invisible: Employers underestimate how many of their employees live with disabilities

20% of working-age Canadians report living with a disability

The employment rate of people living without a disability: 80%. With a disability 59%

Most employers report that accommodation cost $0

When costs are incurred, they are often under $500.

Accommodations are inexpensive

Accommodations can HELP retain employees, improve employee productivity, and increase the morale of ALL employees

By accommodating employees with disabilities, organizations foster a supportive and INCLUSIVE work climate that benefits EVERYONE