'When an employer starts to look at cost instead of people, people with disabilities lose out'—Laurie Helgason
Friday, March 26, 2010
People with disabilities more prone to poverty
For many Manitobans there is a link between living in poverty and living with a disability.
Laurie Helgason, who requires a wheelchair after an unfortunate gym accident, believes there is a link between poverty and disability as employers are reticent to hire those with extra needs.
"All of us have the desire to do something with our lives," said Helgason. "But when you go to an employer with a disability he automatically thinks cost 'what will it cost me to employ this person.'"
"When an employer starts to look at cost instead of people, people with disabilities lose out," she said.
According to Barrier Free Manitoba, one in six or 170,000 people in Manitoba live with a disability, and 18.9 per cent of families where the income earner has a work-limiting physical or mental disability have a low income.
Helgason is an active mother of two who once earned $4000 monthly. But she injured both feet, landing awkwardly during a kickboxing class and ended up in a wheelchair.
"If I did not have a disability, I would be a lot better off," said Helgason. "I'd have job opportunities. I'd be working full-time. I'd be a productive member of society."
Helgason, who is also fighting cancer, is the head of the Disabled Women's Network in Manitoba.
"I'm productive but I'm not making money doing it. I volunteer," added Helgason.
She receives a monthly disability pension of $1029 from her former employer and supports her family with that amount.
On average, a Canadian with a disability earns about $10,000 a year less than those without a disability.
"Everything you think of as a normal thing to do is a problem for us," said Helgason.
Even buying second-hand clothes is a problem, Helgason added.
"The prices at Value Village have gone up and that's the only accessible place because all the good will shops have stairs," she said.
While almost nine percent of Canadians with disabilities are unemployed, advances in workplace inclusion have increased the employment rate by 4 per cent between 2001 and 2006, according to a government report.
People with disabilities should NOT be discriminated against because of their disability when applying for a career. It's horrible that this actually happens.