The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, one in five Canadians (6.2 million) aged 15 years and older experience one or more disabilities that limited them in their daily activities. The Survey also reported that while 59% of working age adults with disabilities are employed, there are significant differences amongst those with mild disabilities (76% employed) versus severe disabilities (31% employed).

There are efforts underway to help close this gap in Ontario. The province’s Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities is designed to help people with disabilities find employment, and debunks common myths about people with disabilities in the work force, for example relating to job performance, risks, and influence of the market.

SIRC Inclusive Practice Survey

With funding through the EnAbling Change Program, SIRC conducted a survey in 2019 about current employment opportunities in sport and physical activity for people with disabilities. Results revealed an overall desire to create more inclusive workplaces.

Amongst the 61 sport and physical activity organizations that responded:

  • 44% have an accessibility and inclusion policy;
  • 36% have a policy that can ensure people of all abilities can learn about and apply for a job;
  • 43% have “very good” or “excellent” knowledge about providing an inclusive environment; and
  • 70% currently employ people with disabilities—better than the national workforce average of 59%, but there is still work to be done.

Despite great intentions, there are barriers and knowledge gaps for sport organizations. To raise the bar, SIRC is committed to helping organizations focus on two key areas: 1) inclusive hiring, and 2) creating an accommodating workplace environment.

Inclusive hiring

The starting point for employers should be to examine the way they hire talent. This includes reflecting on job descriptions and the interview process. Two thirds (67%) of SIRC’s survey respondents rated their knowledge “very low” or “low” on how to write job descriptions that ensure accessibility and inclusivity.

According to Hire for Talent, there are eight steps to writing an inclusive job description, including:

  • State the working conditions. Describe the physical work environment and the hours of work. Include special conditions such as: weekend work, shift work, working outdoors, working with challenging clients, or working in noisy environments.
  • State the physical requirements. Describe the critical range of motion needed by the person doing that job, along with the frequency and any strength requirements if lifting objects is necessary. Also describe any special equipment that must be operated in the workplace.
  • Post only the qualifications and skills necessary for the job.

After creating a job description, creating an inclusive job interview process is a critical next step. The majority (57%) of survey respondents rated their knowledge “very low” or “low” on how to conduct job interviews that ensure accessibility and inclusivity. Hire for Talent offers interviewer best practices, including:

  • Avoid asking questions that would require an employee to directly or indirectly disclose a disability unless the question is related to a bona fide occupational requirement.
  • Check your personal and cultural assumptions about body language and other non-verbal communication.
  • Consider the interview space. Is your building and the specific interview room accessible? Is it brightly lit, with minimal distractions?

These tips will pay dividends in the recruitment process. However, even before recruits set foot into their new jobs, organizations need to ask one more important question: how do you make the day-to-day workplace environment more welcoming, accessible and inclusive?

Inclusive work environments

An organization’s workplace environment is a reflection of its culture and policies. Two thirds (66%) of SIRC’s survey respondents rated their knowledge as “good”, “very good” or “excellent” on providing adaptations for employees with disabilities.

For those seeking more knowledge, consider the following tips from Hire for Talent and the Government of Canada:

  • Evaluate the workplace accessibility policy. Focus on identifying barriers and gaps.
  • Create an inclusive workplace policy—a framework that fosters employee engagement by standardizing employment conditions.
  • Ensure facilities are accessible, including all entrances, meeting rooms, and workstations. Consider the principles of Universal Design (UD).
  • Host accessible meetings. The Government of Canada offers a tip sheet for pre-planning, conducting successful meetings,  and providing accessible services and materials.

By developing policies and a workplace culture with inclusion in mind, organizations will retain talent and reap the long-term benefits of fostering an engaged and happy workforce. It’s up to employers to take advantage of the knowledge available.

For more information and resources about inclusive workplaces, visit SIRC’s employer resource page.


About the Author(s)

Peter Morrow is SIRC’s Knowledge Mobilization and Communications Specialist, leading innovative campaigns to advance sport and physical activity in Canada. He is a multi-sport athlete, currently enjoying soccer, hockey, softball, golf and tennis.