Government of Canada invests in training for persons with disabilities to create a more inclusive workforce and stronger economy

News release

August 13, 2021              Surrey, British Columbia              Employment and Social Development Canada

The Canadian economy has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many sectors and Canadians have been disproportionally impacted. In response, the Government of Canada has a broad plan to support hard-hit sectors, help businesses adapt and thrive, and give Canadians the skills they need to find good, quality jobs as our economy recovers.

Today, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced an investment of up to $7.5 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation for a project funded under the Sectoral Initiatives Program (SIP). With this investment, the Foundation will establish a new standardized profession of “accessibility professionals,” which will increase expertise and information on how to build accessible spaces in a way that includes people of all abilities.

This project is part of the Government of Canada’s investment of up to $36 million to create employment and career-building opportunities for persons with disabilities through the SIP. This funding will support projects that will help remove barriers, improve employer resources and provide training tools to Canadians with disabilities. It will support employers and industry stakeholders to develop strategies to attract and retain skilled workers, and build capacity through investments in training and human resources tools.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected persons with disabilities, who have historically faced significant barriers to employment. The projects being announced today will help to remove barriers, stimulate growth in disability services sectors, promote more inclusive labour market participation, and support the Government’s employment strategy for persons with disabilities.

Budget 2021 announced $1.78 billion over three years through several new initiatives that support the skills development and training of workers, and provide incentives for employers to hire and retain them. In particular, $960 million was allocated toward the new Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program (SWSP). It will connect Canadians with the training they need to access good jobs in sectors such as green economy, healthcare, and sectors hard hit by the pandemic, where employers are looking for skilled workers. The SWSP will build on the successes of the SIP by supporting a broader range of sector-focused activities, including training and upskilling for workers and developing solutions to employers’ workforce challenges.

In addition, in the 2020 Speech from the Throne, the Government committed to developing the first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP), which will include:

  • a Canada disability benefit;
  • a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities; and
  • a better process to determine eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits. 

Furthermore, in Budget 2021, the Government committed to undertake consultations that would feed directly into the design of the new disability benefit, including engagement with provinces and territories, which play a central role in providing support to many Canadians with disabilities. The public engagement survey on the DIAP is now open until September 30, 2021. Canadians are encouraged to complete the online survey and share their views, to help guide the development of DIAP.

These investments in the SIP will build a diverse and inclusive workforce and help organizations adapt and thrive in a rapidly evolving labour market. Working in collaboration with organizations, employers, and sectors, the Government of Canada will help equip Canadians with the skills they need, helping them find good jobs and supporting a strong and inclusive economic recovery.


“The Government of Canada is working with our sectoral partners to address the workforce needs of a growing sector of disability services and expertise, and improve employer resources and providing training to help persons with disabilities get good and well-paying jobs. Through these projects, we will support key organizations that are at the leading edge of developing the tools and supports necessary to build a skilled and diverse workforce to support our economic recovery.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

“My sincere thanks to the Government of Canada for its commitment to fostering a sustainable and standardized profession of accessibility professionals across the country. Canadians with disabilities should be able to participate in all aspects of life and to equitably access the spaces where we live, work, learn and play. This investment will empower employers in sectors across Canada with the much-needed knowledge to build back accessibly and create the inclusive country we are all striving to achieve.”

– Rick Hansen, Founder, Rick Hansen Foundation

Quick facts

  • This funding announced today is being distributed through an open call for proposals that launched on January 22, 2021, and was open for six weeks.

  • According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, the employment rate for core working-age adults (25–64 years old) with disabilities is 59% on average, compared to an employment rate of 80% for those without disabilities. Moreover, 3.7 million (20%) of working-age adults have one or more disabilities. 

  • Nearly 850,000 (21%) working-age Canadians with disabilities live in poverty, according to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability. Persons with severe disabilities (26%) and very severe disabilities (31%) are particularly vulnerable and experience a high rate of poverty, nearly three times the rate of persons without disabilities (11%).

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For media enquiries, please contact:

Ashley Michnowski
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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