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Our new report shows the continued systemic use of restraint and seclusion in BC schools. Read more.

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Employment Policy

Definition of Employment: Real pay for real work. Real pay is pay at industry standard.

Policy Issue:

People with developmental disabilities want to work. They are significantly under-represented in today's workforce. Private or public sector organizations are recognizing the potential of an individual with a developmental disability to make a positive contribution to the organization"s productivity, financial bottom-line and workplace culture. Appropriate supports, for the individuals and the employer, are needed to help people to enter and stay in the workforce.

Federal and provincial programs are not delivering on their commitment to help people with all types of disabilities. The province sets the performance outcomes and payment schedules in such a way that people with developmental disabilities are least served by the program.

The education system has promoted inclusion for over two decades; however neither the value nor understanding of the value of inclusion seems to have translated into greater inclusion in the work force. To often, people are not expected to work nor are they provided with the education and training opportunities that their peers have access to, thus limiting their ability to enter the workforce.

There is growing interest among community living service providers regarding employment, however this critical issue sometimes falls off the agenda, given other competing priorities. The issue of employment is a priority for people with developmental disabilities and therefore needs to be a priority for the community living movement. People often live in poverty and see employment as a way where they can improve their economic situation.

There are many factors that contribute to the low representation of people with developmental disabilities in the workforce. Key barriers include:

  • Lack of provincial and federal leadership on the issue
  • Lack of supports and services to enable people to enter the workforce
  • Lack of income and disability assistance policies and practices that encourage people to work and reduce the disruption to benefits when work is seasonal or short term.
  • Lack on supports and services to enable people to maintain a job and advance in the workforce
  • Lack of supports and services available to employers to effectively employ someone in the work force

Families are often very involved in planning for their children as they grow towards adulthood. Families need access to relevant labour market information and employment options to assist with meaningful career planning.

Socially, we need to change our belief and expectations about the abilities of people with developmental disabilities participating in the workplace. Without full systemic change, from grassroots to government, people will be left behind and the workplace will lose a valuable resource.


To increase employment of youth and adults with developmental disabilities in inclusive employment environments and to ensure that people receive the necessary education, training and support to achieve and maintain employment.

Guiding Principles:

  • People with developmental disabilities want to work.
  • People with developmental disabilities make valuable contributions to the workplace.
  • People with developmental disabilities have the ability to learn and advance in their jobs.
  • Community workplaces should reflect the makeup of the people who live in the community.
  • With appropriate supports, employers make reasonable efforts to accommodate the individual needs of their employees.


Historically, persons with developmental disabilities have been placed in sheltered workshops or activity centres offering limited wages and little job choice. Such settings were intended to support people to increase job readiness; however the progression to employment did not largely occur. In addition, individuals reported that they experienced few opportunities for economic and social inclusion through these settings.

Since the late 1980’s there has been an increase in the demand for work by young people, who like their peers, were looking towards employment as the next step after secondary school. This resulted in a number of frameworks designed to facilitate competitive and supported employment, including community-based employment services and supported employment programs.

Supported employment programs are intended to provide people with increased earnings, self sufficiency and community inclusion. People agree that this approach to employment is effective. People want to work, however insufficient funding and capacity to provide employment supports have left many unemployed.

Our strong British Columbia economy, low unemployment, shortage of skilled workers and an aging workforce is creating a high demand for workers. Now is a great time to include all people in the workforce. The investment in resources for disability supports for employment makes good business sense.

Policy Position Statements:

  1. Every young person with a developmental disability should be engaged, early on, in meaningful and person-centred employment planning and preparation.
  2. People should have access to real employment working for community employers, doing real jobs with the individualized support needed to be successful over the long term.
  3. Educational, financial and personal supports must be available to enable people with developmental disabilities to participate and advance in the workforce.
  4. People should receive the industry standard wages and benefits associated with their position, with the same protections provided to other employees.
  5. Income assistance policies and practices should support the move to employment, and not be seen as a financial disincentive or barrier to employment.