May 28, 2010
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The following statement was released today by Randy Dickinson, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission:
It is my pleasure to speak about Disability Awareness Week (DAW) for the first time as the chair of the Human Rights Commission. From May 30 to June 5, New Brunswick will be marking the 23rd annual week devoted to disability issues.
When I served as executive director of the Premier's Council on the Status of Disabled Persons, I was heavily involved in the planning of DAW. I am proud to say that DAW has grown into a popular and effective means of celebrating best practices and advancements in the inclusion of citizens with disabilities as well as raising awareness about the barriers that they continue to face.
As the provincial co-chair of NB Disability Awareness Week, I am able to continue to speak about disability issues in the province. The Human Rights Commission is not far removed from the issues that DAW highlights. The commission's major educational focus last year was raising awareness about its guideline on accommodating students with a disability. Over the last two fiscal years staff have conducted about 115 presentations on accommodating disability in schools and the workplace.
More than 40 per cent of the discrimination complaints received by the commission concern physical or mental disability. Nearly three quarters of them concern employment discrimination.
According to human rights law, employers must keep a position open until a disabled employee recovers, and must make any necessary adjustments so that the employee can return to work. While employers need not undergo undue hardship, the legal requirements are strict. Yet, the commission receives many complaints about workers who lose their job because of a disability.
Obviously, there is a way to go before people with disabilities achieve equality, but a great deal of progress has already been made. It happened because people understood the tremendous potential that people with disabilities offer as a human resource and as a market. It happened because people realized that disability issues affect us all, as we become disabled or a caregiver to a disabled person at some point in our lives. Finally, it happened because of the coordinated efforts of the many people who have a stake in this issue.
But, to achieve equality, people with disabilities need and deserve your continued support. As an individual, you can help by fully including them in your life. Institutions can help by recognizing their skills and experience, by accommodating their needs and by removing the obstacles that needlessly limit their employment, services and housing opportunities.
Can we achieve equality for people with disabilities? With your support, yes we can!
MEDIA CONTACT: Francis Young, human rights officer, New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, 1-506-453-2301 or 1-888-471-2233.